November 10, 2012

HHOF Rolls Out Welcome Mats For Sundin

2006 Olympic gold medallist. The first European drafted first overall. The first Swede to score 1000 points. 1346 games: 564 goals and 1349 points. And now he is a first ballot Hockey Hall of Famer.

That is an impressive resume. But is it impressive enough to crown him as the greatest Toronto Maple Leafs player ever?

That is a pretty lofty title in itself. I don't know if I would rank Sundin, the Leafs all time leading scorer, over Syl Apps, Teeder Kennedy, Frank Mahovlich or Dave Keon. But I have no reservations ranking him ahead of Darryl Sittler, who I consider to be a perfect comparable for Sundin.

Sittler and Sundin both bled Maple Leafs blue, captaining the team for long tenures and without much help. They were maligned to some degree, mostly unfairly, because of the lack of team success. Neither player won a Stanley Cup, or even a major individual trophy. Those outside of Toronto suggested that both were very good and very popular players, elevated to great players only because they were the face of the franchise in the most intense market in hockey.

I tend to agree that Sundin was a very good player for a very long time, but not necessarily a great player for any extended length of time. But there are several similar players like that already in the Hockey Hall of Fame - Mike Gartner, Dale Hawerchuk, Bernie Federko, Pat Lafontaine and, drum roll please, Darryl Sittler.

Unlike Sittler or any of the other great Maple Leafs players of the past, the general consensus is that Maple Leafs fans never fully appreciated Mats Sundin. Somehow they always wanted more out of him. The Leafs did not have the most success in his era. Sundin never had a lot of help. He represented the blue and white with class and dignity. He gave it his all.

Sundin was an elegant player, blessed with size and skills. The Leafs long time captain was a quiet and classy leader. On Monday Mats Sundin will take his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame on 30 Yonge Street, forever residing in the great city of Toronto - a Maple Leaf forever.

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