Nov 072009
 

With the Canucks amongst the fore runners courting Forsberg, there’s been a lot of comparison between the success, or lack of, from Sundin, and what Forsberg will likely bring to the table. I for one was against Sundin for a whole whack of reasons, but did come around and realize that in the playoffs, especially against the Blackhawks when it mattered most, he was our best player on the ice. With that in mind, these top 6 forwards, that are just available, do not come along that easily. You’re not going to find top 6 guys like this, of such calibre, who come for literally nothing (just salary, you’re not giving up picks, or trading anyone) any time else. It’s this reason you have to take a gamble on them, or at least try to take a gamble on them.

Forsberg while he comes with his problems, also comes with certain factors that Sundin never had. One of the biggest problems with Sundin was that he was off the ice for an entire off season and the first 42 games. While Forsberg’s been out of the NHL, he’s been training in the SEL and is in as near a game condition as he can be considering he’s playing in a tournament representing Sweden at the moment.

My other knock on Sundin was that he was 39. Forsberg checks in 3 years younger than that, and won’t creak every time he steps on the ice. Forsberg’s numbers are also volumes better than Sundin. Sundin’s numbers were a function of longevity, and no doubt the man was one of the best players the NHL has seen in his time. However, Forsberg’s put up considerably better numbers relative to the number of games he’s played in the NHL, and it was clear upon his return to NHL in his last go around that he can be a difference make on whatever team he plays be it the rock-em-sock-em robot Flyers have, or the we’re-always-just-a-hair-shy-of-the-playoffs Predators. He’s played in the Northwest, he knows the Northwest, and the way the Avalanche have changed, they’re no longer the team he played with, and they’re no longer a team he can go back to.

Forsberg’s foot is always a concern, and so was Sundin’s health, however with the caliber of player that he can be, it’s a gamble you can’t pass up on. Especially when you have a team with so many of the right pieces to be a contender. I’d liken him to Marian Gaborik. Gaborik is slated as almost more injury prone than Sami Salo, and yet when he’s healthy, as he is right now, we’re seeing him earn his 8 million dollar salary picking up points from all angles of the ice. Top 6 forwards don’t come for free. When they do, you can’t pass up an opportunity to snag one. The Canucks are a contender, we have a super star goaltender, we have a blue line amongst the NHL’s best, we have an offense that is firing on all cylinders, Forsberg has every reason to sign with us, and Gillis (if he’s as interested in Forsberg as he says he is) needs to make every play to get him.

Oct 012009
 

Dear Mats,

In the short time I’ve known you we’ve had a rocky relationship. I didn’t want you on my team, I didnt think you could do it, you were an ex-Leaf so I had cause to hate you, and in all I wasn’t happy you were stealing so much of my team’s money. It took me a long time to become “okay”, if you can say I really was okay, with the fact that you were a new Canuck, we’d put up with your drama, and you may be contributing something to this team.

I wasn’t impressed with your goal-per-million-dollars-earned strategy, or with your stupid penalties that cost us the game, and had we not won the division because of those measly points I would have shredded you worse than that punk kid Cody Hodgson. I wasn’t impressed with your lack of back checking or with your “laziness” and least of all I wasn’t impressed that you took half the season to make up your mind. You had me almost likening you to a Mike Comrie, at one point – all due respect though, you’re pretty awesome.

But I’ll hand it to you, you came back and although it was hard, once you got those old bones creaking and slowly turned over that engine you made a difference. You helped out that Kesler kid and probably thought him a thing or two he didnt know, you opened up the ice for the team, and you actually started making some plays, putting up points and getting goals that helped us win that division and home ice. You showed us a little something about what the word epic really means when you scored that shootout goal against the Leafs, and you showed us the level of class you’ve inspired and earned just by the way the fans in Toronto treated you.

Everyone told me, “Wait, you’ll see. Come the playoffs Sundin will elevate his play.” As the stretch drive came to an end you were slowly rolling into your own groove, and as much as it pains me to admit I was wrong, everything they said was true. In the playoffs you were our best player. In Chicago we lost the series because of a number of reasons, but not one that could be directly attributable to you. I know I for one am a little upset (for selfish reasons) you couldn’t come around this season if for no other reason than to have been able to mentor Cody Hodgson a bit. He could learn a lot from a center like you.

Lastly, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for choosing to turn down the original offer of 20 million dollars over 2 years. If you’d done that we wouldn’t have a reason to be as excited this year as we have a right to be. There would likely be no talks of a Luongo extension as he’d probably wait to see how we fared this season, and we’d have no Sedin twins (which I’m sure factored into Luongo’s decision to commit to this team). There also wouldn’t have been a bunch of players like Shirokov, or Samuelsson. Your act of pure selflessness (be it you were selfish enough to avoid the lengthy road trips at the beginning of the season – sorta cancels the two out) has allowed us to use that 10 million you would have earned elsewhere.

I’m sorry you didn’t get the fanfare and send off you deserved. I for one wish you’d ended your career with the Leafs. I would have rather seen you sign a one day contract with the Leafs and end your career with the send out you deserve than the second mention it seems you’ve gotten in Vancouver. You deserved a little more for your 20 seasons big fella. Anyway, I hope you enjoy your new wife, she looks pretty hot. Maybe we’ll see you around Vancouver some time?

Love you long time Big Baldy,
Mozy.

PS – Did you hear? We have a Russian now!
PPS – Can you send me a Nordiques jersey? Fire me an email and I’ll send you my address.

Sep 302009
 
Mats Sundin

Photo credit: CBC

In a news conference in Sweden this morning, Mats Sundin announced his retirement.

“It was a tough decision,” Sundin told reporters at a news conference at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel. “It’s sad to tell you today that my career as a pro hockey player is over.”

Sundin played his last season with the Vancouver Canucks with mixed results. After sitting out half a season, it took him a while to get his game going. And in fact, he didn’t play his best games until near the end of the postseason. To that point, some Canucks fans will remember him as the big, second-line centre the team had been looking for for years; others will remember him as the big, second-line centre who made $8.6 million. I think most agree that though, that in the course of his 20-year career, that he was one of the NHL’s best players on and off the ice.

Sep 132009
 
Kevin Bieksa

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’ll be going to training camp today so keep an eye out on my Twitter feed. In the meantime, here are some Canucks-related links on the Interweb:

Sep 112009
 

The Mats Sundin roller coaster ride continues. Today’s latest twist comes courtesy of Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun):

J.P. Barry, the agent for Mats Sundin, said today his client is not in contract talks with any National Hockey League team — and that includes the Vancouver Canucks.

Barry was reacting to a report that the Canucks and Sundin were “said to be in negotiations” on a one-year deal “in the neighbourhood” of $2 million.

“There are no negotiations involving Mats with any team at the present,” Barry told The Vancouver Sun.

More from Pap:

Canucks GM Mike Gillis has steadfastly maintained that Sundin, 38, would have to be in training camp from Day 1.

Seeing that camp starts at 9:30 AM tomorrow morning, that leaves Mats about 20 hours to make up his mind and sign with the Canucks.

Tick-tock.

Sep 102009
 

Sportsnet is reporting that the 38 year old recently married Swede might still return to don the Blue, White and Green. After a season that saw him turn down a 2 year 20 million dollar deal in favour for a 1 year 10 million dollar contract a lot of people, your truly included, thought Mats was going to hang up the skates after this year’s attempted return.

The 38-year-old Swede is said to be in negotiations with the Canucks and could sign a contract valued in the neighborhood of $2 million to be the team’s second-line centre. Vancouver may be prepared to make a trade if it is necessary to fit Sundin under the salary cap, if necessary.

If this is true, it makes Sundin’s decision to turn down the 20 million dollar contract look genius. His cap hit would have cuffed the Canucks this season had he been a bust, and with the loss of Ohlund we would be in no position to fill the necessary holes.

When I talked to Gillis he made clear that if Mats wanted to return he would make room for him. He also made clear that if Mats wanted to return he had to do so at the beginning of the season, there were no mid-season heroics allowed. The Canucks right now are above the cap after trading for Ehrhoff and Lukowich from the Sharks, so if and when Gillis has to craft something together he’s going to have to dip into the plethora of defenceman the Canucks currently have. Top contenders on the trade block as far as value go would be Bieksa and Schneider. As for hoping, if Gillis can get rid of that 4 million cap hit of Demitra’s well, then it would be a match made in heaven.

While Gillis has made it clear he’s grooming the future and wants to go younger, faster, and bring in the younger players to revamp the offense, it’s when looking at the style teams like the Oilers have employed that you need some veteran leadership to teach the youngsters. With the likelihood of Hodgson entering the Canucks lineup next season, there is no one better to groom the future star than a veteran star player like Sundin. It would be nice to give Hodgson all the help he can get to win that Calder.

Sundin’s biggest problem last season was he didn’t have time to get his stride. By the time he finally found his stride, Luongo was allowing 7 goals a game (still a little bitter) and Shane O’Brien had learned how to score goals. In the Chicago Series Sundin was the best Canuck on the ice and it was clear he was finally finding his form. His affect on Kesler was more than noticeable, and if you put Sundin with Kesler all season you’d see the breakout from Kesler everyone’s really been expecting the last few years.

At 2 million dollars you can’t go wrong. I was opposed to Sundin last season because of him entering half way through, the disruption to team chemistry, and his age. But given a full season, the way he progressed last season, his effect on the surrounding players and the way he completes the Canucks roster, at 2 million dollars can you really go wrong?

Sep 102009
 

To this day, we still don’t know if Mats Sundin has decided to continue his NHL career, though tonight, Mike Brophy (via Sportsnet.ca) has this to share:

The 38-year-old Swede is said to be in negotiations with the Canucks and could sign a contract valued in the neighborhood of $2 million to be the team’s second-line centre. Vancouver may be prepared to make a trade if it is necessary to fit Sundin under the salary cap, if necessary.

One, if Sundin signs, it will – not if – be necessary to make a trade in order to fit him the cap.

Two, I would welcome this signing. Regardless of how you feel about Mats’ $8.6 million salary last season, you can’t deny that he added a presence to the Canucks’ second line.

I guess we’ll wait and see how Mats decides. Again.

Aug 122009
 

For those still wondering about whether or not Mats Sundin will suit up this coming season, it seems like Sundin himself is still wondering (via Nucks Misconduct):

Mats Sundin, 38, will retire with hockey.

It states Upsala Nya Tidning referring to “reliable sources”.

But the Cape itself deny.

- I have not made up my mind, I take a decision in the autumn, “he told Sportbladet.

Late yesterday published UNT information in the sports blog that one of Sweden’s greatest hockey careers are over.

‘Safe sources’

According to the newspaper has Mats Sundin decided to add skates on the shelf and in the blog provides, inter alia:

“Now, UNT reveal that Mats Sundin decided to add skates on the shelf – for good. Everything under the reliable sources, “writes reporter Henrik Söderlund in a post.

Earlier this summer Sundin announced that he will not participate in the Olympics.

Sportbladet has been in contact with the Cape who says he still has not taken any decision on him to continue his hockey career.

In other words, we’re in the same position we were in this time last year – praying for a second line center.

Jul 042009
 

As free agency rolls along, as last year, Mats is is no hurry whatsoever to get a deal. This time around though it plays into the Canucks favour, for the time being at least, as it allows Gillis to focus his efforts on signing other key UFAs and RFAs before dealing with the veteran Swede. I wrote in an earlier post that I thought Mats was worth only 2 million a year for another year in a Canucks uniform and it seems a lot of people think I’m absolutely crazy for thinking he’ll even consider that kind of money. Other fans playing arm chair GM are willing to spend as much as 4 million on the guy, so here’s my take on things.

Sundin has a value and a roll that is intangible. It’s a roll that was once played by Trevor Linden. Now before I offend anyone, know that I’m not trying to compare the two, or suggest that Sundin is a replacement for Linden, but his role and expectation from the team and the fans – should he come back – is one of leadership, clutch play, and mentorship.

Having a big center like him who can elevate his play when needed (as he showed in the series against the Blackhawks) is lacking from this Canucks team that is a few pieces away from being contenders. With the liklihood of Hodgson coming up next year having a veteran center like Sundin is even more important. But, Sundin is 38, and it’s no secret that he struggled to get back in shape and keep up with a game and a team that is moving towards faster and purer hockey.

If I have Sundin back I don’t want him to play all 82 games. I don’t think he can play all 82 games. He has the potential for groin injury and his importance and presence is needed more in the second half of the season than the first. If Sundin comes back, I want him to play the way Linden did, scratched every few games, rested every few nights, but down the stretch playing and contributing to winning 2 points every night.

Sundin wants to play here again. Gillis wants him back. He last year was originally offered a two year contract so the pieces in play all line up. Mats wants to play for a contender and there are no other teams with cap space to offer him the contract he got last year, or teams that want to take a gamble on a 38 year old injury prone center. I have this feeling that Sudin likes what’s going on with this team and he’d take a pay cut to allow Gillis to make the right moves and to stay on a team that has a legitimate chance to win every night.

If you’re willing to give Sundin 4 million dollars for the season, because that’s the going rate for centers of his calibre, that’s centers playing 82 games. I don’t expect him to play all 82, I’d be happy with 41. If he’s playing half a season, he’s only worth 2 million dollars against the cap so that Gillis can afford to fill the other gaps and bring in the one or two players needed to take this team and it’s offense to the next level. If you give Sundin 4 million dollars, he has to play all 82 games, and he wont. He can’t.

Jun 292009
 

The Canucks who have traditionally been rather passive when it comes to major deadlines like the trade deadline, and free agency, were the center of attention last year as they pursued the most coveted free agent of the 2008 summer – Mats Sundin. This year he’s a free agent again, less coveted and hyped, but equally as important to the Canucks now that he has had a chance to play on the team and prove his value.

Now I know I was one of his hardest critics, but one thing people told me all through his season’s ups and downs was that if I waited till the playoffs I would really see the worth of Mats Sundin. To all those that had faith in him I commend you because I certainly didn’t believe in him at first, and it took a while but after the way he stepped up in the series against Chicago, and the way he impacted the team intangibly during the regular season, he’s on my list of Canucks Free Agents to give a second look and try and resign if the price is right.

At the beginning of last season there was a 2 year deal on the table for Mats. He waited until December to decide to come back, and he took a one year deal for 7 million dollars. He’s indicated he wants to play another year and Gillis has implied that he would like to have Sundin back.

Last season Sundin did something no one has been able to do for the Canucks and that is open up the ice for the Sedins. His presence and ability on the ice has given Vancouver enough depth to roll 4 lines and have at least two different lines that pose a threat. He opens up the ice for whomever he’s with which is the reason we saw career numbers from Kesler and better play from Demitra. When playing on the power play with the Sedins he draws opposing players away from the Sedins and is the big presence in front of the net we had hoped would have been Pyatt but which has been missing since Bertuzzi patrolled the opposition’s crease.

While he might not be at a physically ideal level, his hockey sense and vision is still amongst the best, and when it comes to clutch, he’s still got it. (Just have to work on keeping him out of the penalty box).

Is he worth 7 million? Certainly not. The Canucks had cap room, all it cost them was cash, it was a lure. It worked, and now Sundin has found a team he thinks is a legitimate contender and a few right moves away from the cup (pending the X-Factor Sedins). Should Sundin be back? Certainly. His intangible benefit is similar to that of what the Sedins have. He seems to have clicked with Kesler and skates well with Demitra. On top of that, if Hodgson joins the big leagues next year Sundin would be an excellent veteran to teach him the way of the game.

Sundin is the big body center we need and on a year to year basis I think he’s a steal. While he has his stretches of inconsistency on the score sheet, he’s solid in the face-off dot. The reason he took the first half of the season off was because he didn’t think he could handle the grind of travel, and it’s not something I expect of him because if we want a healthy, clutch Sundin down the stretch, we will have to make sacrifices. I would like to see the Canucks bring back Sundin in the role they had for Trevor Linden in his last year. Linden was a healthy scratch many nights (although for different reasons) but when it mattered most he was leading the Canucks on the score sheet. Sundin won’t last 82 games, and I don’t expect him to. If he’d like to prove me wrong I would be ecstatic.

Sign him for 2 million dollars MAX for one year (preferably less – 1.5). Have him center a solid second and mentor a future superstar. Give him another shot (which may be his last) at a cup.

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