by PuckStopsHere on 02/23/09 at 03:00 AM ET
Several times this season, pundits have written off the Vancouver Canucks. They lost Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison to free agency, while not signing the big name free agent they wanted. That led to many predicting they would miss playoffs. In November, star goalie Roberto Luongo suffered a groin injury. Many thought that would be the blow that stopped the Canucks this year. In January, Luongo returned and big name signee Mats Sundin joined the team and the Canucks proceeded to fall into a slump. That slump was going to knock them out of the race.
It should have been clear that adding Mats Sundin and Roberto Luongo would improve any team. But for the short term it didn’t. Sundin had not stayed in game shape during his sabbatical from the NHL and was playing quite badly as the Canucks number one centreman. Luongo also took a while to get back into game shape. When your number one centre and your number one goalie are not able to play their best, problems happen.
The pessimists likened Mats Sundin to Mark Messier. An aging Messier joined the Canucks as a free agent in the 1990’s. Messier played poorly and played team politics to make himself captain and get his coach installed (Mike Keenan) and get several players who were not supportive of him shipped out of town. The Canucks fell apart. Were the Canucks about to fall apart for adding Mats Sundin?
The clear answer is no. The Canucks have won eight of their last nine games. They are currently fifth in the West Conference and pulling away from the pack fighting for the lower playoff berths. They should be that tough team in the playoffs that everyone expected when Mats Sundin joined the team. It took a while for Sundin to get into shape, but the expected has happened.
The Vancouver Canucks with Mats Sundin are a top NHL team. Their recent record helps to verify it. It took a while for Mats Sundin to get into game shape. Their early record with him was poor, due to playing somebody who wasn’t game ready as a number one centreman. Now that the stretch run is here, they are playing very well.
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