When the Leafs acquired Mikael Renberg in June, it was only natural to think that he and captain Mats Sundin would strike a friendship right away. After all, both come from the same country. Both played on Sweden's National Team and Renberg was, in part, brought in to play along side Sundin.
However, with the exception of 1998, where the two played for Sweden in the Olympics and the World Championships, they really don't know each other that well. They come from different parts of Sweden and their style of play is dissimilar.
"He's from Stockholm and I'm from Pitea which is way up north. I'm from the good part of Sweden," said Renberg with a laugh. "We know each other from the tournaments that we've played together in but that's about it."
Sundin always gets a chuckle when a reporter asks about Renberg. No matter where he goes, questions always arise about what kind of a player Renberg is. In reality, Sundin can only go by what he's seen on television and they're limited time together playing for Sweden.
"I haven't really played with him that much in the past," said Sundin. " A lot of people think that I've played with him many times, but I've played with him twice on the national team."
Renberg, 29, has played with Sundin for the first three days of training camp. Leaf Coach Pat Quinn conceded that his plan is to play both of them together this year. You could come to the conclusion that the two of them would play very well on the same line, but the timing has to come together. Sundin is more of finesse player where Renberg is more of a power winger and doesn't play like a typical Swedish player according to the Leaf captain.
"He's really a great player," said Sundin. "He's a big strong guy who's strong along the boards and he can score. I think he's going to help our club for sure."
Renberg has already picked up on what Sundin likes to do on the ice. He said he knows what adjustments he has to make to his game if he wants to fit in with what Sundin is doing.
"He likes to come down the wing with speed," said Renberg. "If he swings to my side I have to move in and give him my lane. When I have the puck he's really good at coming from behind with speed so if that's the case I'll have to drop it to Mats and let him make the play."
Renberg, who signed a three-year deal with Toronto, played in Sweden this past year so he could spent time with his daughter Emmy. He had planned on remaining in Sweden this season as well, but decided to come back to the NHL only two days before the Entry Draft in June. In the end, it was his desire to return to the best hockey league in the world that persuaded him to leave his native country.
"It was a good year for me to be home in Sweden," he said. "I had a good year with my club team and with the national team but to tell the truth I missed the NHL and I look forward to finishing my career here in the league. I think we have really good players and this team looks really, really strong."