A year ago today, who would have guessed Mats Sundin would be sitting on the "Visitors" bench in Toronto?
The former captain of the Leafs signed with the Vancouver Canucks last December, ensuring that he would not return to Toronto.
Sundin played 13 seasons in Toronto, accumulating 987 points (420 goals, 567 assists) in 981 games, making him the franchise's all-time point leader. He was named captain of the team during the 1996-'97 season, and remained so until his official departure a few months ago.
Although Sundin never won any major National Hockey League awards, he was voted to the NHL All-Star Team nine times, won an Olympic gold medal with Team Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and has set a number of league records, such as most regular season overtime goals (15, tied with Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias), fastest overtime goal (six seconds, tied with Alexander Ovechkin and David Legwand), and has the most career points, goals, and assists by a Swedish hockey player.
Many people have been speculating what kind of reception Sundin will get when he makes his return to Toronto. Of course he will receive both negative and positive reception in a city like Toronto, but which will overcome the other? Does Sundin truly deserve to be "booed," or cheered for all he did for the team over the years?
At last season's trade deadline, many people wondered whether or not Sundin would waive his no-trade clause, which would allow Toronto to trade him and receive some draft picks and young players in return. Sundin decided to stay with the team (which was fine with me). However, when the season ended and Sundin was a free agent, it was said he was unsure whether or not he would even re-sign with the Leafs. I was worried.
As you all know, he did not return to the team, leaving Toronto with nothing in return. I was very angry, and even wrote an article expressing so. If I were still feeling the way I did a few months ago, I would have "booed" Sundin. But now, my thoughts have changed.
Yes, Sundin didn't allow Toronto to trade him and receive some much needed players and draft picks. And yes, the players and picks Toronto would have received would have been excellent. But does Sundin deserved to be heckled in the city he did so much for? No.
As I listed above, Sundin was Toronto's best offensive player for years. In fact, he's the best offensive player for Toronto ever. He carried the Leafs as far as he could for years. Of course, Toronto never won a Cup (which isn't his fault), but without him they wouldn't have even come close.
So to my fellow Toronto fans, face it—Sundin is gone. Booing him won't bring him back, nor will it make draft picks or young players magically appear. Instead, remember the good years, and all he did for this franchise, and cheer his return. And if you think about it, without him (or some new players) Toronto is even worse than they would be, giving us a better chance of getting Tavares.