Toronto Maple Leafs: Life without Mats Sundin?

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IMay 13, 2008

Since being acquired from the Quebec Nordiques for fan favourite Wendel Clark, the Maple Leafs have had the pleasure of watching Mats Sundin mature into one of the league's best.

He has done almost everything there is to do with the Maple Leafs.  He has rewritten many franchise records.  He has scored his 1,000th point in a Leafs uniform, and he was also wearing the blue and white when he recorded his 500th career goal (a moment no Maple Leafs fan will ever forget.)

In fact the only thing he hasn't done with this team is win the Stanley Cup—something that speaks more about the cast around him than the man himself. 

So with the Cup the only thing missing from a storied career, and with Toronto in a rebuild mode, have we seen the last of Mats Sundin in a Maple Leafs uniform?

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Sundin.  I know, and am more than willing to admit, that without him this team would have been even worse off than they were.

I know he has the ability to lift this team, on his broad shoulders and carry them to victory.  All of us have witnessed that more than one time in our lives.  Mats Sundin is a tremendous player, and if he wants to finish his career with the Maple Leafs, then I would accept him back with open arms.

But with all the talk recently about the big Swede's future, I finally had to break my silence on the situation.

Simply put, the Maple Leafs would be a better team with a player the calibre of Mats Sundin on it.  However, it may be time to close the book on this tale.  After all, there is a part of me inside who believes that no matter if this team is in a rebuild mode or not, it will always be Mats' team, as long as he is wearing the jersey. 

The Maple Leafs and Mats Sundin may mutually part ways this summer, for the benefit of everyone involved.

The Toronto Maple Leafs would get a culture change.  Something needed just as much as the roster overhaul they desperately are seeking. 

Mats Sundin would, of course, get a shot at the Stanley Cup that is missing from his resume.  He deserves it, and with the window of opportunity narrowing, he won't be getting the chance in Toronto.

There will be some fans who will show bitterness if Sundin leaves, especially after refusing to waive his no-trade clause, which would have brought the Maple Leafs back some invaluable pieces toward the rebuild process. 

Fan favourites and captains Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler, and Doug Gilmour were all traded out of Toronto to give the team some youth, to enter a new chapter in Leafs Nation.  None of those deals panned out for the Maple Leafs, and they continued spinning their wheels.

Mats Sundin has been a tremendous player, and human being, for Toronto.

If he has indeed played his final game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, and will exit to finish his career elsewhere like so many other fan favourites, here's hoping Maple Leafs management can finally get this right, and turn the corner.