The Sundin Mess

I knew a guy years ago who started every sentence with “you know what you should do.” The first 1,000 or so times you heard that it’s interesting, after that your mind begins to have automatic reactions (“No, I don’t. But I’ll tell you what YOU should do!”) followed quickly by open hostility.

I’m thinking Mats Sundin may be starting to feel that way about some members of the Toronto sports media. The number of articles that imply he should waive his no-trade contract for the good of the Toronto Maple Leafs reached a crescendo this morning with this article.

Steve Simmons has made his reputation in Candians sports media and there’s nothing I can do to damage it further. Having said that, I would like to post a few items from the article that strike me as completely unreasonable based on the facts before us:

  1. If Mats Sundin is to be taken at his word, that he truly bleeds blue and white, then in the best interests of the Maple Leafs he must act accordingly.
  2. He must waive the no-trade clause in his contract and allow Cliff Fletcher to trade him at the Feb. 26 deadline.
  3. That way, he can impact the next decade of the Leafs, just as he impacted the past decade.
  4. He must allow the Leafs to do what they haven’t been able to do since the lockout ended — and that is compete in the top half, not the bottom half, of the National Hockey League.
  5. He apparently is content not playing for a contender. He is content that his season ends in early April, rather than late June. He is, like too many of the Leafs, not terribly frustrated playing for a team that has fewer wins than any team in the NHL.

A few things:

  1. There’s not one damn thing Sundin MUST do. He negotiated with an NHL team in good faith, they gladly agreed to the NTC and therefore are bound by it.
  2. The idea that he has to fall on his sword to leave a legacy is crazy. He WILL leave a legacy, that of an impact forward who had a long run of impressive seasons in the deadball era and played at a very high level long after 95% of his draft year had retired.
  3. The Leafs being able to compete at the top end is what Sundin is all about, and in fact if they were any damn good now they’d be in a playoff spot. Sundin isn’t the problem, people.
  4. #5 is especially galling. Those of us who follow the NHL have to get over this idea that if you haven’t won a Stanley you’re not really worthy of the HOF or mention among the all-time best. When the league was 6 deep you just had to wait until getting traded to Toronto, Montreal or Detroit and hang around long enough and all would be well. The league is now 30 deep and although Sundin’s impact is impressive the Leafs have not been able to get to the SC final during his time there.

Here’s my advice to Leaf fans: enjoy Mats Sundin. He’s not the problem. Should he decide that he’d like to have a “Ray Bourque wins the Stanley (in Denver though)” chapter near the end of his career he’ll let you know.

He’s earned the right to call his own shots, and most certainly deserves fewer of them from the Toronto Sports Media. That group needs to step off.

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16 Responses to "The Sundin Mess"

  1. doritogrande says:

    LT, if it wasn’t for you, I’d have nothing to do at work but work. And that simply cannot be.

    That’s quite the article you’ve got there, and while I’d normally say it’s some hack writer looking to win a pulitzer by jumping on a hot-button issue, this guy’s got some bit of credibility. Paid writers can get right up there on the list of people to hate in the world (lead inexplicably by Leafs “fans”). I also point to how reporters jumped all over the Redden rejection of waiving his NTC earlier this week to kibosh a trade to SJ because he believes in the team. Now, Redden’s situation is much better off than Sundin’s, but they both have the right to say no, end of story. A similar argument could point at the Anaheim/St Lou trade involving Doug Weight, who was told that he’d get fewer and fewer minutes in StL if he rejected the move, which I thought was a terrible move by whoever’s running the Blues these days (seriously, who’s going to want to sign there after hearing that)?

    Problem is, this is going to be the way of things until the 26th.

    - Slow news day
    - Slam Sundin for not deciding if he’s going to stay or go.
    - Repeat

  2. Jamie says:

    Steve Simmons is a dink!

  3. PPP says:

    Good post LT. I don’t get the “Mats owes it to the team and the fans” brigade.

    If he decides to fall on his sword I will love him for it but if he decides that he doesn’t want to then that’s his choice. As you point out, if anyone has earned the right to make that choice it’s Mats.

    Dorito – not sure I’d say Simmons has any credibility. It doesn’t look like Mats’ hip has caused him to retire this year has it?

  4. rickibear says:

    Hopefully Matts plays out his contract and then goes to a team that wants him in the new season. Be that the NHL or Sweden.

  5. Bruce says:

    Steve Simmons has made his reputation in Candians sports media and there’s nothing I can do to damage it further.

    Great line, LT. The question that leaves me scratching my head due to the gaping hole in the logic, is this: why the hell would Sundin want to be a “team player” for a team that he’s no longer on? Shouldn’t he be a team player for HIS team?

    And don’t get me started on the NHL’s batshit-crazy “release-and-catch” program that allows teams to trade guys with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink-see-you-on-July-1, a la Tkachuk, Recchi and others. Simply put, that loophole needs to be shut down.

  6. doritogrande says:

    “And don’t get me started on the NHL’s batshit-crazy “release-and-catch” program that allows teams to trade guys with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink-see-you-on-July-1, a la Tkachuk, Recchi and others. Simply put, that loophole needs to be shut down.”

    It’s not a loophole. Players are free to do what they want July 1st.

    You want batshit-crazy? Look to the NBA instead. Dallas was supposedly trading for Kidd, offering up a player to Jersey that would immediately be bought out so that he could re-sign with Dallas after 30 days. What.The.Fuck.

  7. dstaples says:

    There no-trade clauses — which are going to become increasingly common in the NHL, as the players have the power and demand them — are going to drive every one of us crazy in the next few years.

    Toronto fans and Sundin are the wave of the future on this one.

    That said, your basic point is right, LT, that these two sides agreed to a deal, it was a legal deal, they were all adults, they all had lawyers checking things over.

    Why, Simmon’s weird moanings about this make about as much sense as an NHL GM complaining that some other team made an offer to his prized RFA.

  8. Alice says:

    I used to blame the Leaf fans, laugh at these dumb-ass guys with the little flag hanging out the window of the car. Three weeks after missing the playoffs. Again.

    But I’ve turned a corner on this one. God bless ‘em for hanging with this mess, when they could bet their hearts on so many more likely and deserving clubs, several just a few hours up or down the road. The fact that my older son is one of these guppies has perhaps awakened some empathetic nerve shared by all sports fans.

    No, the problem does not start with the Leafs fans. The roller-coaster of hysteria that follows a 3-game winning streak (who will they meet in the conference final?) or a 2-game losing streak (JFJ must die, no wait, must die by public torture) is mostly the product of the SO broadsheet press and media. Not just the Sun rag, but Shoalts w the Globe, the CBC HNIT – Leaf Nation is nothing if not the well-engineered product of saturation-level exposure and high rotation. The sad thing is, as we all know, you don’t really get to choose to be a fan, like you get to choose your brand of beer, or automobile or shampoo. You just are one. Look at Dennis, anyone as clear-eyed as he thinks he is should have folded, but damn if he can stop himself. In Toronto certainly, and elsewhere, some folks are doing pretty well by this, and a bunch with their hearts on their sleeve are being greased for it.

  9. Dave says:

    God, I woke up so happy this morning, saw this article, and have been absolutely seething in anger ever since. I’m glad I’m not the only who had this reaction.

    Simmons is an absolute, complete joke. He has ‘credibility’ because his name is attached to a major newspaper, but that’s as far as it goes. He suggested last week that Jim Rutherford is a poor candidate for the our position, but Kevin Lowe should be considered. Of all people, you Oilers fans must know how insane that sounds.

    I really think that it’s people like Simmons who are going to turn this upcoming generation away from newspapers and published journalists of their ilk and to blogs like this one. I know I’ve already switched over completely. Leave aside the simple fact that everything in the MSM becomes a rehash of everything else if you read enough of it, and on the blogosphere you can get things (stats analysis, for example) you’d never find in a paper. But idiots like Simmons are just such assholes about everything they do that I can’t help but think more and more people will be turned off completely. It’s a shame, but it is what it is.

    I honestly cannot believe how pissed off I am. By one stupid little petty balding man. Fuck me, man. Him and Duthie and all those other hacks should be rounded up and fired off into the sun. I am going to go find something to punch.

  10. Oilman says:

    Steve Simmons is too stupid to know that he completely contradicts himslef in the same article by in one paragraph saying that Sundin is the perfect pickup for a contender looking for a long playoff run and then a few paragraphs later, saying that Sundin is content in having his season end in April….what a fucking doofus.

  11. Dennis says:

    The first thing I think about when I see Simmons is that he looks like Alex from Degrassi High.

    That leads me to thinking about the time Tessa broke up with Alex to go out with Luke. And that leads me to think about Degrassi High’s coda — School’s Out — where Joey was screwing both Tessa AND Catlin.

    I have lots of buddies who are Leaves fans and they severely undervalue Sundin. Big guys in hockey will always get fifth chances, ie Isbister, just like lefthanded pitchers will in baseball. The reason why I’ve always been enamored of Sundin is here’s a big guy with actual big skill and those guys are gold.

    I think he’s well within in his rights not to submit to a trade and it sounds hypocritical but this piece didn’t fire me up because I’m just passing it off as Steve Simmons.

    Of course I know I rail on the edm media all the time so perhaps my bail has been centralized.

    BTW, Stern told the Mavs today that Stackhouse won’t be eligible to come back to Dal after the 30 days. Payton pulled his a few years ago and apparently rival GM’s called Stern about the Kidd move and said this shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3247183

  12. Bruce says:

    BTW, Stern told the Mavs today that Stackhouse won’t be eligible to come back to Dal after the 30 days.

    Sounds like the NBA is closing their batshit-crazy loophole, at least that one.

    I wish the NHL would close theirs. Loaning players to outside organizations might have been OK in the 1950s, but not now. If the player’s current team has him in their long-term plans, sign him now … you’re the only team that can. But once you trade him, that one team should IMO be ineligible to pursue that particular UFA the following summer to preclude any appearance of collusion.

    You’re right, DG, players are free to do what they want on July 1, but some of these deals smack of backroom handshake arrangements. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink, hey Mats why don’t you go play for some asshole like Brian Burke for two months for virtually no pay and then come back to us and you can meet your new winger Bobby Ryan. “Leaves” a bad taste in my mouth.

    Mats is perfectly within his rights to say no thanks, one of my seniority benefits is this no-trade contract and if I’m going to play for free in the post-season for some other team I’d rather stop in my old stomping grounds of Quebec City for the Worlds with my “other” team Tre Kronor, and then I’ll go home to Sweden and take the long summer to rest up for next year when there will still be teams lining up to sign me. Some of them might even have a little cap room.

    Sundin has never done anything but represent the Leafs with class and grace under the most trying circumstances, and he will continue to do that even as he holds the hammer in choosing the terms of his departure. I have a lot more respect for him than I do for some of those ass clowns in the media who advise “you know what you should do …”

  13. Matt says:

    Bruce, I guess “closing the loophole” makes sense looking at it from the team/NHL perspective, but it seems exceedingly unfair from the player perspective.

    Guy is approaching his UFA time, where he will have his pick of 30 situations, and something that he has no control over (Sundin is in the minority) happens — he gets traded. Suddenly one of his most attractive signing options is forbidden to him? Bah.

    Benjamin had a great line about (IIRC) Mark Spector last week, something like, “Every time a guy like Spector says it’s not about blame, he wants the players to pay for something that’s Bettman’s fault.” Well, that would seem to apply here too.

    And more directly, since none of that wink-nudge-whatever is enforceable (and is it even *possible* to have a verbal agreement (that either party would take seriously) any more detailed than “We intend to offer you a contract on July 1″ … “I intend to accept it.”

    And by the way, has anyone really gotten over yet with this loophole? Is Penguins/Recchi the best example of someone who might have gamed the system?

  14. Bruce says:

    And by the way, has anyone really gotten over yet with this loophole? Is Penguins/Recchi the best example of someone who might have gamed the system?

    Well the jury’s still out on Foppa who would certainly raise the bar if he re-signs in Philly.

    The Hurricanes “borrowed” both Weight and Recchi for their Stanley Cup run, which no doubt contributes to my bitterness about all this. Both returned from whence they came.

    Then we have this suspicious pair of transactions which avoided the UFA process altogether:

    ***
    Thrashers Re-acquire Pick, Trade Tkachuk

    [Jun 26] The Atlanta Thrashers have re-acquired their conditional first-round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft from St. Louis in exchange for forward Keith Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, which could become a third-round selection in 2009, according to Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell.

    The Thrashers conditional first-round selection was previously traded to St. Louis as part of the deal that brought Tkachuk to Atlanta on Feb. 25. In the original trade, the Thrashers first-round choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft would become the property of the Blues if the Thrashers re-signed Tkachuk, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

    If the Blues are unable to reach an agreement with Tkachuk during their exclusive negotiating period, he would reach free agency and would be able to sign with any team. If Tkachuk were to sign with Atlanta, the Thrashers would owe St. Louis the conditional fourth-round pick in 2008, which could become a third-round pick in 2009.

    Tkachuk was originally acquired from the Blues in exchange for forward Glen Metropolit, first-round and third-round draft choices in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, a second-round choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional first-round choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
    ***

    Got all that? Not sure I do, but I think St.Louis got about four draft picks (1st and 3rd in 2007, 2nd and 4th? in 2008) for effectively loaning Tkachuk to Atlanta for a few weeks. Am I the only person who thinks this smells bad?

  15. Bruce says:

    Guy is approaching his UFA time, where he will have his pick of 30 situations, and something that he has no control over (Sundin is in the minority) happens — he gets traded. Suddenly one of his most attractive signing options is forbidden to him? Bah.

    Bah back. If the guy likes the option that much, he could have re-signed there during the previous year(s) that he was on the team. If OTOH he wants to test the free agent waters he’s rolling the dice. If one of the consequences is he can’t return to the team that dumps him at the deadline, maybe he’ll negotiate in good faith before then. Or if the team likes him that much that they want to re-sign him, then maybe they should negotiate in good faith rather than resort to a cake-and-eat-it policy.

  16. Schitzo says:

    Regarding the whole re-signing in the offseason with your original team thing:

    There’s two issues that need to be considered.

    1. From the NHLPA point of view, a 30-team bidding war for a player’s services is more desirable than a 29-team bidding war.

    2. If you can’t re-sign with your old team, you don’t waive the NTC in the first place (and disrupt your family, make your kids change schools, etc).

    Not sure if #1 would have a measurable effect. How you take #2 depends on how you feel about rentals in the first place – if you like the idea, why curtail them? If you hate them, hey, good, limit them any way possible.

    One thing I don’t like is the way the cap hit is pro-rated, so that if you can go 60 games with a 45 million dollar cap, you can go into the playoffs with 65 million worth of players after picking up some rentals.
    Maybe the cap hit should have a floor of 50% of the original salary? So if you pick up a Sundin at the deadline, you need at least 3.1 million free, instead of the 1.55 million you’d need right now.

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