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Mats Sundin Needs To Go Away

Welcome from underneath your rock; allow me to bring you up to speed on the latest Mats friggin Sundin news: no decision yet but he's whittled it down from 30 to 10 to five to, apparently, two teams. It's fitting that both the Rangers and Canucks are still in this race because if anyone knows what it's liked getting burned by an aging bald center with an ego complex, well, it's them.

And the absolute latest is that he is rumored to have picked the Rangers (h/t Kukla). We can only hope.

James Duthie has a wonderful take on the last six months during which I've done my best to ignore this entire ordeal; first when it started then the fun August and September months where we all learned how to use online Swedish translators.

But with the Canucks (once again!) defying all the preseason horseshit about how much they'll suck to the tune of leading their division right now and doing so without their captain and #1 player, I think it's time to focus on this team far more then any individual. Gillis should be grabbing this insufferable J.P. Barry by the back of his neck and slamming his face down on a table that has new contracts for the Sedins and Ohlund. Not Sundin.

Let the Rangers have him, Vancouver doesn't need him.

And why not? I'm glad you asked gentle reader. Let's play pretend:

1. He signs with Vancouver and they win the Cup - Right. If you believe this I want some of the drugs you're on (I'll pay for shipping). You'd have to be on something to think all this team is missing is a center far past his prime to lead them through the grueling playoff months. Let's ignore Luongo returning to to his Vezina style play, Demitra, Kesler, Bernier, Pyatt, Burrows, Raymond, Hansen all contributing regularly, injuries being kept at bay, Vigneault getting the best out of his players on a consistent basis...yeah, drop all of that. It's Sundin who, as past experiments have shown, will gel simply fine with the Sedins and become the second coming of the WCE. And why? Because he's a Swede? Go ask Naslund how that worked. And since when does Henrik play wing? Argh, this is asinine.

Having Sundin doesn't guarantee anything. It just doesn't. Never has, never will.

2. He signs with Vancouver, they make the playoffs and get bounced - Far more reasonable then #1 by a long shot. Could Sundin help offensively and get some much-needed regular season wins with a timely goal here and there? Of course he could. But you know as well as I do the playoffs are far different. Are we then to assume Sundin (who hasn't played a second of the post season since before the lockout) is the X factor? Is the NHL playoffs of all places where you want to rely on one of the oldest guys in the league to lead your team? Sure, leadership can come in a variety of factors but if it's already probable he'll struggle to the pace of the game when he returns it's ludicrous to think he'll lead a team through the playoffs. Maybe a round or two at the pace they're at but their leadership will be coming from a lot of other places then Sundin.

Can Sundin help get them in there? Obviously. So does everyone else on the team. And at what expense - which players will the Canucks miss out on - when they ink Sundin to a one year deal that fails?

3. He signs with Vancouver and they miss the playoffs - Oh this would be fun; all this pre-production drama about where the hell will he sign and he doesn't help the team make the cut. Why? We can take a guess at any number of plausible story lines: Luongo remains on the sidelines, Sundin doesn't play well with the Sedins or anyone else, Demitra gets injured, Wellwood gets injured, Kesler gets injured, Bieksa gets injured, Salo remains injured, Fin gets injured, Vigneault can't make heads or tails of his own team, etc.

Am I painting a negative picture? Damn straight. A few days ago the worst team in the division shutout Vancouver. There's still plenty of hockey left to be played, so a few more of those games and guess who will be on the outside looking in? Give me a healthy Luongo over a decision-challenged Sundin any day.

An aside: how beautiful is it that the Rangers need Sundin for scoring? Vancouver is in the top ten for goals per game (a spiffy 3.00) whereas the Rags - you know, the ones that blew their wad for Naslund and Zherdev to join Drury and Gomez - are 28th.

Back to it...I know I know, I am being mean. How dare I question the ability of the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf to ever breath air? Yeah, well, sue me. I'm not saying he isn't an absolutely awesome and gifted player who deserves the HOF and then some; these numbers don't lie. What I am saying is that it's 2008, not 1998 and that the Canucks need a different set of changes then he can provide on his own.

And don't bother giving me the "it's the media's fault that Sundin is being demonized like this." It's not July anymore. This is part of being a public figure (I believe he knows something about this), much less one that has taken this long to make up his mind. I find it very hard to have PR sympathy for a guy who, I will assume by his own choice, has dragged this on and engaged how many teams for his precious services? Hockey fans are passionate people; it comes with the territory that we're going to want to know the who, what and why's of a decision like this.

If he becomes a Canuck AND the secondary scoring stays AND this team maintains its blue collar ethic AND the defense stays healthy AND Luongo returns AND Vigneault can get this team playing with some element of consistency, then I'll admit my mistake. Fine.

But I'd rather have management focus on more attainable and (need I repeat their own mandate?) "Moneyball-ish" type players out there than sink all efforts into a faded dream and a poor concept, especially one in a city like Vancouver that has been burned by this exact same scenario. Maybe this could be the move that finally gets Sather axed and out the door rather then the one that'll be hung around Gillis's neck for the coming years.

For the first time in a long, LONG time this version of the Vancouver Canucks is one a fan can actually be proud of. Legitimately. Previous years have had the song and dance of "maybe Naslund" this or "Brendan Morrison" that. Rinse, wash, repeat, enjoy another early offseason.

But now? Against a lot of odds this group (when they decide to play like it) gets leadership from a number of different areas: a slick Demitra goal, a Kesler hit, an O'Brien fight, a hard fought Johnson PK (get healthy man!), a kick save from Luongo, Sanford OR Schneider (sheesh). Look at Wellwood's story for god sakes! There's a lot to like about this team's character. With some astute moves, this team could get a lot better. It's not to say they can't with Sundin, but Sundin isn't a safe bet at all and I don't want to watch this franchise both squander the chances it has now and repeat the same mistake again. All in one multi-million dollar New York minute.

Enough is enough.