Monday, September 22, 2008

The Blood Of My Chief, Vol. IV


Fire! Smoke!

Drums! Bagpipes! Lasers! An Explosion!!!

The time has come, mere moments from this year's first pre-season game, to conclude our "tale of Magnificence and Misery - a blogger's history of Maple Leaf Captains". This will be the fourth and final instalment, for now, as we begin a new chapter, not yet written, while our 17th Chief remains undetermined. My personal thoughts on this volume's only entry range from mock indignation to childish adoration to direct ultimatum. Or simply put, The Good, The Bad, And The Brutal. What needed to be said has been said. There is nothing left but to move on. The tribe can wait no longer. Our season begins, and so we present, at last, The Blood Of My Chief, Vol. IV!!!

Mats Sundin 1997-2008
Drafted by Quebec in the first round, Mats Sundin is the first European to be selected 1st overall. On June 28th, 1994, Sundin was acquired by Toronto in a draft-day blockbuster which saw the current Leaf Captain, Wendel Clark, traded to the Nordiques along with Sylvain Lefebvre. In 1997, after the departure of Doug Gilmour, Sundin became the 16th Captain, and the first European player to ever wear the C in the NHL.

In many ways, the words "Magnificence and Misery" perfectly sum up the last season that Sundin would Captain the Blue and White. After being eliminated from the playoffs for a third straight year, and missing the final three games due to injury (or was it despair?), many of Sundin's remarkable achievements from that campaign have gone uncelebrated under the noise of the Muskoka Deconstruction Project.

Sundin began the season by breaking an 83-year old record held by Babe Dye, with a 16 game home point streak. During that stretch, in which he tallied 8G and 17A, Sundin surpassed Darryl Sittler for all-time Leaf leader in points and goals, on the same play no less (Oct. 11 vs NYI). Two nights later (Oct. 13 vs. Pit), he goes ahead of Sittler again, this time in assists, for 2nd all-time on the Leafs behind only Borje Salming.

On November 27th at home against Montreal, Sundin delivers yet another dramatic moment, tying the game with 18 seconds to go, for his 400th goal as a Maple Leaf.

On February 7th, this time in Montreal, Sundin becomes the 30th player in NHL history to collect 1,300 points.

If you're fascinated by numerology, dig this: On March 6th in Boston, Sundin played in his 1,300th career game, and scored his 30th goal of the season. Coincidence? Sundin has scored 20 goals or more in 13 consecutive seasons as a Leaf. Now add up all those numbers - 1+3+0+0+3+0+2+0+1+3 = 13. His number is 13. Coincidence?

Sundin is the first Swedish player to reach 1,000 points. On October 14, 2006, he became the first Swedish player to score 500 goals in the NHL. It was an incredibly dramatic goal that came in overtime, with the Leafs short-handed, for his 3rd goal of the night. Simply doesn't get better then that.

Overtime is where Mats has truly dominated. Sundin is tied with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL record for most regular season overtime goals with 15, and also shares the record for the fastest overtime goal ever scored - 6 seconds (at St. Louis, Dec. 30/1995). He also has two overtime goals in the playoffs for the Leafs.

In 981 games as a Maple Leaf, Sundin has scored 420 goals, 567 assists, for 987 points, leaving him just 13 shy of 1,000 (coincidence?). He has Captained the Leafs to franchise records in wins (45 - 3 times, '99, '00, '04) and points (103 - 2004), their first division title in 37 years (2000), and has taken the team as far as the Conference Finals twice ('99, '02). He is, in fact, one of the greatest leaders this team or city has ever seen, and in his absence this season, he will be deeply missed by those that crave the excitement that only Sundin can generate. He leadership will also be missed (for a time), for such is the weight of carrying the C on a Maple Leaf sweater that currently none on the roster are ready to assume it.

One of the greatest players to ever wear the Blue and White, Mats Sundin is already a legend, and proudly served the Leafs and their fans through an incredible career, whose legacy, perhaps, has not yet been fully written. His name deserves reverence, along with those of the other Chiefs of our tribe, Gilmour, Clark, Vaive, Sittler, Keon, Armstrong, and so on, down to Hap Day. They are the unique individuals who understood the honour and privilege they carried, and did so with grace and courage, as each had done before them.
Eventually, the time will come to celebrate the brilliant contribution of Mats Sundin to our tribe, but now is not that moment. Today we move forward into a new era, a new beginning, without a Chief to guide us, but there may yet be one in our midst. There is hope that new leaders will present themselves this season, and that a player with the stature and respect worthy of carrying the C for the Maple Leafs will eventually emerge.

So concludes The Blood Of My Chief. I hope you all enjoyed. Please see the Footnote.


eyebleaf said...

nice post man. fitting that you pay tribute to mats on the day we go into battle without our former leader.

general borschevsky said...

Cheers, eyebleaf. The time had come. I waited all through August. And then when it became clear that Mats wasn't coming back, I waited all through September for someone, anyone (other then Matt Stajan), to mention the Captaincy. No one did, until Wilson said "It's not about the Captain or all this other stuff"
Ah well. Easy come easy go.

mf37 said...

Nice will be very interesting to see who emerges this year as a possible candidate for the C.

general borschevsky said...

MF37: Cheers. It will be. It already is.