Leafs have wasted Sundin's talent

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Back when he was relevant, Craig Patrick used to talk about having a "window of opportunity" when it came to Mario Lemieux.

He meant he only had so many years to build a contender around Lemieux before he had wasted the grand opportunity in Pittsburgh.

The way the Maple Leafs have squandered the opportunity with Mats Sundin.

This is nearing the end of Year 11 for Sundin as a Leaf.

He is 35 years old on a team basically going nowhere and getting younger. His best days, as evidenced against Florida, may not be behind him, only the opportunities have passed.

The Leafs failed in his best seasons, failed to surround him with the applicable talent, never took complete advantage of his tremendous talent.

Patrick may have sunk to the bottom of the NHL running a messed-up Penguins team, but he came through when it mattered.

The same cannot be said of those who had 11 years of Sundin to make this team a champion.

THIS AND THAT

John Ferguson will return as general manager of the Leafs next season. We know this to be true because he's signing players. We just don't know why ... Brian Burke began with an Anaheim team that had 76 points. In his first year, after signing the Niedermayer brothers, trading Sergei Fedorov and altering almost half his roster, the Ducks will be close to 100 points. This is what happens when you pay for experienced general managers with vision and moxie ... Francois Beauchimin, a throw-in defenceman in the Fedorov deal, has eight goals. Fedorov has 10 in Columbus. Beauchimin has 27 assists. Fedorov has 29 ... Just wondering: If Harry Sinden had to approve the Joe Thornton trade, how come only Mike O'Connell got fired for it? ... So long, Beckie Scott, and thanks for the memories. You made the impossible, possible, making cross-country skiing significant in this country ... Tom Renney's New York Rangers coaching staff is the only one the league without a former NHL player on it.

HERE AND THERE

Enjoyed the CBC docudrama on the '72 Summit Series but found the actors who played Al Eagleson, Phil Esposito and John Ferguson to be quite understated when compared with the real characters ... Tom Wright's job is only in jeopardy on days that end in the letter 'y'. Other than that, he continues on, working for the backstabbers who don't pay the CFL commissioner enough to take the kind of public flogging they almost seem to enjoy being party to ... The CFL did blow an opportunity to turn bad news into good by not doing something on television or radio with the Renegades dispersal. In fact, the league's own website was down when the draft was being held ... Six NHL teams with winning records will miss the playoffs while it's possible that four sub .500 teams will qualify for the post-season in the NBA's Eastern Conference ... Coming up on Wednesday's fifth estate: More dirt on disgraced former agent, David Frost.

SCENE AND HEARD

As if Michael Peca's play hasn't been embarrassing enough, now he blames the Edmonton Oilers lame play in St. Louis on the length of the Al MacInnis retirement ceremony. Lame ... Heading into last night, the Maple Leafs had accumulated 16 of 18 possible points since Jason Allison was hurt and had scored 23 even-strength goals in that time. In the previous nine games, with Allison, the Leafs had scored six times at even strength ... Wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Pat Gillick eventually turns to old pal Lou Piniella to begin to solve the woes of the Philadelphia Phillies ... The best player not selected in the CFL dispersal draft was linebacker Kyries Hebert, who was some legal problems in the U.S., which should make him a prime candidate to play for the Argos ... A three-man race for the NBA's MVP award: Chauncey Billups, LeBron James and Steve Nash should finish 1-2-3 in voting ... The NBA playoffs are the least compelling of the major pro sports.

AND ANOTHER THING

What was a nice Jewish boy doing on the defensive line? Kicking ass, that's what. Just not anymore. Noah Cantor is doing so well in the restaurant business he can't afford to play for the Argos anymore ... Shouldn't the Raptors just buy out the final season of Rafael Araujo's contract rather than invest another $2.4 million in what's obviously a waste of time and space? ... Liked what the Denver Post called Barry Bonds' new reality show on ESPN: Columnist Jim Armstrong said it should be known as "Sargeant BALCO."... Has anyone scored a quieter 30 goals than Jason Arnott of the Dallas Stars? ... If Jeff O'Neill has any doubts about playing next year, isn't that a clear message his heart isn't entirely set on playing for the Maple Leafs? ... In a perfect world, no one would make an offer to Sean Avery. We would just forget about him ... And hey, whatever became of Jeff Brubaker?


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