Sundin won't concede

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET

TORONTO -- Mats Sundin had barely stepped onto Canadian soil yesterday afternoon when he was informed that the arch-rival Senators had acquired budding superstar Dany Heatley.

At least the Maple Leafs captain didn't turn around and hop on a plane back to his native Sweden in a fit of depression.

Quite the opposite, actually.

Fresh off his trans-Atlantic flight to Toronto, Sundin was spewing optimism concerning the Leafs' chances this season, insisting that he is not ready to award the Stanley Cup to the Flyers or Senators even if giddy fans in Ottawa and Philadelphia already are planning their victory parade routes.

"Absolutely not,"said Sundin as he zipped from Pearson Airport to the Air Canada Centre, where he was scheduled to speak to Leaf season-ticket holders last night. "If anything, we've played Ottawa and Philly tough over the years. We've never been an easy team to beat."

By adding Heatley in a deal that saw forward Marian Hossa and defenceman Greg de Vries shipped to the Thrashers, the Senators are poised to be one of the pre-season favourites for the Cup. So, too, are the Flyers, who added hulking defenceman Derian Hatcher and superstar Peter Forsberg, Sundin's teammate with the Swedish national team.

"It's tough to say who's better, Heatley or Hossa," Sundin said. "Both are world-class players. Heatley is a bit younger.

"At the same time we brought in some world class players too in Eric Lindros, Jeff O'Neill and Jason Allison. I have no problem starting the season with the lineup we have."

Sundin cannot understand the gloom and doom circulating through the city about the Leafs chances, even with the departures of Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Mogilny.

"I talked to Joe and Gary after they signed with Florida and wished them the best," he said. "They are character guys and will be missed by all of us, but we have some character guys coming in here too.

"Eric and I skated together a bit during the winter. I got to know Jeff a bit through Gary Roberts. And I've had some tough battles against Jason over the years. He's an excellent player."

The additions of Allison and Lindros have created a logjam up the middle, fuelling speculation that one of them -- if not Sundin -- might be shifted to the wing.

"I prefer to play centre but I've been on the wing before," Sundin said. "We'll see what the coach decides.

"I know there are a lot of good teams out there but if we remain healthy we are going to be a tough team to beat. We just have to make sure we get off to a good start and not get behind the eight ball."

Sundin said his decision not to play in Europe or at the world championship during the lockout was a good one.

"I feel great," he said. "I feel as much mentally fresh as physically, and my body has healed up very well."


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