Mar 1, 2008; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin (13) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

The Captains Ballad


PAUL HUNTER/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

On Saturday, the number 13 will rise to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre and forever link Mats Sundin with the many rank of the last century.  An acquisition of the Toronto Maple Leafs just prior to the 1994 lockout which saw Wendell Clark, Sylvain Lefebre, Landon Wilson, and Toronto's 1994 First Round draft selection go to the Quebec Nordiques.  Toronto also acquired Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner, and Philadelphia's 1994 first round draft selection which was attained in the deal which send Eric Lindros to Broad Street.  While this deal was common for a different era, this may go down as one of the top ten trades in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

The young Swede was always a bit quiet in nature, but his performance on the ice was anything but.  Most kids under the age of 18 today probably associate Mats Sundin with the Leafs more than any other player.  No player in the nearly 100 year history has ever made such an impact with the most goals scored (420), most assists by a forward (567),and most points (987).  Sundin starred in many playoff games at the newly built Air Canada Centre, and led the Leafs to two conference finals in his tenure (1999,2002).  The only accomplishment that could have further engraved his legacy was winning a Stanley Cup.

Sundin left Toronto following the 2007-2008 season, unfortunately not in the most acrimonious fashion.  His decision to refuse to waive his no trade clause left many with the opinion that Sundin had helped in stalling the Maple Leafs necessary rebuild.  Mats has acknowledged on many occasions in the subsequent years that he was very hurt by this idea, and his only motivation was to get the Leafs closer to a Stanley Cup Championship.  Ultimately Sundin left Toronto for no return, however given the stats presented above, it is simply wrong to suggest the Captain owed anything more to the city of Toronto.

Tonight marks the final resolution in a conflict which never should have happened, when the number 13 will be raised to the rafters along with all but one other Maple Leaf legend.  Lets hope that Dave Keon is the next legend to hang above the center of the hockey universe.