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Mats Is in Town

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Mike Ulmer

September 8, 2006

(TORONTO) -- The Captain is back.

Mats Sundin arrived in Toronto from Sweden on Thursday. Friday morning, he was taking part in a loose scrimmage that also involved new Leafs Mike Peca and Hal Gill and incumbent Darcy Tucker.

Sundin was overseas and unavailable for comment when the Leafs let go of head coach Pat Quinn and bought out Sundin's good friend Tie Domi.

In a wide ranging interview, his first since the Leafs cleaned out their lockers after missing the playoffs, Sundin spoke about the media furor generated by his decision to sell his house last spring, the prospects for young Alexander Steen and his own future.

Mats Sundin is ready for the season to get going.
(Getty Images/NHLI)

On the changes orchestrated by GM John Ferguson:

Sundin: "It's exciting. I think the management has done a good job. We gave up a lot of goals last year. The acquisition of (Hal) Gill and (Mike) Peca has certainly helped us defensively and so has (Andrew) Raycroft. I like that part. I think we've added a lot of quality players."

On playing for new coach Paul Maurice:

Sundin: "I had a chance to meet him once this summer. I know he's young, energized coach. I think any time there's new blood or new ideas, a new look for the team, it's good. It's going to be, I'm sure, a tough training camp. I'm excited about it. It's going to be nice to get a fresh start for sure."

On missing the playoffs:

Sundin: "It was hard (to forget) but I think once you get a little distance from last season, I think there were a lot of positives. I liked the way we played the last 30 games of the season. We had that spell in January that kind of cost us the playoffs but we had almost the same amount of points that Edmonton did and they went to the finals. That's how close it was. I liked the way a lot of our younger players played last year. With the addition of these veteran players that we added, I'm excited about it."

On whether young or older players should be expected to supply leadership now that Domi is gone:

Sundin: "I think it's a mix. I think some of us are going to have to keep leading this team.  We are going to miss Tie in the dressing room as a friend and as a player. We have enough leadership and with the addition of Peca and Gill and (Pavel) Kubina who won a Stanley Cup pretty recently, we added a lot of quality players and personality into our dressing room."

On Domi's departure:

Sundin: "Ah, you know there's mixed feeling. It's never easy. Tie has been a longtime member of this organization and this club and has done a lot for the organization and the team. No one has done more for the community in Toronto probably than he did. It's never easy. I think we all realize we are going to come to the end of our careers and it's a decision from management and that's the way it goes. I've talked to Tie and he's handling it with a lot of grace. He should be really proud of what he's accomplished in his career."

On the perceived need for more help up front:

Sundin: "I think we've filled the holes that needed help most. We scored a lot of goals last year. Our power play was second in the league. That's really good. I think we fixed the problems that we had defensively where we were giving up a lot of goals. I think we're a lot better team."

On his play after the Olympics:

Sundin: "I think me missing the whole year and not playing during the lockout and getting injured (an eye injury) at start of the year, I think it slowed my process. The last 40 games, I thought I felt good.  I was scoring a lot more after Christmas. Pat gave me a lot more ice time after the Olympic break and I was able to be more productive."

On getting more ice time under Maurice:

Sundin: "Three or four minutes, it makes a difference. I think when you feel confidence, that the coach has a bit more confidence in you and uses you on certain situations like the power play, it helps your production."

On Maurice:

Sundin: "Like you say, there's a new coach. We all have to fit in and play whatever role Paul wants us to play. We all hope for a lot of ice time and so do I so we'll see what happens. Our biggest goal is in April to be in a position where we can get into the playoffs."

On whether Quinn held him back by limiting his ice time:

Sundin: "I don't think he held me back. I have a lot of respect for Pat as a coach. I think he's proven over his career he's been very successful and won at the elite level and in all aspects of the game. He likes to play four lines most of the time and that's just a certain way and he's been successful with that. He's been to the finals, he's won the Olympics, you can't take that away. But it's always nice to have a change. I'm welcoming Paul Maurice and we'll see how that works out."

On Alexander Steen's sluggish second half:

Sundin: "You could tell that he was affected a little bit by the schedule. He's not used to playing that heavy 82-game season. He played well, I thought, the first 40 games and then he slowed down a little bit. Let's hope he keeps progressing the way he did. He's got a good attitude."

About the ruckus caused by selling his house:

Sundin: "I heard about that. I don't know where that came from. I never made any plans about changing. I have one year left on my contract, there's an option after that. I was just looking to make a change in where I live. That's all there is."

On an extension past the team's club option for 2007-2008:

Sundin: "I haven't even thought about it. I'm just worried about playing. I know it's a cliché but it's a new season for us. I'm at the stage in my career where it's kind of one year at a time anyway. It's going to be really how my body is feeling and how my play is going that's going to affect the future."

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