Heading into the playoffs I heard and read a lot of pundits championing Vancouver's chances because Mats Sundin's presence freed up room for the Sedin Twins. With legitimate secondary scoring Vancouver could go deep, they said.
Oh they are right, Vancouver could go deep. But it will be despite of Mats Sundin, not because of him.
The Eastern media finally got a taste of what we west coasters have discovered in the second half of the season since Sundin signed in Vancouver - the game has passed him by. He has really struggled to keep up, and his expected dominating impact has come only in far too few glimpses.
It was pretty funny listening to Ron MacLean, the most respected hockey man on television, seem down right surprised at Sundin's play. He even expressed surprise when the Sedins went out on a power play with Steve Bernier, their regular PP partner for much of the season, instead of Alexander Burrows, who rarely plays on the PP.
The only thing more surprising than Sundin's play to some Easterners is there is a Canadian NHL team west of Brantford.
Those with good knowledge of the blogosphere know of Sundin's troubles, thanks to several good Canucks blogs. Following game one the most respected Canucks blogger Tom Benjamin was particularly vocal, saying:
I don’t think anyone in Vancouver is counting on a better Sundin anymore. Many (including myself) hoped to see more in the playoffs. He didn’t step it up last night - the playoff pace left him even further behind. Hopes are flagging.
He even goes as far as to suggest.
Yes East coast, Mats Sundin has been that bad. We should have known he would be a perimeter player when he got here. Any objective Toronto fan would know that from the past couple of years. But we should have expected Sundin to contribute more on the power play. And no one thought he would look so terrible while trying to keep up in the play on every single shift. 30 seconds in and he's breathless.
If he doesn’t get better - and quickly - I’d take him out of the lineup. Pyatt will be back soon and Vigneault can’t pull Mason Raymond. The Canucks would be a better team if Mats developed a minor undisclosed injury.
Outside of the face-off circle, Sundin has contributed nothing. He will never be benched, though. Unlike Benjamin I would not advocate that he even should be.
I will say everyone's expectations were much higher, including Sundin's and Mike Gillis', especially for the pro-rated $10 million he signed for. The expectations probably should never have been that high to begin with. I don't think we in Vancouver were expecting Sundin of 1998. We just were not expecting an on-ice repeat of Mark Messier of 1998 either.
Oh, and by the way Eastern Canada (and Mike Gillis), Pavol Dimetra has not been much better, either.