It’s been a long journey but we’ve finally ended up exactly where we thought we’d all be, and that is acknowledging Mats Sundin as the Greatest Leaf of All-Time.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of factors that come into naming Mats the champion, for one, no one has been a more dominant Leaf over the past 53 years. There might have been better single seasons, but no one has as full a resume over that time. Now, there are a lot of cups, individual awards, etc. in that previous 50 years. There are players like Bower, Keon, Mahovlich, Conacher, Dye, Primeau, etc. that you might pull out of history books as worthy of consideration, but generally these are players we’ve only heard about, never seen and experienced first hand. Bower was a great ambassador for the organization, but not many of us watched him play. Most of us have seen Sundin, and he’s got that going for him, and being unquestionably the best player over 53 years of an organization is pretty significant.
Looking at the career of Sundin, he checks a lot of boxes outside of Stanley Cups and major individual hardware, though he does have that Mark Messier Leadership Award.
He’s consistently been the Leafs All-Star Game representative.
He sits first in goals as a Leaf (420), Points as a Leaf (987), and leads in even strength goals, power play goals, and game winning goals as well.
He was a long tenured captain.
He has taken the Leafs to the Conference Final twice, which is as good as it gets for the Leafs in the past 53 years as well.
He’s been a great ambassador for the organization, the sport, and the city, and is well loved by his teammates and of course, Maple Leafs fans.
That fact that he achieved most of this without suitable wingers beside him makes it even more impressive.
I’m sure I’m not alone in identifying Sundin’s 500th as my favourite Sundin moment as a Leaf. A shorthanded overtime goal to complete a hat trick is pretty darn special and having be the 500th goal of your career is the stuff of legend, but for me it was also the moment that pulled me back into being a diehard hockey fan.
As for how we will reward our new champion, well, we don’t have much of a budget for awards, but I encourage Mats to print out this post and put it on his fridge, as the online Leafs community has identified him as the Greatest Leaf of All-Time*
*until Auston Matthews plays a few more years