Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Leaf fans are mad at Mats

I'll have full thoughts on the Sundin signing later. But I wanted to get a quick post out of the way, because we all know what's coming tomorrow.

Every sports section, hockey show and sports blog will be covering the Sundin signing. And you can bet that most will feign confusion over why Leaf some fans have turned on him. They'll shake their heads sadly and say "don't those silly Leaf fans realize what a great player he was?"

First things first. Not all Leaf fans are mad at Sundin. Plenty of us have supported him all along, and many others gave up caring long ago. Despite what Howard Berger tells you, not all Leaf fans think as one.

But yes, a lot of us are still holding a grudge, and some of you can't figure out why. So I thought I'd try to clear it up. Here's why Leaf fans are mad.

Mats Sundin spent 14 years in Toronto. During that time, he was the third highest paid player in the entire NHL behind only Jagr and Sakic. We can save the argument about whether he was worth the money for another time (spoiler alert: he wasn't). But there's no disputing that the Leafs treated him well. In the past few months we've often heard about how Mats wasn't worried about money. I'd hope not. He had plenty of ours.

At the end of those 14 years, with the John Ferguson era roster a complete mess, the Leafs desperately needed to rebuild. They worked on various trades to send Mats to a Cup contender. He had a no-trade clause, and they asked him to waive it. Depending on who you listen to, they may have begged him to waive it.

Yes, he had every right to say no. Everyone acknowledges that his contract gave him that power. Not one single fan has ever argued that Sundin didn't have the right to do what he did. This is about more than a contract.

After 14 years, lots of people felt that Sundin didn't owe the Leafs anything. And apparently, Mats was one of them.

The deadline was a bad day for Leaf fans. But if Sundin had stayed, he'd have been forgiven. If he'd re-signed, he'd be a hero. If he'd retired, he would have understood.

But he didn't. He told us he never wanted to play anywhere else. He fed us a story about "the full journey". Then, almost immediately, he started eyeing the door.

His "no rental" reasoning was ridiculous at the time, a transparent creation of some PR flack. Despite his assurances about wanting to finish his career in Toronto, whispers quickly went around that Mats was sulking, upset at the idea that the Leafs would even think about dealing him. At the end of the year, when it was time for his annual disappearing act back to Sweden, it already felt like we'd seen the last of him.

Once it was clear that he wasn't coming back (and it's been obvious for months now), the damage was done. Everything that came after -- his embarassing indecisiveness, his refusal to address the media, his eventual re-emergence to shill for a gambling web site, and even his flip-flopping over the past few weeks -- didn't really matter to us. He's probably damaged his reputation with fans around the rest of the NHL, but Toronto fans are just glad it's over.

Will we forgive him eventually? Yes, of course, almost all of us will. Mats Sundin spent 14 great years in Toronto. He was a great player, a strong leader, and a class act. The fact that he spent his final months as a Maple Leaf acting like just another spoiled diva athlete will tarnish that legacy, but not destroy it.

But here's the bottom line: Mats Sundin torpedoed the Leafs best chance at a return to respectability because he swore he wanted to stay, and then it turned out he didn't. And after 14 years, he couldn't even be bothered to look us in the eye and tell us the truth, back then or in the months since.

Maybe he'll get around to it eventually. But let's just say some of us aren't holding our breath.


  1. Right on Brotha!

    That pretty much sums it up.

  2. "In the past few months we've often heard about how Mats wasn't worried about money. I'd hope not. He had plenty of ours."

    I'm calling bullshit on this. Unless you're a season ticket holder, i suspect most Leaf fans spend very little $$ on the Leafs, other than the odd jersey or occasional game. Mostly they sit on their couch watching the games, and MLSE takes it's TV-contract money and pays Mats. We're entertained for free, watching a game we supposedly love, and we begrudge these players for being compensated for it, like they're reaching into our wallets and taking our money. Give your head a shake man.

    And according to Brian Burke today, it sounded like Mats did want to come back here, but that Burkie didn't think it was the right fit, which it wasn't. Mats would turn this 9th-13th place team into a 7th-12th place team. that wouldn't help anyone.

  3. There's only one reason Mats, and by extension everybody else, didn't want to leave last season: he thought we were making the playoffs. That's it.

    Nobody wanted to say as much beacuse deep they probably knew it was a little ridiculous, and the media would have eaten them alive if they came out and said that and then failed to do.

    Can you blame professional athletes for having an irrationally inflated sense of their own ability? Can't you just see Sundin, McCabe, and Darcy getting together and saying, 'you know what, we can do this guys...let's get into the playoffs and see what happens'?

    Im not upset at all that Mats left, or that he failed to waive his NTC last season because I think he stayed out of loyalty. And who is to say he didn't want to come back to Toronto this season but Burke/Fletcher just didn't want him? And even if he didn't want to come back...can you blame him? Look at who he's been forced to play with, and how he was treated last year, essentially thrown under the bus by the team management revealing to the media that they wanted to trade him but couldn't.

    The one thing that does upset me is that it took him this long to come to a decision. I think if you need to take 8 or 9 months to decide if you want to play hockey...well, you've already kind of made your decision haven't you? Hang 'em up. That being said, I wish him all the best.

  4. You're all frackin' morons. I've been a Sundin hater since day 1 ... it was the dumbest trade ever to bring him in ... the guy has never had any balls or heart ... EVER ... go watch the retro games and watch Mats' FIRE ... oh what???? You can't find any - that's right ... he didn't have any until the last 3 years ... then finally he discovered what having size can do for you. It's utterly pathetic that we put up with his crap. You better believe I'm going to boo the f$&k out of him. He was never worth the ink on his contract. The happiest day ever was knowing he's finally gone. Now we can get some REAL leadership. There's a reason true blue Leafs fans don't give a damn about the "records" he set. He has no heart and Vancouver is about to find that out.

  5. Just a message for those true haters. Sundin was always there when a goal was needed. It's absolutely true he'd coast half the game. I always thought it was because he'd save himself for the 3rd. He'd have frenzy moments of fire and just score. I for one am not glad he's gone. I don't give a crap how much they paid him, it wasn't me paying him. We have had 1 great player other than Sundin since we traded Gilmour. That would be Kaberle and he barely qualifies. Ease the hate because you would be hating a lot more if you had to watch a team full of Hoglunds, Kristich's, Wilm's and Paul Healey's.