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Sundin Passes Captaincy To Kaberle, Resigns From Team

April 1, 2008 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

Another day, another drama in Leaf Land.

Perhaps the most controversial act of his tenure in Toronto, Mats Sundin gave an indication of what his hockey future was by removing himself from the roster with just a handful of games left and reportedly requesting management make Tomas Kaberle the captain of the Blue and White. While interim GM Cliff Fletcher hasn’t said a word yet, word has already leaked that Sundin passed the metaphorical torch by having a meeting between Fletcher, coach Paul Maurice, and Kaberle before cleaning out his stall.

Right off the bat, all indications are pointing to Kaberle being the next captain of the Maple Leafs. The question must be asked, however, what’s the purpose of this? Why not accept a trade to another team rather than continue to play out the season, only to move on now?

It’s a question that probably won’t be answered immediately as Sundin is reportedly back on a plane to his native Sweden right now.

Looking at past events, one can sense that it’s more about the future than the past. Sundin stayed loyal to Toronto by refusing to waive his no-trade clause — perhaps not so much the franchise, but rather the city, the fans, and his teammates.

For Sundin, the season was essentially over when it became apparent that his team’s late push wouldn’t be enough to make the playoffs. The Leafs were a longshot anyways, but apparently Sundin wanted to give it one last go before calling it a career.

Of course, no one knows exactly what the future will hold for Sundin. Will he retire? Will he pull a Scott Niedermayer? Will he play for a team in Sweden?

On the one hand, Sundin has talked about wanting to finish his career with the Leafs. On the other hand, his skill level and physical conditioning are still in top form, and he could still command a handsome sum for a short-term contract.

Looking at Kaberle, he is in a unique situation, and it seems like Sundin picked this time so that Kaberle could get his feet wet as captain in a high-pressure city like Toronto before embarking on next season’s campaign as the full-fledged captain and identity of the Maple Leafs. After all, Kaberle has gone from the deer-in-the-headlights whipping boy of die-hard Leaf fans to the acknowledged most skilled, most valuable player on the team. While Kaberle has had an A on his jersey for some time, it will be a trying time as he tries to lead a team in transition.

Starting next season, we all knew the Leafs would be different. We all knew that Sundin was an unrestricted free agent and that the team’s core would shift. Is Sundin being noble by trying to give Kaberle a head start on the leadership role or is Sundin taking his proverbial ball (puck) and going home? One thing’s for sure, many a Leaf fan will still feel a fool when the playoffs start in April.

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