Sundin, Oct. 24/08
Strange thing for Sundin to ask, I thought. Is that all he's waiting for? Maybe Dimanno didn't have the exact quote in her notes, or maybe she didn't have her notes in front of her, or maybe she doesn't believe in notes, but just so we're not gossiping or playing broken-telephone, here's what Wilson said on record the next day:
Wilson, Oct. 26/08
Sundin, May 29/08
"After I sit down and tell him what we have in mind -- which isn't for public consumption now -- I think a clear picture will emerge for him," Fletcher said. "I think he'll be comfortable."
Fletcher, early June 08
What wasn't for public consumption then was how Cliff was going to do it. Cliff is a man of his word though, and while it took time to get all the pieces in place (and McCabe and others out of place), the Leafs are a different team this year, a better team, and yet there remains a huge hole in the line-up specifically suited to allow for Sundin's return. Matt Stajan has done well the last 3 games between Antropov and Ponikarovsky, including a goal last night, but, c'mon seriously, Matt Stajan is the number 1 centre on the Leafs?!?
Actions speak louder then words. It's taken a while to get there, but I think the Leafs have more then demonstrated their desire to have Sundin come back. No one wants to lose face on this and look the fool, but, baby-step by baby-step, the two sides are getting closer to resuming the relationship again.
Maybe there really isn't anymore to it then that. If we look back to the beginning of the summer, before Sundin was even a free-agent, the message from Sundin was already there:
"First of all, for me to come back to Toronto, Toronto has got to show they really want me to come back, too," Sundin later added. "So we'll see what happens."
Sundin, May 29/08
Maybe there is more. Maybe it's up to the fans. Us. You, me, and all the other apathetic weirdo's out there who've lost interest in Sundin and don't care if he returns. Some (not me) don't want to see Sundin return because it will decrease our chances of a quality draft pick. Others (also not me) are skeptical of having Sundin back because of the weight of his larger-then-life presence and the way it affects team chemistry. And finally, some people (me) are just bored with the whole thing. They need constant stimulation (totally me) or they lose interest.
So I think I've found the solution. We just need to have our buttons pressed. Generate a little excitment. Once that ball of hype gets going, there'll be no stopping it. One way Sundin could do that himself would be to start talking about hockey again. To show some enthusiasm for the sport we all love. Get that look of determination back in his eyes. Because, as Leaf fans, we know there's very few things more exciting then a determined Sundin.
Another way Sundin could totally win over all Leaf fans would be to return without an NTC. I know, not going to happen, but from a purely PR perspective, it'd be a brilliant move. Let it be a gentleman's agreement between Mats and Cliff. Let Fletcher take the heat at the trade deadline and at the end of the year for not moving Sundin. Cliff is a man on his word, I don't think he would screw Sundin by sending him to a team if he didn't want to go, contractual agreement or not. It doesn't really need to be there, so why should it be there? But imagine the joy in Leaf Nation when it's announced that Sundin has signed without a No-Trade clause. Fletcher would be a hero, and Sundin too. Until the end of the year when the Leafs miss the playoffs again by a single point, but then all the heat will fall on Cliff's shoulders for not trading Sundin when he could have. Fletcher won't care 'cause he'll be stepping down and handing the reigns over to someone else. Meanwhile, Sundin can ride off into the sunset and retire as a Maple Leaf, having thanked the fans for making his dream come true with one last season.
"My dream and the best scenario would be if I ended my career as a Toronto MapleLeaf."
Sundin, May 29/08
No one player, not even Sundin, is bigger then the Leafs' orginization. By demontrating that he understands that, and then leading by that kind of example, without a No-Trade clause - only a handshake from Cliff - Mats can have the send off he deserves, and so can we.
*** An Update to the Update ***
I've always been a Sundin fan, but having said that, the team seems to be developing some good chemistry without him... Sundins return would obviously demote Stajan, so do you think that might mess up the chemistry?
I responded with: Personally, I think no one wants Sundin to come back more then Stajan.
It seems someone from the Natioanl Post overheard our little conversation and gave us this follow up (Nov. 3/08):
Wilson was asked if Sundin's return - theoretically, at least - would place the team's new-found chemistry at risk.
"I don't see how it could hurt," the coach said. "But that's just speculation.
From the same article, further down, Stajan responds with this:
"I hope he comes back. I hope he comes back to us. He'd be a big boost to our team, for sure... You add one of the best players in the world and, no doubt, it's going to help the team."