Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parsing Mats

Two of my favourite bloggers, PPP and Sean, have interesting posts up about the future of Mats Sundin and both seem rather angry that Mats may be skating for another NHL club this September.

Me? Not so much.

I was shouted down on a few discussion boards when I brought this up, but if you parsed Mats' comments at the trade deadline, it was clear that he wasn't ruling out playing for another team - he was ruling out playing for another team as a rental player.

Here are the key quotes from his official statement at the trade deadline:

"I have always believed I would finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf so the actual request was still a very difficult one for me to contemplate."

Sadly, Mats did not say - "I will retire as a Leaf" or "I will only play for the Leafs" he just said that he believed he would retire as a Leaf.

There's a big difference there.

Mats went on to say:

"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL Club at this time [emphasis mine]. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."

At this time.

Those are the killer three words right there.

Worse than "General Manager JFJ"

Worse than "President Richard Peddie"

Worse than "Rask for Raycroft"

At this time...

I hope the big Swede sticks around, but if he leaves town I will completely understand and I won't even be surprised. He clearly left that option open with his statement at the trade deadline.

This may be heresy, but if I was a multi-millionaire with two years, at most, left to pursue my ultimate goal and I had the opportunity to pick chose where to ply my trade, I'm not sure that I'd come back to Toronto.

I'm not sure that I'd come back to be the central marketing plank for Peddie and his ilk, knowing that there's no hope for a Cup and the only post-season action the team will see is on a TV.

I'm not sure that I'd come back to grind out 82 games with another set of b-list wingers (more like c and d-list wingers) on a re-building team, having to face the likes of Berger, Cox, DiManno and Simmons day in day out.

When you look at the mess the Leafs are in, if Mats does decide to sign elsewhere, I won't blame him. I'll blame the suits that brought about this ruin.

8 comments:

  1. Maybe a lot of fans skewed their understanding of his quotes to the positive (I know I did and do).

    However, in the build up to the trade deadline his statements had the air (and I'll have to look for them) of "I AM retiring a Leaf".

    Of course, if Mats actually wants to leave Toronto then what he could do now is waive his no-trade clause so that he could be moved to the team of his choice before July 1st similar to what Nashville did with Timonen last year.

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  2. great post. i feel the exact same way. he didn't want to go as a rental player and if he leaves us this summer, he's not going as a rental player. that's it. end of story. and i wouldn't be mad at him either. it's his choice. he's earned the right to make it. he's been a dedicated soldier for many years

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  3. Paul Steckley1:15 pm

    I love Sundin and have considered myself privileged to watch him in a Leaf uniform. I defended his decision to remain with the team at the deadline, although I would not have thought less of him had he agreed to move (unless it was for that horrible deal with the Habs that's been reported. Higgins for Sundin? That's the best they could offer? And Fletcher was apparently willing to accept that deal? Perhaps the greatest player in franchise history for that? Higgins isn't fit to lick Sundin's jock after a 2 hour on-ice practice, let alone be traded for him.)

    I dearly want him to return to the team and finish his career here. As painful as it was to watch the games last year, I can't imagine what they'd be like next season without Sundin.

    That said, he has the right to sign with anyone and given the organizational mess the Leafs have created for themselves, I wouldn't blame him at all if he decided to bolt for greener pastures. I would wish him the best and hope that he is able to capture a Cup somewhere.

    However, if he signs with the Habs, I will burn every single picture, jersey, and piece of memorabilia I own with his likeness on it and will curse him, his wife, his descendants, his ancestors, his neighbours, his doctor, his dentist, the guy that pumps gas into his car, and anyone else that ever has any contact with him whatsoever.

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  4. You're probably right about Mats' comments at the deadline.

    But here's the problem: if that's his stance (that it's OK to leave in the offseason, but not at the deadline) then his stance is ridiculous. He can't be traded in mid-season like every other pro athelete, even though the team that's paid him $50M over the years desperately needs him to? But he can leave on his own a few months later? I think a lot of people went for the "bleed blue and white" idea not out of wishful thinking, but because it was the only one that made sense.

    And I'm not jumping on the "blame Peddie" bandwagon here (and that's aying something, since I blame Peddie for everything). That's an easy copout for Mats that he knows will fly with some fans and all the media. If he's leaving because his feelings are hurt or he wants more money or now he wants to win, then at least have the courage to say so.

    Peddie has been a problem for years, and Mats never said a word. Don't start playing that card now.

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  5. But here's the problem: if that's his stance (that it's OK to leave in the offseason, but not at the deadline) then his stance is ridiculous.

    Mats fairly negotiated a no-trade clause and he used it. What you see as ridiculous, I see as a contractual right.

    He can't be traded in mid-season like every other pro athelete, even though the team that's paid him $50M over the years desperately needs him to? But he can leave on his own a few months later?

    Yes, that pretty much sums it up. Although it should be noted that numerous athletes have no trade clauses and have scuttled deals: Redden, Tucker, Kubina, etc.

    I think a lot of people went for the "bleed blue and white" idea not out of wishful thinking, but because it was the only one that made sense.

    That's fine for people to conclude, but if any of them had taken a step back and looked at what Mats said - not what the headlines or blogs said - they'd see Mats's position is incompatible with remaining a Toronto Maple Leaf: being a permanent, full-time, full-season member of a team that could win the Cup.

    And I'm not jumping on the "blame Peddie" bandwagon here (and that's aying something, since I blame Peddie for everything). That's an easy copout for Mats that he knows will fly with some fans and all the media. If he's leaving because his feelings are hurt or he wants more money or now he wants to win, then at least have the courage to say so.

    I think we have to be careful here about ascribing any intent or actions to Sundin. Mats has never commented on the management of the club and I doubt he ever will.

    I, on the other hand, will freely blame Peddie for this mess.

    Peddie hired Ferguson and either by commission or omission allowed the franchise to make a series of horrible decisions for nearly five years.

    Peddie then hired Fletcher, an interim GM who couldn't or wouldn't undo the damage done during JFJ's reign of error.

    Peddie is the co-lead of the committee to replace JFJ and so far they have accomplished nothing.

    Given Peddie's actions to date, would you sign on with this club if you were entering the twilight of your career and hadn't won a cup?

    I wouldn't and I wouldn't be surprised if Mats declines as well.

    And that's why, if and when Mats signs elsewhere, I'll blame Peddie for this mess and not Mats.

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  6. Mats fairly negotiated a no-trade clause and he used it. What you see as ridiculous, I see as a contractual right... Although it should be noted that numerous athletes have no trade clauses and have scuttled deals: Redden, Tucker, Kubina, etc.

    He certainly had the right to refuse a deal. But the other guys you mentioned (and many others) have refused to waive because they wanted to stay in a city longterm, or in Redden's case because he thought he could win a Cup where he was. It's becoming apparent that Mats doesn't believe either of those things about Toronto.

    That leaves the "no rental player" policy as his apparent reason for staying, and he's the only professional athelete I can think of who's ever made that argument. It may be his contractual right, but I think it's fair to call that ridiculous.

    I think we have to be careful here about ascribing any intent or actions to Sundin. Mats has never commented on the management of the club and I doubt he ever will.

    Never? He just did yesterday. This guy didn't say a public word about Peddie and Tannenbaum and Ferguson and all these clowns, but now we're supposed to believe that he's deeply concerned about the direction of the club and what the management structure will be?

    Sorry, I'm not buying what he's selling.

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  7. messier mentioned yesterday that he understood sundin's "no rental" policy...he was asked the same thing in vancouver, to be traded away, and he said no, that he had unfinished business in vancity...

    if it's a contractual right, it's not sundin who is ridiculous, it's the contract. sundin has done nothing wrong.

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  8. messier mentioned yesterday that he understood sundin's "no rental" policy...he was asked the same thing in vancouver, to be traded away, and he said no, that he had unfinished business in vancity...

    Big difference between the Messier situation, where Burke apparently offered find a deal for him if he wanted out, and Sundin, who had Fletcher practically begging him to leave.

    if it's a contractual right, it's not sundin who is ridiculous, it's the contract. sundin has done nothing wrong.

    There's no question that he has the right to invoke his no trade for any reason he sees fit. He could have said no because his horoscope told him to, and it would have been his right. We can still call it a ridiculous reason, though.

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