by Ron Spence
I have mixed feelings about Mats returning to the ‘nucks.
Last season, I was a combination of annoyed, frustrated, hopeful, and in the end – sad.
Because of these mixed feelings, I thought I would do an apple to apple comparison with another veteran – New Jersey’s Brendan Shanahan.
To try and find some context for Mats Sundin’s season in Vancouver.
Shanny is 40 to Sundin’s 37, and also came into 2008-09 late in the season. Sundin dressed for 41 contests, and Shanahan for 7 games less.
Mats Sundin was a first and second line player – who took shifts on the power play. Shanahan played on New Jersey’s checking, and energy lines – a lot on the pk, and very little on the power play.
The Devils’ top six scorers hogged the first two lines.
“Sutter has preferred recently a more contemporary philosophy of using two offensive lines, and then a third and fourth line,” wrote Colin Stephenson of The Star Ledger.
Sundin’s and Shanahan’s different roles impacted their stats.
Mats scored 9 goals versus 6 for Shanahan. Sundin had 5 power play goals to Shanahan’s 2. Both had 4 even strength goals.
Sundin had twice as many assists – 19 versus 8 for Shanahan, and Mats was on the ice for twice as many goals created.
The Canucks’ veteran had 44 total goals for – while he was on the ice – and the Devils’ oldest player had 16 goals for.
Sundin was on for 23 power play goals, and Shanahan for three – two of which he scored himself.
Also, Shanahan had 4 power play goals scored against him, versus only one for Sundin, as Brendan played a lot of pk, and Sundin almost none.
courtesy of hockey-reference.com
Those stats – noted above – are primarily the results of their different roles on the ‘nucks and Devils.
But, there are other stats that are in Shanahan’s favour – regardless of his role.
Brendan played against his rivals’ top lines and was on for only 19 goals against, versus 27 for Sundin.
Also, while playing against top players – with linemates who seldom scored – Shanahan had a -.06 plus minus, versus Sundin’s -.12.
Mats Sundin did play well during the playoffs, however. He had 3 goals and 5 assists in 8 games. Shanahan – in his limited role – had 3 points in 7 games during the post-season.
I believe that Brendan Shanahan could have played on Vancouver’s top two lines, and would have outscored Sundin.
I also believe that Mats Sundin wouldn’t have cracked the Devils’ top two lines.
Also, Mats couldn’t play another role that Brendan did in New Jersey:
“After being cross-checked by Eric Boulton…Shanahan jumped in ahead of teammate Mike Rupp to fight the Thrashers’ enforcer.
“I think their guy was just trying to get their team going,” Shanahan said. “He’d given me a little cross-check from behind. Not much.
“When I realized Ruppy was going to fight him, I wanted to jump in and not let him fight my battle.”
Rupp already had his gloves off, but stayed out of the altercation.
“I just wanted to get off the ice so I didn’t get an extra two minutes,” Rupp said. “I’m not surprised (Shanahan) did it. We know he can handle himself.”
Shanahan landed several hard punches, but wound up having his nose bloodied.
“We hit each other with a couple,” Shanahan said. “It felt good. More the part of me hitting him than him hitting me.
“It’s (fighting) not something you get to do when you don’t play in the NHL without staying out of jail. Usually that’s frowned upon in society. I was starting to wonder if I’d ever get to do that again. It’s always fun to go against a tough guy.”
But, the bottom line – of an apple to apple comparison- between the two players, was that Shanahan played for less than 10% of what Sundin commanded.
He was good value, whereas Sundin wasn’t – in my opinion.