Mats Sundin: Has the Desire for Greatness Left the Leafs Captain?

TopShelf JerseysCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2008

Whenever there is a discussion of great hockey players, obviously the names Ray Bourque and Mats Sundin should be included. 

Bourque gave it his all for 21 seasons with the Bruins, and amassed record numbers for NHL defensemen.

Sundin has played 17 seasons in the NHL—the past 13 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The span of his career has seen him total 1321 points, the most of any Swedish-born player.

Both players have won numerous accolades and individual achievement awards, as well both have represented their home countries and won internationally. Their contributions and leadership to their teams cannot be argued nor contested.

Bourque is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and Sundin will be. But for all the similarities of these two great players, I am left to wonder about potentially the greatest difference between the two—the desire to win the holy grail of pro hockey—Lord Stanley’s Cup.    

You see, after all those seasons leading the Bruins year in and year out, without ever getting close to winning the Cup in his last decade with that team, Bourque made his choice. It must have been torture for him, as he knew it would bring tears to those who loved him for so long in Boston.

Bourque requested a trade—yes, he requested a trade, so that he might have a chance to win the only prize that eluded him in his legendary career.

Despite the fact. he had been the heart and soul of the team Boston Management traded him and Dave Andreychuk to the Colorado Avs, in return for Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier, Samuel Pahlsson, and a first round draft pick. Bourque won the Cup in his second season with the Avalanche.

At last year's trade deadline, Leafs Management attempted to move Sundin. most probably to Montreal or Detroit, who were both poised for a playoff run.  The Leafs surely would have yielded a very nice return, maybe similar to the bounty Atlanta received for Hossa.

However, Sundin—fully within his rights—decided he would not wave his no-trade clause stating he did not buy into the rent-a-player concept. Fair enough, but this crushed a lot of Leaf fans hoping for a kick start for the rebuild.

Fast forward to the present. Since the end of the season, there has been rampant angst and speculation from the Leaf Nation as to what Mats Sundin will do.

But really what does it matter? He is a free agent, no longer a Maple Leaf. When he could have been traded to a team with a shot at the Cup, he shot it down. The Leaf management mishandled the situation, and in doing so have nothing to show for his departure.

Sundin may come back with another team—seriously vexing Leaf fans—or he may retire. He may even still wind up back with the Leafs.

But do the Leafs, who clearly seem to have some kind of a rebuilding plan, really need to be spending millions on a player whose desire to win the NHL’s ultimate prize may have left him some time ago?