Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Picking Sundin's Sweater Number
Since everyone seems to be awarding the Rangers the winner of the Mats Sundin sweepstakes, I figured I would put the cart in front of the horse and try to figure out which jersey number the Swede will wear.
As near as I can tell, his number on Toronto, Quebec, Djurgårdens and the Swedish national team was always number 13 - his birthday (February 13th, 1971). Well, sorry "Sudden," we already have a 13 on the roster. Of course, Nik Zherdev is younger and seems respectful so he should willingly give the elder statesman the digit. Or, he could buy the number with some of the $74 million in career earnings that he has collected. But what if Z did the unthinkable and not give it to him? What number would Mats take?
How about No. 4, since 1+3=4 (yay math!) ... Twenty-eight Rangers pulled on that sweater but not a single forward since 1948 (Rene Trudell) and we need Sundin to score.
Sundin won an Olympic gold in '06 but six is Wade Redden's and no one wants anything that that guy has right about now.
The former Toronto captain has been an All Star nine times but that number will be going to the rafters this season thanks to another icon, Adam Graves.
Well, some players go for the reverse of the number they wanted, so Sundin could take 31. There are 11 Rangers in team history who wore it but just one was a skater, Rob Zamuner; the rest were goaltenders. Zamuner played just nine games in 1991-92 before going on to a mediocre career in Tampa and we just can't have mediocrity from Mats.
Since he wore 13 because of his birthday, what about keeping with that theme and taking 71? Only Brian Fahey has worn that number on a Blueshirt and with Tom Renney's undying loyalty to his current defenders, it isn't likely that Fahey will get to wear it again. I don't think so, the NHL markets 71 with Gina Malkin and we don't want to relate to one of the diving Penguins in any way.
What about 89, in honour of the year Quebec drafted him? Nah, too Mogilny.
He came over from Sweden in '90 but that would put him right next to fellow countryman Markus Naslund (91) and we can't have that. Sundin has to have more left in the tank than what Naslund has shown. Otherwise there wouldn't be such a huge bidding war for his services.
Well, I guess it has to be his #13 and that would make him the seventh Ranger to pull on that particular jersey. I looked at the other guys once before but here they are again:
Jack Stoddard, who was the NHL's tallest player for two seasons in the '50s at 6'3, was the first. American Bob Brooke came next and he was a big part of the 1985-86 Blueshirts that went deep into the playoffs. Good soldier Sergei Nemchinov went even further - to the Stanley Cup before being callously discarded and ending up with the other, lesser metropolitan area teams. After Sarge left, Sundin's teammate in Quebec Valeri Kamensky came in for two disappointing seasons at the turn of the century. He also played in a 'Legends' game before the Victoria Cup against Metallurg in Switzerland and proved that he is still a cherry-picker after all these years. When he wasn't re-signed, minor league goon Richard Scott picked up the unlucky number for 10 games over two seasons. And, of course, you all know Big Z and what he has and hasn't done while wearing 13 this season.
But think of all he could do once Sundin is by his side? Where his current center (Mexican't Scott Gomez) works the perimeter, the big Swede is willing to pay the price and be an actual hockey player, challenging defenses by using his size to get space in the good scoring zones - a la Jagr. He can also score off of the rush, fire one helluva slapshot and hit people. Sundin was also a captain for most of his career and maybe he will help bring accountability back to the locker room and force the defensemen to actually play some defense.
One could only pray ...