‘Til Next Year, Toronto

April 16, 2009

By Melissa Hashemian… When Shakespeare said “Be not afraid of greatness,” he was referring to everyone except the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs are full of promising talent, but they have trouble showcasing it effectively. On most occasions, they give up and drown in the Pressure Pool, also known as the Air Canada Centre. This inevitably destroys any chance of achieving the greatness they deserve.

Not winning the Stanley Cup every year isn’t a crime, but failing to make the postseason for four consecutive seasons is; frankly it’s the most plausible explanation as to why the Leafs have denied themselves of a Cup opportunity thus far.

Despite what could have been, however, Toronto has fulfilled an adequate amount of effort and fortitude in the 2008-2009 season with a 34-35-13 record. They finished with 81 points while standing 13th on the Eastern Conference spectrum, and managed to put up a good fight in the process.

Fans cannot dwell on the past. Although greatness was put aside for the time being, there is much to look forward to when it comes to the blue and white.

The future looks bright with GM Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson on board, who both bring a substantial amount of leadership and guidance to the young Maple Leaf group.

This year was a good representation of that. They taught players, and in Burke’s case, brought in players to aid in the reconstruction and production of the team.

Ron Wilson’s experience was shown immensely through the effort of the team this year. Players were able to learn and get better every game; the stats of the three top goal-scorers are proof of this.

Jason Blake(25G 38A 63P), Alexei Ponikarovsky(23G 38A 61P), and Matt Stajan(15G 40A 55P) all had breakthrough seasons this year. Blake, who started off a bit shaky in the beginning, came back and played superbly, while Ponikarovsky and Stajan both tripled their point total from last year and had their best season yet.

Instead of creating theories as to why the Maple Leafs didn’t make the playoffs, there now needs to be a focus on creating strategies to prevent the possibility of history repeating itself.

Consistency, perseverance, and passion are three key components that must be present at all times on the ice. The Leafs have a very unnatural love affair with inconsistency which needs to be controlled and changed. They need to alter the way they play the game in order to be successful next season.

Memo to the 2009-2010 Leafs: Make drop passes confidently and make sure there’s someone behind you to take it, go in deep and keep an eye out for rebounds, don’t take stupid penalties, improve your powerplay, and cut down the number of turnovers you create in each game.

Believe it or not, there has to be a sufficient amount of improvement before the Leafs go anywhere near a Cup, yet the idea can’t be disregarded all together either. Things need to get done in the offseason so that the team has a solid plan to start from and build on.

Unfortunately there’s not much we can do now but await the arrival of the 2009-2010 season. Old jerseys are going to get tossed and new ones are going to be put on. The fate of the team is now in the hands of its fans and management. It’s going to be a new team, a new time.

Who stays and who goes will always be a part of the game. It’s all about separating the pretenders from the contenders now. The rest is just ice.

Mikhail Grabovski: Superman or Spiderman?

March 28, 2009

By Melissa Hashemian… There have been numerous players who have come in and out of Toronto. Some have made impressions, some have created memories, and some have simply left fans confused.

With everything that has been happening with the Leafs’ organization, it is difficult to rely on many players for leadership and support. There are, however, a few players who can help bring back the confidence and stability the team requires to succeed in the future.

It’s hard to predict who will remain a Leaf, and who will be turning in their jerseys for another in the next few years. Nothing and no one can be counted on with the various altercations being done on the team right now. It’s all up to the picture management will paint and whether or not it will become a reality.

With the many promising players present on the roster, Mikhail Grabovski is considered as one of the key factors in turning the team around for a better tomorrow. He has come a long way to get to the level of success he has attained today and continues to be a growing attribute as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

The 5′11″ 179 pound forward was drafted 150th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He unfortunately only played three games in 2007 before being sent down to the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal’s AHL affiliate).

When the 2007-2008 season rolled around Grabovski continued to exploit his impressive speed and aptitude in Montreal. However, there was a distinct form of frustration on his part when he failed to be in the Canadiens’ lineup on several occasions.

Big mistake.

Grabovski ended up being traded to Toronto on July 3, 2008, and since then has become a vital asset to the team’s rebuilding process. He was a healthy scratch for most of the season and posted adequate numbers during this time as well.

Recently Grabovski experienced a scoring drought and found it challenging to keep up. After displaying solid effort and numbers, Grabosvski went on to play 18 games without a goal.

It was evident that his lack of production had gotten to him as he displayed a sour puss face under his long wavy hair every time he sat on the bench. Fortunately, the bad luck didn’t last too long as his scoring slump came to a halt on March 10th against the New York Islanders.

Since then, he’s been nothing but amazing registering seven points in his last three games (2G, 5A). He’s a fighter and screams potential with every game he plays. It’s important to have players willing to get their hands dirty on a team like Toronto that is still finding itself; this is why every bit of effort counts.

Grabovski currently has 18 goals and 24 assists for a total of 42 points (third on the team) and is riding a five-game-point-streak with four goals and six assists. He’s turned out to be a very valuable player for the Leafs.

Grabovski’s character is similar to a Peter Parker, before he created his alter ego in Spiderman.

Peter Parker was shy, young, and unsure of how to handle the pressures of his situation, but as he gained experience he became a stronger individual. Grabovski is the same. The Potsdam, Germany native is still on the path of self-discovery and continues to find out what his strengths and weaknesses are.

The more he learns, the more strength and agility he will possess, which will have positive results in his career as he highlights his alter ego (Spiderman).

He has found his comfort zone in Toronto and will continue to get better every season. Though he will never be the No. 1 go-to guy Superman was, he will suffice as the next best thing.

The 25-year-old has gained the trust and support of Leaf fans and shows just why he is among the top NHL rookies in goal scoring throughout the present season.

He still has a long way to go, but there is plenty of ice left to skate on in the meantime.

Justin Pogge: Sylvester the Cat or Tweety Bird?

February 28, 2009

by Melissa Hashemian… If there’s one thing I learned in life it’s that things are always better after the battle, so keep fighting and don’t look back. It may sound like a cliche line, but it seemed to really help me during some of the rough moments in my life.

I just hope rookie netminder Justin Pogge got the memo from someone as well.

Pogge has had quite the rollercoaster ride with the Toronto Maple Leafs since being acquired in 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He’s unfortunately experienced the type of rollercoaster that has undergone many mechanical issues however.

After receiving gold with the Canadian Juniors in ‘05-’06, Justin Pogge was deemed as the Leafs’ hopeful star of the future and turned pro in ‘06-’07 with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate the Toronto Marlies. He spent the following two seasons with the Marlies posting impressive stats, yet still did not gain any respectable starts with the Maple Leafs.

He registered 19 wins and a 3.03 GAA in his rookie season with the frandchise and followed that up with 26 wins and an impressive .908 Saving Percentage the next year.

Many argued that the 6′3″ goaltender needed to play games for the Leafs in order to successfully build the confidence and skills required to do well in the NHL.

Although it would have helped immensely, Pogge was still negated any opportunity to play and continued to protect the two posts in the minors.

Yes, the Leafs’ staff should have given him a few starts during those two years, and yes they should have allowed him to display his talent. After all that’s the reason why he was drafted in the first place wasn’t it?

Did the organization really think putting Pogge in a few games was really going to jeopardize their chances of making the playoffs?

The Leafs haven’t had a playoff berth in three consecutive seasons so having Pogge couldn’t have brought them any lower in the standings.

With Brian Burke taking over the general manager position after Cliff Fletcher’s departure, fans were eager to witness Justin Pogge’s debut as a Maple Leaf.

So he laced up his skates and put on his goalie pads for the first time in the Leafs’ dressing room as he got ready to take on the Atlanta Thrashers.

He recorded his first NHL win on Dec. 22, 2008 with a score of 6-2, and posted a .905 Saving Percentage, stopping 19 out of 21 shots. He came out and gave a solid performance against the Thrashers, demonstrating what fortitude and dedication really look like.

After the win, Pogge gained the recognition needed to continue receiving starts and in return playing well. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end as the next start he got resulted in his first NHL loss against the Minnesota Wild (6-1).

After that, he received three more starts against Buffalo (twice) and Columbus which all sadly resulted in three more losses (one in an shootout).

He played excellent games however against the two teams and exhibited a good deal of athleticism and composure in net.

Many of my fellow supportors beg to differ nontheless. Many fans were left dissapointed and stunned by Pogge’s performance or “lack there of.”

Despite being boasted about after his stellar performance in Atlanta, the rookie became a ridiculed target on the dart board and was sarcastically cheered for when he lost in the shootout against Columbus.

Surprised?

Leave it to Leaf fans to love a player when they do well and hate them when they do bad. It’s completely appalling how people can start off with cheers then end off with insults.

The Fort Mcmurray, Alberta native is still learning and adapting to the game believe it or not and a lot of people don’t seem to remember that he’s still fairly young. He’s only 22.

That’s the thing about young players, they can flip a switch at any time and start doing well, so it would be a foolish move to let them go because of a few slip ups.

Toronto fans need to learn the art of patience and loyalty in order to fully accept some of the younger stars who don’t necessarily fulfill their highest of expectations.

Do we really want him to become another Brad Boyes who was givin’ up on in ‘02-’03 at a young age but then become a 40 goal scorer?

Luckily Burke’s a smarter man than Ferguson ever was, thus he’s bound to put hockey before business, rather than the other way around.

Pogge’s still got a lot to offer the game; he’s a regular Tweety Bird-type.

While he still tries to be eaten, Tweety manages to get away from Sylvester safely. And just like the bird Justin Pogge does the same with some of the demanding Leafs fans.

He’s clever enough to ignore the hungry fans and not let it weaken or destroy his confidence. Instead, he stands in front of the net and puts up a new fight every time he gets the opportunity to play.

Hopefully we don’t allow these games to cloud our judgement on who this teams’ valuable assets are and to give some of these younger players a break from time to time.

If we don’t, we’re just going to be left with a few feathers.

Jason Blake: Holmes or Watson?

February 4, 2009

by Melissa Hashemian…

Toronto has always been a pretty clean and friendly city. While it displays a good amount of diversity, there seems to be a part of the city that remains sometimes dysfunctional.

The Leafs fans.

Being an avid Leafs fan myself, I feel it is my duty to knock some sense into the many other esteemed followers. With that being said, this piece is in no way focused on criticizing fans of the blue and white, but to rather remind ourselves to be a more understanding and less demanding crowd.

The crazed media centre in Toronto has done nothing but judge and poke holes in the mistakes players make. No wonder players do better when they leave and do worse when they join. It’s not a coincidence my friends; the pressure put on some of these athletes is completely unbearable and suffocating at times.

It seems to be a constant battle for some of us to accept the current state the Leafs are in, or the fact that various players make a number of sloppy and inconsistent plays. In any situation however, there is always some distinct light at the end of the tunnel.

I call him Jason Blake.

After announcing that he had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia at the start of the ‘07-’08 season, Blake was deemed hopeless for another productive year with his newly acquired status as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

Jason Blake received most of his fame as a New York Islander from 2000 to 2007; was a contributing asset to the young organization. He progressed year after year, eventually becoming a 40-goal scorer by the time free agency struck at the end of the ‘06-’07 season.

The Moorhead, Minnesota native was then signed as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2007 and joined the Maple Leafs for a five-year, $20 million contract.

Fans and analysts all believed he would be a growing influence for the struggling Toronto team, while still continuing to display the required skills New York benefited from in previous years.

Nonetheless, in his first season as a Leaf, Blake only managed to score 15 goals and add 37 assists for a total of 52 points. Although he played in all 82 regular season games, he struggled to get the puck in the net with over 300 shots on goal in the process.

Things have changed significantly since then as Mr.Blake has jumped back on the scoring train once again. The start of the ‘08-’09 campaign didn’t treat the 35-year-old forward well. He hadn’t quite yet adjusted to the hectic schedule and got off to a slow start posting only a few points per month.

The second half of the season promises to show another side of Blake as he begins to show his talent and perseverance to the city. He now leads Toronto in goals (17), game-winning goals (three), and is tied for the team lead in points (37) with Nik Antropov who has played four more games than Blake.

The past few weeks have been remarkable. His consistency continues to improve every game as his stamina and confidence grow. He’s faster, smoother, and doesn’t create as many turnovers.

The 180lb, 5′10″ veteran is currently riding a four-game goal and point streak with four goals and four assists for a total of eight points. He’s a +2 and has a 10.6 shooting percentage in the 46 games he’s played so far this season.

What bothers me the most is that people are finally starting to say some nice things about him. The Toronto fans haven’t been too keen on his abilities in the past and have chirped a lot in regards to his weaknesses.

Why is it so easy to praise a player for doing well, but so hard to give them the time of day when they are doing bad?

There’s just an insane amount of pressure these players have to deal with in Toronto, not to mention the fact that there are many legacies they have to live up to as well.

Blake’s really stepping up and showing that you don’t have to be the star player to get things done. You can still be a Watson, but think like a Holmes.

Watson isn’t Holmes, but he’s still smart in his own way and serves a purpose. He’s not a superstar, yet has proven that he’s not to be taken lightly.

Blake’s not a leader, but is just as capable of producing results and staying potent offensively as the next young gun. And just like Watson, he’s the next best thing.

February is the month of love, so let’s see what treats we receive

Fun Fact:

Jason Blake’s much-hyped 40th goal of the season was actually scored against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Apr. 5, 2007. Irony or just coincidence?

Dominic Moore: Batman or Robin?

January 13, 2009

by Melissa Hashemian…

When life hands you lemons make lemonade—or better yet, when life hands you the possibility of greatness, take it in. Now, perhaps the word greatness is a little too much to illustrate Dominic Moore’s talents just yet, but the idea isn’t too far off.

Analysts and fans may have contradicting opinions regarding the 6′0″ centreman, but one thing’s for sure—there’s nothing wrong with a little Moore.
The 188-lb., Thornhill, Ontario, native was the New York Rangers’ third-round choice (95th overall) in 2000, and although not in the centre of popularityville, he still managed to make a name for himself.

He then went off to play for the Penguins and Wild next before winding up in Toronto in 2008. The Leafs claimed Moore off waivers from Minnesota that year, as he laced up his skates for the first time as a Maple Leaf on January 12, 2008, against the San Jose Sharks.His debut would turn into a permanent role on the Toronto roster, as the 28-year-old prepared for the ultimate opportunity to play for one of the most media-centred cities.

As a waiver pick-up from the Wild, Moore is having his best year yet with eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points. It’s nothing to boast about per say, but this forward has shown a lot of grit and determination in the games he’s played this season.

With half the season gone, Moore has registered more points in the ‘08-’09 season than he has gained in the last three years alone (19). Things have changed remarkably since coming to Toronto. Moore has shown confidence offensively and his puck-handling skills have improved significantly every game.

There has been an adequate development in his consistency on the ice, acquiring three points in his last four games and gaining an acceptable backbone when it comes to his play-making skills. Additionally, he has won 54.6 percent of his faceoffs, leading Toronto in that department.

I know there’s a possibility of a lot of hockey fans and experts not agreeing with me completly in terms of Moore’s aptitude, but I thought it would be nice to recognize his performances, along with the qualities he possesses and utilizes while playing the game of hockey.

Moore continues to play on the third line with Jason Blake, yet due to Jeremy Williams’ shoulder injury, Wilson seems to be juggling that line with a variety of different players.

Luckily Williams’ injury is day-to-day, thus, fans can hopefully expect a return within the next few weeks or so. The chemistry between these three forwards was phenomenal, as they all contributed offensively on and off the power play.However, I find a small type of interruption in Moore’s performance lately. This type of interruption I like to call “time cut-back,” and it’s exactly what is happening in Moore’s case.

As of right now, Moore averages 18 minutes of ice time every game. It seems like a lot, but his shifts aren’t for very long. He’s very good at draws, so I find that to be one of the main reasons he’s getting the extra ice time. He has almost tied his career high in goals (nine), and it’s only his fourth full year in the NHL. Expect double the production with double the ice time from this player. He is full of potential, but just needs a little push to show all of it.

I can’t say he’s the leader Batman was in his community. However the role of Robin will suffice, as he proves more and more everyday that it’s okay to be the serviceable sidekick.

Curtis Joseph: Bolt or Old Yeller?

January 3, 2009

by Melissa Hashemian…
Last week I had my heart set on writing a piece about Dominic Moore and his efforts this season. However to my dismay, i found myself utterly focused on writing one about netminder Curtis Joseph instead.

After the other night’s performance I realized two things: One, Joseph has gone through a lot of emotional turmoil when it comes to his time with the Leafs. And two, this league has changed throughout the years and cannot accompany primitive styles of goaltending anymore.

Now I’ve adored Joseph from the moment he started playing for the Leafs in 1998, so this piece is not entitled to admonish him by any means, but to rather remind us about his accomplishments before letting him slip from our minds.

Curtis Joseph was signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs after the ‘97-’98 season and became an extremely popular asset to the Toronto organization and city. He was with the Leafs for four consecutive seasons, posting 30+ wins in three of them, while playing a significant role in the Leafs’ quest to the finals in 1999 and 2002.

As a Maple Leaf, he registered 133 wins and 88 losses with 249 games played (1998-2002).

He was an inspiration, a role model, and a fighter. The city of Toronto loved him and all that he had to offer, but eventually all good things must come to an end, and that’s exactly what happened at the end of the ‘01-’02 season.

Joseph was said to have wanted to play on a team that was capable of winning it all, and by winning it all he meant the Stanley Cup.  His comments however, implied that Toronto didn’t possess this adequacy.

This created a huge buzz in Leafsland, as it left fans feeling betrayed and upset. Thus his player status in Toronto was disregarded and forgotten as he left for Detroit and the conquering Red Wings.

He didn’t manage to stay long in Detroit though, as he contributed to two other teams (Phoenix, Calgary) before returning back to Toronto again for the ‘08-’09 season.

Since being acquired as a free agent on January 16, 2008, Joseph has only played a total of nine games (four starts), and from those nine has only won one, which happened to come Tuesday night against the Thrashers in a 4-3 win in overtime. It was his 450th NHL career win, as he stopped 29 of 32 stops for the Leafs.

So, I’ve cleared one out of two of my realizations thus far. As for the second, it’s pretty self-exclamatory.

Bluntly put, Curtis Joseph is old. I don’t mean to announce that in a harsh or derogatory manner, but it’s true.

The game of hockey is changing every day. So, it becomes more and more difficult for players over the age of 35 to play in accordance to the expectations put in nowadays.  Joseph, the Keswick, Ontario native is turning 42 next April, and not getting any younger unfortunately.

His goaltending tricks and techniques just don’t cut it against young teams like Chicago or Edmonton. The game has become faster and the rules have generally changed a lot more. There is much more free will in front of the net now and defencemen can’t clear the net as well as before.

Cujo struggles with the rebound control as it is. There is a lot of traffic in front of the net now, and many players are there to bang in the rebounds much easier than before.

Joseph is no longer a starting goalie and hasn’t proven that he can sit on the bench and still play well when he hasn’t had a chance to start consistently.  He provided a sufficient performance backing up Mikka Kirpusoff in Calgary last year, but mostly because he only played nine games and had one of the league’s best defences in front of him.

Some goalies need to play a lot to remain focused and ready, and this was exactly the case for Joseph. He needs to play a lot more games than he actually has played in the past few seasons in order to be a more efficient and dependable goaltender. 

I say bring in Justin Pogge, and get Cujo packing. He’s had a good run in the NHL for the past 10 years, it’s time for a change. So why not start now Burke?.

Whatever the outcome is, Curtis Joseph must make a decision. The right decision is to retire and start a new career. Perhaps a Leafs goaltending coach?

Who knows, I just know it has to happen sooner rather than later. Time’s up for this Old Yeller.

Stephen King’s novel “Cujo” is about to have a run for its money when I come out with my debut novel titled “Old Dog Goes Home.”

It’s time to put Cujo down, he’s an old dog.

 

Nik Antropov: Maverick or Goose?

December 28, 2008

by Melissa Hashemian… A couple of years ago, you would never hear about Nik Antropov scoring big goals for the Leafs. In all honesty, the only time his name was ever brought up was when analysts listed the Leafs’ injured players.

He always seemed to sustain some kind of minor abrasion throughout the season, and from what I remember, he was the 6″6 player who failed to create many constructive plays and fell down every time someone touched him.

Things have changed significantly since then however, as Leaf Nation is finally getting to witness the real talent of the 230lb forward.

Antropov was drafted 10th overall (first round choice) by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He was 18 at the time, and in many eyes was thought to become one of the future stars of the organization.

As years go by, his stats continue to amaze us.

Antropov registered 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in the ‘05-’06 season, 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in ‘06-’07, and 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in ‘07-’08.

With the rate he’s at, Antropov should finish the ‘08-’09 season with a tremendous scoring percentage and perhaps even twice as many points as last year. He’s improved considerably over the past few seasons and has introduced a new kind of life to the game of hockey.

With half of the season gone, he’s already posted 13 goals and 16 assists for a total of 29 points. He leads the team in goals, game-winning goals, and is tied for the team-lead in points (29) with Matt Stajan.

He’s also had a five-game point streak from October 18-28 this season, where he registered four goals and two assists for six points. Pretty good for a player on a team that’s all about reconstruction and development lately.

He’s a passer, a shooter, and now an avid goal scorer. It’s pretty clear that there are still a few veterans left that can be relied on to make a difference on this young team. Antropov is a leader, the Maverick, so don’t be surprised if he acquires the “C” status either.

Swedish captain? How about one from Kazakhstan instead?

His efforts have illustrated the beginning of a new and improved era in Toronto and I foresee a good kind of change in the future.

The only question left to ask is: Does Brian Burke see him in his Maple Leafs canvas?

That itself is an entirely different story, yet I can say right now that removing Antropov from the roster will be a definite mistake.

Fans can only wait and see what Burke’s next move will be. Will he be eyeing the pawn or go straight for the king? Whatever he does, we may hear checkmate very soon.

Jeremy Williams: To Be or Not to Be

December 25, 2008

by Melissa Hashemian… Normally I wouldn’t boast on the talent of others, especially after losing an embarrassing game, yet I’ll make an exception for Jeremy Williams’ sake.

The 5″11, 188lb Regina native has performed at his exceptional best since coming up from the Toronto Marlies on December 7th. His quick wrist shots and impressive speed have wowed analysts and driven netminders around the league crazy.

After an excrutiating 8-2 loss to the Dallas Stars the other night, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about Williams’ efforts over the past few weeks. He’s been unstoppable posting five goals and two assists in the seven games he’s played so far this season. That calculates to one point in every game he’s played as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

Great skating abilities, a hot pair of hands, and a killer shot are Williams’ forte to his acclaimed success on the ice. He is +4 on the year and stands amongst the highest in scoring percentages (29.4) in the league. He is probably one of the best, if not THE best.

He possesses an intoxicating talent that is sometimes difficult to find nowadays. This 24-year-old is a rising star on the run and he’ll be spinning around a goalie in a town near you very soon.

Williams, selected 220th overall in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is used to bad fortune when it comes to this hockey club. In the 2007-08 season, he managed to play 18 games, while only picking up two goals for a total of two points.

Things have changed over the past year however, as his confidence seems to have caught up with him. He registered, and led the Marlies with 11 goals and three assists for 14 points in 19 games for the start of the season. So when he was recalled from the Marlies, he waisted no time racking up the goals.

Since collecting two points (one goal, one assist) in his first NHL game of the season against the New York Islanders on December 8th, Jeremy Williams has been hotter than hot, showing grit and determination with every shift he plays.

Replacing Lee Stempniak with Williams in the Jason Blake-Dominic Moore line has definitely improved the line offensively, providing them with more scoring chances and a more productive front overall.

The chemistry between these three players is phenomenal. They’re all in the right places at the right time, while having Stempniak on the line just brought inconsistency and a very disorganized line overall.

If things continue to go well for this young forward, we can be sure to see him on the team’s roster for years to come. Jeremy Williams is so good right now, he puts Shakespeare in his place.

Mats who?

November 29, 2008

by Melissa Hashemian… This is probably close to, if not the same response many provoked Leaf fans give when discussing the muddled status of Toronto, and the angst brought on by the departure of their captain Mats Sundin.

After spending 13 seasons of his career in a Leafs jersey, the 37 year old centreman became an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2008 and was heavily pursued by countless teams attempting to add his infamous name to their roster.

It was a four team race between the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately however, I refuse to go into explicit detail on the opportunities he was given and the decisions he could have and should have made.

Being a Leafs fan myself, it was extremely difficult to watch the crazy media attention centred on him. There were either rumours announcing that Sundin no longer wanted to remain in Toronto or that he was contemplating retirement.

Clearly this publicity did not have a positive effect among the followers of the blue and white, and immediately drew negative attention towards their star player.

It’s not surprising either. The guy couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to do; he just kept putting off his final decision to a further date.

The more I think about it the more I realize how much Mats Sundin reminded me of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It might seem like a strange comparison at first, but they share a lot in common.

They are both patient, indecisive, and slow at coming to conclusions. For Hamlet it was about killing his uncle and for Sundin it was about killing time the teams gave him—sadly the clock was ticking for negotiating rights.

Even his agent J.P Barry knew what was going on.  “He knows if he waits too long certain opportunities could disappear. But he just wants to be one hundred percent sure that he wants to play next year.”

And he was right.  As a result, Montreal ended up acquiring Robert Lang from Chicago and New York obtained Markus Naslund from Vancouver.

What irritates me the most is that he says one thing and acts on another.  It’s some sort of split personality where you have two minds contradicting each other; it results in confusion because you can’t decide which one to listen to.

Later this summer, in the process of rebuilding his future he stated, “I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL team at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player.

“It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June.”

I don’t know about you, but I failed to witness his name on any team site.

So instead of wasting my time waiting for a tall, bald man to come out onto the ice, I began to resent him instead.  Too bad for the no-trade clause. Perhaps the Leafs could have actually received someone significant who wouldn’t either be dying because of age or absent because of injury.

Sundin’s probably living the high life overseas right now with his 25-year-old Swedish model/fiancée. I guess it makes sense to focus on his love life now, seeing how all his previous girlfriends left him in the past. It’s a shame really.

Who knows, maybe he’s just waiting to see what teams climb out on top, come December and January, or merely living his life until he comes to the conclusion that he’s going to retire anyway.

Whatever the case may be, Mats Sundin’s name is still used when discussing the future of the organization—even if his presence in the dressing room no longer exists.

All I can look forward to now is what this team will become. There isn’t much hope at the moment with most of their veteran players gone and no “C” on any particular jersey. However, this team is full of potential and can rise above it given the right ingredients.

The future is now. The future is Luke Schenn, Vesa Toskala, and Mikhail Grabovski.  If Leaf fans quit being so judgmental and demanding, maybe they’ll see that even without their number one centre on the ice, this team can reconstruct into something functional, something big.  A winning team can be produced; you just have to keep watching!