December 19, 2008
Somewhere in the rambling mess of 564 comments on our Mats Sundin prediction contest post is the big winner.
According to Puck Daddy reader Derek J, a commenter named "Michael P" predicted "he'll sign for Vancouver on Dec 18 @ 3:04pm EST." We'll have to verify those results, and then figure out if we want to give Journeyman something for being the only reader shrewd enough to predict "Vancouver, December 18, 6:56pm ET" ... nearly an hour after Mats signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Sneaky monkey.
The winner of our contest isn't the only winner in the Mats Sundin Derby, and the 563 losers aren't alone, either. Now that Mats is a Canuck, let's take a look at the victorious and the vilified in the Sundin sweepstakes:
WINNER: Mike Gillis, GM, Vancouver Canucks
As we said last night: His dogged pursuit of Sundin bordered on unrequited love at times, but Gillis's unwavering commitment to signing Sundin at any cost and refusal to balk at the duration of and competition in the Derby is admirable -- now that he's won it. He was harshly criticized for being so public in his desire to sign Sundin, along with other negative baggage carried over from Dave Nonis's dismissal. For the moment, the impact of this move quells that criticism, along with the fact that the Canucks still have some financial wiggle room under the cap.
LOSER: Glen Sather, GM, New York Rangers
The New York Rangers lost a big name free agent to the Vancouver Canucks. OK, for the second time. The reason Sundin isn't a New York Ranger is a rather simple one, which is that the Rangers couldn't afford him. And they couldn't afford him because Sather has inflated the payroll with redundant role players and regrettable signings, like Wade Redden for $6.5 million per season. Sundin would have had to take less to play in New York, and Sather's the reason why Rangers fans are still waiting for Sundin.
Since the Rangers no longer need a myriad of salary-cap saving moves to free up room for a contract like Sundin's in December, the players who could have been on the chopping or trading block are safe for now.
LOSERS: Last Names
Announcers already shorthand the Sedins to Henrik and Daniel; you really think they won't go with "Mats" on a power play featuring Sedin, Sedin and Sundin?
WINNER: The Western Conference
The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are arguably the best teams in hockey right now. The Chicago Blackhawks are young and exciting. The Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks are battle-tested and dangerous in the postseason. Everyone from Phoenix to Columbus to Los Angeles thinks they can make the postseason. And now there's a team with Roberto Luongo, the Sedins, a deep blue line and a guy named Mats Sundin bolstering the offense. The Western Conference playoff race is going to be puckhead crack rock.
LOSER: The NHL Regular Season
WINNER: J.P. Barry, agent for Mats Sundin
With Sundin, Mattias Ohlund and Daniel and Henrik Sedin as his clients, Barry is probably the single most important person on the planet when it comes to the 2009-10 Vancouver Canucks. He's also a winner for not jumping off a roof after Sundin broke his 700th self-imposed deadline this summer.
LOSER: Tampa Bay Lightning
Because they made noise about Sundin and were never, ever going to get him. And because they're 7-15-9 and on their second head coach of the season. Which makes them losers.
WINNER: Pavol Demitra, winger, Vancouver Canucks
One assumes that the Canucks will play Sundin away from the Swedish twins, which means players like Kyle Wellwood and Demitra will directly benefit. If Demitra's proven anything during his 15-year NHL career, it's that he can be an above-average trigger man when playing with above-average talent. If he stays healthy.
WINNER: Brendan Shanahan, free agent forward
One domino falls into the other. Now that the Sundin Derby is over, perhaps it's time for the Shanny Sweepstakes.
LOSER: Bob Gainey, GM, Montreal Canadiens
We said it before, we'll say it again: Sundin in the Habs lineup would have been an absolutely perfect addition up front, elevating that team to a Cup favorite. Ultimately, Gainey can't be blamed for Sundin cowering from the spotlight in Montreal and refusing to shoulder that kind of load. But after getting exclusive negotiating rights, the bottom line is that the Habs couldn't land him.
WINNERS: Vancouver Canucks fans
As Waiting for Stanley's emotional reaction last night showed, it's shock and awe. But it's also a star player choosing of their own free will to sign with Vancouver instead of the Leafs or the Habs or the Rangers. It's someone taking the money but, at the same time, endorsing the product with his decision. That's an amazing feeling for a fan base.
LOSER: Toronto Maple Leafs fans
OK, so it wasn't the Habs; but Sundin is still going to be playing for another Canadian team, and that stings. Cox Bloc exhibited the frustration in seeing Sundin on the Canucks, ending with "I hope your new team tanks, Luongo's groin explodes, and you miss the playoffs." Pension Plan Puppets breaks down the bitter postmortem of Sundin's last months with the Leafs and Toronto's non-player status in the Derby.
WINNER: Larry Brooks, columnist, New York Post
Brooks deserves an enormous amount of credit for breaking the news that the Rangers were on Sundin's short list back in August. And his column today on the Sundin signing praises Mats for being a mercenary (which he is) while rightfully claiming the Rangers lost this Derby during the summer thanks to bad managerial decisions.
LOSER: Puck Daddy blog
We'd like a jump to conclusions mat for Christmas, Santa. We were as guilty as anyone in predicting Sundin was going to be a Ranger, to the point where we were analyzing the team's lineup with Sundin penciled in. So now that he's a Canuck, that scrutiny reads like a giant slice of crap.*
WINNER: CBC Sports
Hockey Day in Canada is Feb. 21, 2009. It features 14 hours of coverage on CBC ... including the Canucks visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs. We predict these ratings will be slightly higher than the ones for that "Knight Rider" revival on NBC.
The online gaming site just went from having a bald, Swedish former NHL player as its VIP ambassador to having a bald, Swedish current NHL player as its VIP ambassador. Jackpot!
LOSER: Mats Sundin, center, Vancouver Canucks
Finally, it's Mats, and for two reasons. The first is that the Canucks, in that conference, don't have the same good odds the Rangers do in playing for the Stanley Cup. As he did last trade deadline, he went for comfort (this time monetary) over the chance to get his name on the Chalice, and there's probably more than a few peers who'd question that decision-making from a veteran player in the sunset of career.
But more importantly, Sundin's behavior in this ordeal has turned him into a laughingstock. The guy missed more deadlines than Coppola filming "Apocalypse Now." His wishy-washy, "will-he-or-won't-he?" coyness created a Pavlovian response we've seen here on the blog countless times: a groan of "here we go again" or screams of "non-story!" when Sundin Derby news would come up.
There's obviously still redemption possible for Sundin, should he lead the Canucks to greater success this season. Let's hope he finds it, because right now -- between last year's trade deadline and his behavior in the Derby -- Mats Sundin's reputation is that of a player who puts a premium on comfort rather than responsibility.
* Slice of crap was the hilarious jumbled phrase used by a reader in our rumors chat this week. Learn it, know it, love it.