Commentary

Everyone's getting what they want in Toronto, and that's a bad thing

Updated: February 25, 2008, 1:39 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

Well, it looks like everyone is going to get what they want in Toronto, after all.

Captain Mats Sundin decided not to waive his no-trade clause and will stay where he wants -- with a bad, underachieving Toronto Maple Leafs team that has no chance of making the playoffs.


Sundin

And fans and media, who rallied around Sundin when there was all that pressure on him to waive his no-trade clause so the team might actually get better, got what they wanted, too -- a 37-year-old captain who declined to help the team in the best way he could, even if he stays for just a few months until he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Oh, I know; none of this is Sundin's fault. He wasn't the one who gave himself a no-trade clause. He's blameless, unless you count his failures to lead the team where any captain wants to lead his team -- forward. Never mind that he's a multimillionaire who never has taken his team to the Stanley Cup finals.

We had to get out a whole box of hankies after reading and listening to all of the folks who felt bad Sundin was put in such an awful predicament.

We did, however, enjoy the responses to our suggestion last week that if Sundin doesn't waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to a contender, Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher should strip Sundin of his captaincy and make it clear the veteran forward won't be re-signed this summer. Only in Toronto, where reality is, like the Stanley Cup, an infrequent visitor, is such a suggestion met with such horror from media and fans alike.

But that always has been the problem in Toronto, where fans and media often have trouble separating the myths of the past from the hopelessness of the present. Witness the joyousness that greeted the return of much-loved hero Wendel Clark late in his career (no matter that it cost the team valuable futures) and the delight when Doug Gilmour made his ill-fated return to the team late in his career before the lockout.

If there is any justice, the Leafs now will win enough games to rise above the draft lottery, thereby ensuring they truly get what they deserve -- a first-class ticket to another decade of mediocrity, with Sundin signed to a long-term deal so no one in Toronto is the least bit uncomfortable, least of all Sundin.

As for the ripple effect of Sundin's entirely predictable intransigence, general managers Don Waddell, Jay Feaster and Jacques Martin must be pleased. The Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have slipped in recent days to the point where winning the Southeast Division is a long shot at best for all three teams.

With Sundin entrenched and Peter Forsberg staying in Sweden, Marian Hossa (Atlanta), Brad Richards (Tampa Bay) and Olli Jokinen (Florida) represent the top forwards now on the market and should command top dollar. Jokinen and Richards are especially interesting as they are both centers.

Richards, who has agreed in principle to waive his no-trade clause, is drawing interest from a number of teams. That list includes the Chicago Blackhawks, who would love for Richards to become a mentor for rookie sensations Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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