So it's finally over. After almost eight months of rumors, speculation, denials and predictions, you're finally back. You're a Vancouver Canuck.
Can we talk?
Here's the deal. You screwed up at the deadline, and deep down I think you know it. Your indecision over the summer was embarassing. When you still couldn't make up your mind as the season wound on, it became pathetic.
Right or wrong, you've looked like a guy who didn't care about winning. Right or wrong, you look like a flip-flopper at best, a liar at worst. Right or wrong, your "full journey" quote has already become a symbol of athlete hypocrisy. Right or wrong, you've looked like somebody who'd rather go into hiding than answer a few tough questions.
You brought all this on yourself. You, and the people around you that have been giving you such terrible advice through this whole sad saga. You've worn us all down. I'm tired of writing about you.
So here are my parting words to you: Good luck. I hope you win a Cup.
Really. I hope you go out and play the best hockey of your career. I hope you lift the Canucks to the top of the league, take a nice long skate with the Cup, then retire. I hope you head home to Sweden, enjoy your well-earned retirement, and we see you again at your hall-of-fame induction.
Because that would make a happy ending for this whole ordeal. And after all these years, you deserve at least that much.
It hasn't been fun watching you embarass yourself over the past year. Leaf fans deserved better from you -- hockey fans deserved better from you -- but we didn't get it.
Fine. But what's done is done. Now it's time to look forward.
And it's not hard to see a lot of ways this could end badly. You could get hurt (you're 38, and who knows what kind of shape you're in). You may not have the competitive fire anymore (after all, it took you this long to decide you still wanted to play). The Canucks could fall short when it mattered (since they're, you know, the Canucks).
You could be headed towards your Jerry-Rice-as-a-Seahawks stage, your Michael-Jordan-as-a-Wizard days.
And if that happens, everyone will line up to bury you. And that's not what I want, because right or wrong you're a Leaf for life.
Sure, go to Vancouver as a rental (cough). They'll embrace you if you win. If not, they'll cut you loose and move on to the next savior.
But either way, when it's all over your number is going to be hanging in our rafters, not theirs. You'll be the guy whose name is all over our record book, not theirs. Your career highlight package will have a blue maple leaf all over it, not whatever the Vancouver logo is this week.
So I hope that highlight package has a happy ending. You should have won a Cup in Toronto, but that didn't happen and towards the end we all knew it never would. So be it.
Now you've painted yourself into a corner where anything short of a Cup in Vancouver will be a failure, and the knives will come out. Part of me might enjoy that, but it's not what I want to see. Because you're a Maple Leaf. You're part of Leaf Nation. You're one of us. Even if at the end you didn't want to be. If you need to win a Cup to redeem yourself, then I hope that's exactly what you do.
This isn't the way it was supposed to end, but it's the best option left. Go make it happen.
Thursday, December 18, 2008