Yesterday, Mats Sundin announced his retirement from the NHL.
Immediately following his announcement, the stupidity began.
Canadian sports networks ran tribute pieces, playing up his numerous accomplishments and heralding him as a Hall of Fame lock.
Two things instantly came to mind:
- The NHL Hall of Fame inducts just about anyone, so he probably is a mortal lock
- I have as many Stanley Cup rings as Mats Sundin
There is no question that Sundin was a gifted offensive player; you don't average a point per game over a 1300-plus game career by fluke.
But Bernie Nicholls averaged a point per game too and I don't see anyone lining up to enshrine him.
Had Mats Sundin played the majority of his career in Phoenix, Anaheim, or Carolina, he'd be looked as a player who excelled individually, but never managed to get his team over the hump. Why that changes because he played in the epicenter of hockey in North America is beyond me.
Not once did Sundin carry the Leafs beyond the Conference Finals; his greatest leadership display according to The Score Television Network came when he scored a late goal to force overtime against Carolina during the 2002 Playoffs.
Under the bright lights of the biggest hockey market in the game, Sundin's exploits on the ice were intensely scrutinized and with good reason; for all the accolades people want to bestow on the Swede, there was only one 100 point season.
He topped 90 points just once more, and only cracked the 80 point plateau four additional times. To keep the comparison going, Bernie Nicholls netted 70 goals and 150 points in an NHL season, topping the 100 point mark once before that and collecting two more 90 point campaigns as well.
It's fitting to me that his greatest triumph on the ice was winning gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
When surrounded by superstars, Sundin produced just as he did throughout his NHL career: eight points in eight games.
No rings, no Finals appearances and not once close to a scoring title, Hart Trophy or All-NHL First Team.
Just point per game production under the brightest hockey spotlight around.
At the end of the day, whether you want to admit it or not, Mats Sundin was an underachiever.
Happy Retirement, Mats.