Sundin Returning Will Prolong Leafs Turnaround

Mark MakuchCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2008

Sundin, the enigmatic Swede. What ever will the big man do? Go to Montreal and its potential run for the cup? Take the zany money from Vancouver? Return to the semi-known quantity of the Leafs? Retire altogether while at the top of his game?

Such are the bigger questions rattling somewhere around in the head of Mats Sundin. And so far there is no answer. Guy Carbonneau certainly thinks the Canadiens are the only logical choice. And while Sundin certainly has Vulcan-esque qualities, some would say that 20 million is more logic than anyone needs. But really, no one can profess to know what is truly going on up in that big bald dome.

Whatever the big Swede decides, life will go on for the Maple Leafs. With the roster set according to Fletcher, save for Sudin's possible return to the blue and white, its time to look closely at the pro's and con's of Sundin returning to the Leafs.

The pro's for Sundin returning are pretty clear: Awesome leadership. Can show the young kids how to play the game. Will score points and will make the upcoming season a little less painful for fans.

But what about the con's? Sundin will take up ice time. And the younger players need ice time to develop. In ways, having Sundin will in fact prolong the development of players like Grabovsky, Tlusty, and Kulemin. As well, the Leafs will likely fare better in the standing with Sundin in the lineup, thus giving the Leafs a lower first round pick next year.

So if I'm rebuilding this team, it seems like no Sundin is better for the Leafs in the long run. Sure, next season will be more painful for fans, but in 2009-2010, the Leafs will have emerging young players (if we're lucky, maybe a potential budding star in Grabby, Tlusty or Kulemin) with a ton of playing time under their belts, a solid pick in the draft, and a decent cap structure for adding more young talent. That sounds like a very good position to be in a year from now, rather than an having another mediocre season of just missing the playoffs, an OK pick, and young players that still need lots more development time.

I hate to say it, but I must agree with Derek Harmsworth and Howard Berger on this one. The Leafs are better off without Mats returning.  Fletcher was pretty bang on when he said it would take a step back to move two steps forward.