With all the talk of the Maple Leafs' free agent center Mats Sundin this summer, I began wondering, "When did we as a hockey community suddenly care enough about a guy like Mats Sundin enough to hang on his every word? Is the guy even a Hall of Famer?"
Well, we're going to dive into that last question in this very piece.
For all of his accomplishments, let's face facts: the big deal is that Sundin is a consistent player who has been on the same team for the last 15 years—an uncommon thing in the sporting world today. Would this be a discussion if he had been on four or five teams?
Speaking of that consistency, he's only hit the 100-point mark in a season once. In 1992-1993, he hit 114 points on the strength of a career-high 47 goals and 67 assists. Solid numbers to say the least, but nothing mind boggling, especially when you consider that he hasn't really approached any total since—41 goals in 1996-1997, 53 assists in 1993-1994 and 1996-1997, and 94 points in 1996-97.
Staying with the numbers theme, his 555 career goals and 1,321 points are impressive, but slightly less so when you think that he's played 1,305 games. But considering Dino Ciccarelli (608 goals) isn't in and Dave Andrechuk (640 goals, 1,639 points) probably won't get in on his first try, is Sundin really worthy?
He will probably get in simply because he hasn't angered the media like Ciccarelli and he's been with the same club for most of his career.
Another thing to consider is that not once in his career was Sundin considered even one of the top three or four at his own position, let alone in the entire league. While consistency is something to be achieved, the Hall of Fame is about special players. Sundin wasn't a truly special player and still isn't.
All this being said, there's one well-known and very large black mark on his record—his playoff history. His biggest flaw is that, not only does he not have a Stanley Cup victory to his credit, he doesn't even have a finals appearance. His closest and latest chance was a loss in the Eastern Finals to the Buffalo Sabres in 1998-1999.
It's hard to even put the brunt of the failure on his teammates' shoulders. In 85 playoff games, he's mustered just 35 goals and 74 points. Not horrible numbers, but he's been consistently average in his playoff career. Being average doesn't win championships and it certainly doesn't put you in the Hall of Fame.
So I, for one, don't get all the fuss over Mats Sundin. He's a solid player who's had a good career. But is he a guy who deserves this kind of attention? No. He certainly isn't one of the best centers in the game today, let alone one of it's best players.
And he, in this writer's eyes, isn't a Hall of Famer, either.