Let me say this off the top: I think Mats Sundin should retire.
Let me also say that I am biased. I have spent more days watching Mats Sundin than any other professional athlete. When I quit, he will be the one player I chronicled the most and probably the one I remember best.
In the days when we mangled English on purpose instead of by accident, we would have said Mats Sundin was good people. He is an exemplary professional. He likes to laugh and to my knowledge, hasn’t said an unkind word to or about anyone. We have learned that he dithers when confronted with a decision. So sue him.
I do not begrudge Sundin the ability to make money in Vancouver or New York although this is one of the rare cases where money doesn’t much matter. He has, as Brian Burke said, two dollars less than God. If he wants more of anything, it is not money.
And while I am at it, I do not fault Sundin for refusing to waive his no trade clause so the Leafs could garner maximum return at the trading deadline last February. Nor do I find him at fault for shifting away from his earlier position that he would never parachute onto a roster midway in the season.
I am not the only one who thinks that after 13 seasons with the Leafs including a decade as captain, Sundin can dictate his own terms. Surely, he has done enough to warrant that.
But there are only two conclusions to be gleaned from his return. One is that he needs more money. The second is that because he did not garner a Stanley Cup final, Sundin’s career has been a failure. Thus the 11th hour scramble to find a winning team and validate his career.
If Sundin comes back, John Q. Public will conclude he’s either greedy or a liar.
The truth is he is neither.
The class of the league is Boston, Montreal, San Jose and Detroit and Sundin has no chance of landing there. Because of the lateness of the hour, the lack of cap space and the darkening economy, Sundin will restricted to teams such as Vancouver and New York who, even with him, are not favourites to garner a Cup. An early exit with a new team would be too embarrassing to ponder.
Should that be Mats Sundin’s legacy, another term with another also-ran?
No. Two appearances in the final four, 499 goals as a Leaf, more thrills on more nights than can ever be counted, those things are what he will be remembered for.
He was the best player wearing blue and white on virtually every night he played. Even among the Leaf greats who wore a blue or white cotton C over their hearts, Sundin was a standout.
Sundin has already had his ultimate career moment. That came when he captained Team Sweden to the Olympic gold medal in 2006.
Here’s hoping against hope that for Mats Sundin those things are enough. I will not fault him if they aren’t, but I will revere him forever if they are.