ADAM PROTEAU The Hockey News
Want to hear the sound of six million hands wringing in unison? Simply head on over to Leafs Nation, whose citizens have been placed on a mass hari-kari watch now that their beloved team is suddenly (Mats) Sundin-less.
Before he tore an elbow ligament Monday against Philadelphia, the Maple Leafs captain was playing inspired hockey, and was on pace for a 39-goal, 92-point season, his best offensive output in a decade. But just because Sundin could be sidelined for as long as a month doesn't necessarily mean the Leafs' surprisingly solid start will up and go "poof".
In the 12 games Sundin missed early in the 2005-06 campaign after a puck struck him in the eye, Toronto amassed a 6-5-0-1 record. That's not close to ideal, of course - but remember, that Leafs team didn't have Pavel Kubina (who will be back in the lineup tomorrow night), Michael Peca or Andrew Raycroft on the roster.
The Leafs also didn't have a coach last year who bolstered the collective confidence of his players with intensive pre-game preparation the way Paul Maurice has this season. And they didn't have a group of youngsters (Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Ian White) drastically stepping up their performances night after night.
When Sundin was injured last year, Eric Lindros helped fill the void with a not-insignificant amount of offense (seven goals and 11 points). He's moved on to the Dallas Stars, but Peca's leadership skills should help Toronto through whatever tough times come their way. As well, Toronto also should be able to capitalize on a softer schedule in the next month, one that includes five games against the hapless Bruins.
So put down the antidepressants, Leafs fans. Sundin may be gone, but his teammates are likely to help you forget that he is.