With this Saturday his #13 is being raised to the rafters in the Air Canada Centre I figure I'd take a look back at Mats Sundin's NHL career and look back a bit
It started when he got drafted 1st overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989 the first European player to get drafted 1st overall. In his 1st season he had 23 goals and 59 points qhich was 2nd on the team to Joe Sakic. He would spend 4 years with them which included his career high 47 goals 114 points in the 1992-93 season. After the following season he would get traded to Toronto in a 6 player trade that involved the Leafs trading one of the most popular Leafs players of all time Wendel Clark.
He made an immediate impact coming to Toronto his 47 points in the lockout shortened 1994-95 season his first with the Leafs lead the team in scoring. His most prolific season was his 3rd in Toronto the 1996-97 season scoring 41 goals and 94 points which would be his 2nd highest total of his career and the highest of his time with Leafs. Later in that same season the Leafs traded then captain Doug Gilmour to the New Jersey Devils. In the off-season Sundin would become the 16th captain and the first European captain in Maple Leafs history
In 1999 after a 2 year absence the Leafs were back in the playoffs adding Curtis Joseph and Steve Thomas. Sundin averages near a point a game with 16 points in 17 games and would lead the Leafs in the playoffs every year through 2004 season the last time as a Leaf he would be in the playoffs.
While the Leafs never made the playoffs in his last 3 years as a Leaf he was always unselfish. He never spoke negatively about his teammates in public even after a humiliating defeat it didn't matter I can think of a couple of moments in particular in On October 11th, 2007 against the Islanders Sundin was credited with an assist on Tomas Kaberle's short handed goal that passed him by Darryl Sitter in Leafs all-time points list he got a standing ovation but replays showed he never touched the puck and even Sundin knew that he told the offical he never touched the puck. The assist was taken away at the end of the 2nd period but Sundin would score on a pass the would go in off an Islanders defenseman and in passing Sittler in goals and points giving him the standing ovation he deserved the goal, point everything he was named the 1st, 2nd and 3rd star of the game
Even though the Leafs werent a playoff team in his later years he still would not request a trade out of Toronto and wanted to stay even despite managments requests in his final season as a Leaf he still wanted to stay believing in his teammates and wanting to stay believing the team could still make the playoffs falling short every time.
He went on to spend a half season his last in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks which included his return to Toronto scoring the shootout winning goal and getting a standing ovation from the crowd.
He w was a point a game player during his career Excluding his rookie season, the shortened 1994-95 lockout season and his half season with the Vancouver Canucks, Sundin scored at least 70 points in every season of his career, played at least 70 games in every season he was durable and rarely got hurt even in the game against Carolina when he took a shot to the face and broke an orbital bone he still came back and played he was rarely hurt and even when he did get hurt he healed fast and often returned sooner than expected.
He has a nice list of accomplishments too his 15 career OT goals are tied with Sergei Fedorov, Jaromir Jagr, and Patrik Elias for the most in NHL history, 564 goals is tied with former Leaf teammate Jow Niewendyk for 20th all-time, 785 points is 32nd all time, and his 1349 points is 25th all-time, he's also 1 of only 2 players to record 20 goals in his 1st 16 seasons(Marcel Dionne being the other and his a 9 time All-Star playing the All-Star game every year from 1996-2004 (was named in 2003 but was injured and couldn't play)
Even though he didn't win a Stanley Cup with the Leafs the most proud moment for him was in 2006 when he was the captain of the 2006 Sweden's Olympic hockey team winning the gold medal in a 3-2 win over Finland he would also win gold with Sweden for the 1992 and 1998 World Hockey Championships as well and a silver with Sweden in the 2003 World Hockey Championships. After winning Olympic gold in 2006 he said it would be the last he would expect to play for Sweden nationally as was the case
He may be critized for never winning a Stanley Cup in Toronto and it did take me a some years for me and many Leafs fans to warm up to him he was tough, durable and clutch and had a really great career despite rarely having a quality winger to play with he never complained, bashed his teammates, requested more ice time when other top stars in the league were averaging more than him. He wasn't outspoken and always lead the way with his game and how he played and is one of my favourite Maple Leafs players ever
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