Mats Sundin retired exactly 12 years to the day that he was named captain of the Leafs (Sept. 30,1997) (via tweet from Tyler@NHLDigest)
I can’t give Captain Sundin proper justice right now, but 13 years donning the Blue & White, 420 goals, 987 points later, Mats “Sudden” Sundin gave me enough memories to keep me as a Maple Leafs fan through thick and thin.
Sundin’s consistency was a severely underrated skill of his that is often also seen as his downfall. His peak years were low compared to his peers, which as a result, never induced the “wow” factor from people. But unlike his peers, Sundin was still a point per game player even when he was 36 years old. That’s rare in the NHL. Many players, such as Steve Yzerman, Ron Francis, and Brett Hull amongst others saw their gaudy point totals drop considerably as soon as they turned 35 years of age. From age 18-25, Sundin posted 1.05 points per game. From age 26-32, Sundin posted 0.95 points per game. From age 32-36, Sundin scored at a rate of 1.02 points per game. Injuries all take their toll, but Sundin was one of the most durable players of his generation (upping his scoring rate as he hit his 30s), which only strengthened his case as Mr. Consistency.
1967ers over at Pension Plan Puppets, called Sundin the Norm Ullman of his time. It’s an apt comparison. Ullman had a lengthy, consistent career himself who quietly amassed over 1200+ points. Sundin also went through a career with dignity, grace, and at least stat-wise, little fanfare. However, I liken Mats Sundin more to another player, Leafs legend and superstar Frank Mahovlich. The Big “M” was also a large, tall player similar to Sundin and his considerable skill was often mistaken for laziness and lack of effort. Mahovlich’s lengthy skating stride, heavy slapshot, and strong puck possession game was mimicked quite closely by Sundin. Just as Mahovlich had a love-hate relationship with the fans, Sundin was never universally loved either by Maple Leafs fans until perhaps, late in his career. Hockey came easy for Sundin and as a gifted big man, his hockey rarely delved into the “gritty” like Doug Gilmour or Dave Keon. A 6’5” player who did not deliver bone-crushing hits or engage in fights, but rather, score goals with sublime talent? Unfortunately, those players take longer to be appreciated in Toronto, especially when said player was traded for a man half his size and took on the world with his fists.
Ultimately, is #13 Mats Sundin bound for the Hall of Fame? Seeing as it is the Hockey Hall of Fame where Sundin collected 36 goals and 83 points in 66 major international games, making numerous international all star teams along with the Championship trophies and Olympic Gold, most definitely yes.
There is no question.