The brief Sundin era in Vancouver gave us both highs and lows. When he first agreed to sign here around Christmas there were haters that abounded. Then there were people like me who were in disbelief and overjoyed, as I've been a big fan of his for so long.
The process of Mats getting his legs back after joining a team late in the season was mostly painful to watch: the short shifts, the floating, the defensive lapses, the lack of speed, the inopportune times taking penalties etc. The Big Swede was under constant scrutiny because of the high expectations that came with him and the dollars he signed for.
In his first 9 games played here, Mats scored 2 goals and 1 assist. He also had 16 minutes in penalties and was a minus player in 6 of those games. But then Alain Vigneault assembled the RPM line, adding Ryan Kesler with Mats and Demitra. That paid off immediately. Sundin scored 4 goals and 8 points in his next 7 games. Finally, a legit 2nd line! Kesler and Demitra thrived playing with Mats.
Then there were 3 consecutive games with no points, followed by the final 21 games of the season, where Sundin scored 3 goals and 13 points. Not bad, considering he was playing nearly 5 minutes less per game than what he would have played in Toronto, but not exactly Sundin-esque either.
The next question was: "Was Sundin going to step it up in the playoffs?" Well, that question wasn't really answered in the Blues series, as he looked a tad better and had 1 goal in 2 games before injuring his knee. But during the long layoff between the Blues and Hawks series something clicked inside of his head. Sundin played the whole Hawks series and scored 2 goals and 7 points in the 6 games. In games 5 and 6 he was arguably the best Canuck out there. Alas, it was too late. 8 points in 8 playoff games though. I think he answered the bell. He at least matched his usual point-per-game pace in the post season.
Ironically, the only time he played over 19:00 in a game for the Canucks was in Game 6 against Chicago, inevitably his last game as a Canuck.
Was signing him a fail? Yes and no. It could have been a lot worse. He gave as a bonafide 2nd line throughout his tenure here. He sparked something in Ryan Kesler and vice versa. We needed that. So, given the fact that I'm biased to him I am going to give Mats a big thank you for signing here, for better or for worse. Some nights I tore my hair out because it took him so long to get his legs going. Other nights my man crush would flair up all over again. Like I said, it really was a roller coaster ride.
What are the chances that he returns? Slim to none. Mike Gillis had a "great meeting" with Sundin after the Hawks series was over. He said he will wait a few weeks before he talks to Mats again. Sundin on the other hand has stated that he will take the summer to decide on his future. The problem here is that, well, here we go again. Another summer of waiting for Sundin. The biggest problem will be the financial end of it. With Gillis almost certain to retain the Sedins, there will not be much room to sign Sundin again this time. A paycut for Mats? Yeah, I don't think so.
If Mats returns to the NHL, it will not be here. I think that's why I'm saying my goodbye to him now. I'd love to see him play here again, from training camp-on, but there are too many obstacles for Gillis to climb to make this happen.
-Leafs fans give Sundin a standing ovation. Emotional stuff.
-Sundin's interview after that win. Class.
-Sundin's potential last goal with the Canucks, in Game 6 against the Blackhawks:
Like a fool, I will follow the Sundin saga over the summer. But like Gandalf said: "There never really was much hope. Only a fool's hope."