You ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I love Mats Sundin. I love Mats Sundin as much as one straight man can love another straight man he has never met and only ever seen on TV (and 4 games). I love him less than an Uncle but more than a 2nd cousin for example. He is my Captain (okay that last bit was kinda gay). But if he goes, he goes. I don't and wouldn't begrudge the man one iota. Whether he goes to Montreal, where he and that team become immediate threats in the East or to Vancouver where, and lets be honest here, 20 million dollars is 20 million dollars. If he does go, I honestly believe his one regret would be not retiring a Leaf.
I’m gonna tell you what I think and here it is; Your 2008 – 2009 Toronto Maple Leafs will be better than you think. With or without Mats, and I’ll get to that in a minute, this team will be exciting to watch. The problem is that it’s an 82 game season.
I do believe that there will be less lapses , less defensive errors. I believe that the team will fight hard game in, game out. People, through-out the year will say that the Leafs are a hard team to play against, that they are not a team to be taken lightly, you know all the usual cliches. We all know that Toskala is going to stand on his headand when not him, prodigal son Cujo. (Welcome home son, all is forgiven. Let's just blame Don Meehan and leave it at that.) The problem is that this Toronto Maple Leafs squad, the one I just described, could quite possibly lose every single game this year.
Without Mats, our leading scorer, might have to be, gulp, sweet Jesus, Jason Blake. Ok…look…we all know that he gets the free pass, and I’ll talk about passing in a minute, the man has/had cancer people. I get a cankor and I don’t wanna leave the house. Again I was all ready to reserve judgement until December on him but then I thought about it and thought, ah, fuck him.
Without Mats, everybody’s numbers drop faster than Dolorean stock so I see, whoever leads us in scoring, hitting the 50-55 point mark and no higher. That could be Jason Blake which makes me pee myself and cry a little. It's not the amount of money he makes or even his numbers that bother me it's his hockey sense. Not even considering the turnovers galore and the what the hell is he doing shots on net, more than anything it was the lack of passes. (ps. What is this I’ve heard about him being a disruption in the dressing room?) Most nights I found he would kill the teams momentum with his meanderings. Missing opportunities by hanging onto the puck and taking those terrible shots on net. 4000 shots on net, not one rebound?
Which is true really for a few others, Bell for example who is still a mystery. I don't even know if he is eligible to play but is in inconceivable for Bell to get 15 goals this year? A mere 15 goals and I see a 2nd rounder at the deadline.
My feeling as the press is about to roll is that Kubina, McCabe, Bell, Blake, Poni and Antropov are all available. When you talk about rebuilding from the bottom, the model for years to come is going to be Philadelphia. With a foundation of Carter, Richards, Pitkanen, Giroux and Downie to build from, the route from bottom seems an easier climb with good draft choices. Perhaps I am just draft crazy like when I first discovered watching poker on TV: mesmerized before I realized that poker on TV is the new fishing.