Cheap Seats: The Letdown of the Sundin Saga
For starters Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a hair-raising adrenaline pumped Super Bowl XLIII victory. Now, I’m Alex May, co-host of Penguins Hockey Buzzcast with Brian Metzer of Hockeybuzz.com and co-host of Pond Talk on 92.1 WPTS-FM. I will be writing articles and editorials discussing general NHL news. Without further delay, let’s get into my first Faceoff-Factor editorial, Cheap Seats.
Perhaps the biggest name in free agency this past July was Mats Sundin. At least our crazy neighbors up north thought so. Sundin was offered a two year, $20 million deal by the Vancouver Canucks on July 1st. Leadership abilities aside, has Sundin ever in his career been worth $10 million a season?
Throughout Sundin’s 17 seasons in the NHL, he has never been among the top five best players in the league. For much of his career, he was borderline top ten. The center topped 100 points only once in his career and that was in the 1992-1993 campaign. His career numbers are certainly respectable (1314 GP, 557G, 767A, 1324P) and even Hall of Fame worthy, but still not ten million a season worthy.
When he finally settled on Vancouver as his destination for the season, and signed a one year, $9 million deal. the expectations were high. He signed on December 18th, and appeared in his first game January 7th. In his first nine games, Sundin has scored two goals and added 1 helper.
One must admire the man for his honesty though. Through the rigorous speculation of whether he would continue to play or retire, Sundin often mentioned how he wasn’t even sure. On top of the whopping 3 points so far, Sundin has also appeared lethargic and as some commentators have put it, “looks as though he is skating through mud.”
This world class athlete signed a deal that will pay him a pro-rated amount of $5 million this season. He spent just under three weeks practicing with the team before debuting in a Canucks’ sweater. His conditioning rivals that of a 37 year old beer league player. Apparently he wasn’t sure if he would continue to play and didn’t care to keep in shape.
Sure, he will shake off the rust, and work the kinks out of his game. But doesn’t he owe it to the management of the Canucks to have already worked much of that off? The Canucks signed Sundin with the hopes that he will put them over the hump to become a Stanley Cup contender in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Since his addition to the lineup, the Canucks have only won one game, his debut against Edmonton. They have lost the last eight games.
Sundin’s signing still allowed the Canucks the cap room for another addition to the lineup, as they still have roughly $2.5 million. Wasn’t Sundin supposed to be that big addition to their lineup?
Mats Sundin has not only let the management, players, and fans of the Canucks down, he has given the NHL a black eye. In a year that the NHL has seen an increase in TV ratings and interest in the sport grows, Sundin has continued a trend that needs addressed. It happened last season in Anaheim with both Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer. Veteran players are waiting until later in the season to sign a contract. Last season, Neidermayer was still under contract while he waited almost half the season to decide if he wanted to still play.
At least Peter Forsberg has a legitimate reason to wait until January to decide on an NHL return each season. Sundin on the other hand was just assessing his options and deciding which team could offer the most money while still offering a chance at a Stanley Cup. I’m still trying to figure out who was tricked in this case, Sundin or the Canucks? Let me know your thoughts with some comments below.
Don’t forget to catch Brian Metzer and myself every Monday evening at 8:30 for the Penguins Buzzcast. You can listen to previous episodes or live shows on the player below. Don’t hesitate to friend the show on Myspace, or to become a fan of the show on Facebook. Pond Talk can be heard on Tuesday mornings from 9:00-10:00 on 92.1 WPTS or by clicking here: WPTS. Until next time, I’ll be observing the action up here in the Cheap Seats.