Sundin beginning to have doubts

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The question lobbed Mats Sundin's way was a simple one.

With the March 9 trade deadline looming, should beleaguered general manager John Ferguson blow up the Maple Leafs, as many are suggesting?

Normally, the classy captain reacts to such queries with veteran savvy.

He'll talk about team chemistry, about his confidence in an impending turnaround, about how things always seem brighter after a good night's sleep.

Not this time.

"It's not my decision," Sundin said after another lethargic Leafs loss, this time by a 6-2 margin to the Buffalo Sabres.

If we didn't know it yet, we do now.

Mats Sundin has doubts about this team.

Maybe he didn't use those exact words. But the ones he carefully chose spoke volumes.

It has been suspected since mid-season that the Leafs leader has concerns about the direction the franchise is going.

Sundin would never publicly admit to that.

But last night, even Sundin was having trouble seeing the glass as being half full.

"I think we have a good enough team to make the playoffs," he said. "But we aren't going to do that if we play the way we have the past two games."

If that indeed is the case, Mats, we ask you again.

Does this team need to be ripped apart and rebuilt?

"That's not for me to decide," he said again.

This is what the Leafs have now become.

A team lacking confidence in themselves and in their teammates.

A team lacking discipline, as evidenced by their continuing penchant for taking stupid penalties.

And, most importantly, a team lacking the ability to break out of a losing funk at the most important time of the year.

The eighth-place Montreal Canadiens are five points ahead of the Leafs for the final playoff spot.

The Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins also have passed by the bumbling Buds.

Could there be any worse time for a date with the high-flying Ottawa Senators, who come into the Air Canada Centre tonight having beaten the Maple Leafs in all six meetings this season, outscoring Toronto 36-12 in the process.

Talk about leading the lambs to the slaughter.

There is little doubt the entire mess is taking its toll on Sundin, whose outbursts of frustration were there for all members of the capacity crowd at the HSBC Arena to see.

Imagine going from the penthouse to the outhouse in just five days.

Last Sunday, Sundin reached the pinnacle of his career, skating around the ice in Turin with the blue-and-yellow Swedish flag draped over his shoulders.

That gold medal victory in the Olympics must seem like a distant memory now.

First came a 5-3 loss Tuesday to the lowly Capitals. Last night was not any better.

Deep inside, Sundin must be stewing at some of the leadfoots he is being forced to play with.

Nothing against Alexei Ponikarovsky, but why put Sundin with the plodding Nik Antropov?

Sundin's emotions bubbled over late in the second period.

At one point he skated to the bench and waved his glove in disgust, obviously peeved that one of his linemates had butchered what he considered to be a perfect setup.

Still bristling, the captain took two penalties in the final five minutes of the period and was in the box for Roy's goal, which gave the hosts a commanding 4-1 lead.

As he sat in the sin bin he must have wondered where it all went wrong, not to mention what is needed to right the ship.

Over to you Fergie.


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