Oh Captain! my Captain!

Since 1967, the last year Toronto won the Stanley Cup (capped off with an empty net marker by ‘the Chief’), there has been no better Maple Leaf than, Captain, Mats Sundin. 

Following the team’s parade that year, down the world’s longest street, 8 men have donned the fabled “C”, carrying the pride & hockey passion for most of English Canada, as the leader of the ‘Blue & White’:

George Armstrong (#10, 1957-1969)
Dave Keon (#14, 1969-1975, forced out by the team’s management)
Darryl Sittler (#27, 1975-1981, traded to Philadelphia)
Rick Vaive (#22, 1981-1986, traded to Chicago)
Rob Ramage (#8, 1989-1991)
Wendel Clark (#17, 1991-1994, traded to Quebec)
Doug Gilmour (#93, 1994-1997, traded to New Jersey)
Mats Sundin (#13, 1997-?)

only 1 of whom has been allowed to exit, graciously, from Center stage, on his own terms. 

After standing firm at the helm of this troubled ship for 14 years – through both open waters and turbulent seas – Mats Sundin has, today, earned the highest level of respect from this observer.

In the face of mounting pressure, from all sides …

Paul Hunter, Captain Mats leads the way
Rosie DiManno, Leafs’ Sundin might still be forced to go

he is exemplifying what the word Leadership means, in a world of obscenely over-priced, pampered, and thoughtless ‘pro’ athletes.

Best immortalized in the poetic words of Walt Whitman,

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

here stands a ‘Man of Resolute Character’ for ‘The (Sports) Ages’ … who knows what’s truly important in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Tic toc, tic toc, tic toc … move the sands of time.

PS … Can the Leafs finally resist the short-cut urge to ‘wheel & deal’ with #13? … and, thereby, lift the ‘Departed Captain’s Curse‘ cast upon this franchise 40 years ago! 72 hrs left … and, counting.

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6 Responses to “Oh Captain! my Captain!”

  1. Johnny Says:

    I agree that Mats is a great captain and a class act, but I’m not sure that the poem is an accurate metaphor. What prize has been won? What port is near? Do you really think that Mats has put the Leafs within range of ever winning anything? What is the reason for your optimism here?

    I will check and see if Whitman ever wrote a poem about a great captain whose ship was sunk through no fault of his own, but because of complete incompetence of everyone around him. Then someone comes by with a lifeboat, but the captain refuses to waive his no-lifeboat clause, and bravely goes down with the ship. Maybe that would be a little more fitting.

  2. khandor Says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    Is the poem by Whitman an accurate metaphor for Mats’ situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

    IMO, yes, it is …

    (A) If he is traded in their ‘short-cut-driven’ re-building process, he will never be back with this team (contrary to the ‘rent-now/return-later’ pundits’ perspective) which would indeed render him “Fallen cold and dead”, as the Captain of Leafs’ Nation; and,

    (B) If he remains beyond today’s Trade Deadline, he is still ‘THE Captain’ of this ship … which is still at sea … searching for its way ‘home’, through treacherous waters, the purpose of its voyage unfulfilled but, with a firm resolve, intent on achieving success, nevertheless, despite the ineptitude of the last 14 (40?) years of mismanagement for this seemingly ‘Cursed’ team.

    The ‘non short-cut’ route for the Maple Leafs is clear … and Mats Sundin, their on-ice Leader, wants to be a central part of this character-defining process for this organization.

    * Kudos to him for this.

    * A competent interim GM is now in place … having done his job properly to this point, re: Mats’ situation. Bravo.

    * A full-time, competent GM needs to be found & installed as the new ‘off-ice’ Leader for this team. Who will they select?

    * If they can put a winning streak together AND make the playoffs this season THEN their current head coach, Paul Maurice, can stay, taking them to the next phase in their development … but, if they miss the post-season, again … then, Paul Maurice MUST be replaced before July 1.

    * Kaberle, Colaiacovo, Steen & Stajan should be kept (in addition to Sundin), moving forward, as solid assets … with everyone of the other players being on the ‘chopping block’ via trade, buy-out, or demotion to their minor-league affiliate … in as ‘ruthless’ (according to Sun Tzu’s definition) a manner as possible, with 1 goal in mind … eventually Winning the Stanley Cup.

    * Improve their Scouting Staff … and, build the team through the draft.

    Tic toc, tic toc, tic toc … 6 and 1/2 hours left, and counting.

    PS. Welcome aboard!

  3. Johnny Says:

    If the Leafs make the playoffs? Are you out of your mind?

    I appreciate the fact that you are cheering on your boys, but you have to understand, it is people like you that are the reason why the Leafs are this bad. It is because you accept, and even celebrate, mediocrity that no one in the organization feels they have to strive for greatness. Why should they? This is a team with a worse-looking future than any other franchise in the league, and not only will you still support the team, and buy the jerseys, but you are talking about them making the PLAYOFFS! In this season? Dude, you need to wake up!

    Kaberle? Maybe. He has put up decent numbers, but really is worth more as trade bait right now than anything he will provide in the future.

    Steen? Stajan? COLAIACOVO? I can’t even believe what I’m reading. You’re like a battered wife who still defends her husband because deep down she knows that he loves her.

    How has Fletcher done his job properly re: Mats situation? He tried to trade him and failed. That gets a Bravo? Do you even read what you write? His mission was to trade Sundin, and because you didn’t want that to happen, you are celebrating his ineptitude.

    Fire Paul Maurice? He is really the only valuable piece left in this franchise other than Sundin. I actually hope that he does get fired just so the Leafs stink of failure doesn’t attach itself to him like it has to Sundin. He’s a fantastic coach who deserves a lot more than what he is getting in Toronto.

    I’m starting to realise that the poem is apt, but not for the reason that you think. The Leafs ship is on a mission straight for the bottom of the league. The captain has been the only bright spot for a long time, and the only thing keeping it afloat for this long. When he refused the trade, it was a clear signal that the Leafs losing spirit has killed him. He just doesn’t have the heart of a champion anymore. Like the rest of Leafs nation, he is content to be a part of a losing franchise. The ship has reached it’s port.

    Your captain is dead, and you will exult and ring the bells because this is the only reason you will ever have to celebrate with this franchise.

  4. khandor Says:


    Thanks, again, for your follow-up comment.

    Feedback, like yours, is always appreciated.

    However, I suggest you re-read (more?) carefully what I’ve written.

    If you do, you should find revealed to you a slightly ‘different’ perspective about me (and my ideas about the Maple Leafs) than the version contained in your reply. 🙂

    First off … I am not a die-hard Maple Leafs fanatic.

    Secondly … neither am I a die-hard Mats Sundin supporter.

    Thirdly … What I am … is someone who understands what it takes to win a championship, in the NHL …

    and, IMO, an organization that ‘trades away’ its Captain, for ‘futures’ … as a way of SHORT-CUTTING their re-building process which, if done properly, should take a long time to accomplish (not just a year or two) …

    does not have a snowball’s chance in h*ll of succeeding using this M.O.

    * If the Maple Leafs can make the playoffs this season … then they should keep Paul Maurice.

    * If they cannot make the playoffs this season … then they should replace Paul Maurice prior to July 1.

    * Part of what a top-notch coach does (in any sport) is take a ‘play-maker’ with a periodic spark of brilliance in him/her and through hard work & specific direction develop in that player a degree of ‘consistently brilliant performance’.

    * When a team has the type of W’s (beating Ottawa, 5-0, on the road) and L’s (losing to Florida, 0-8, at home) Toronto has, so far, this season … it usually means that there’s a ‘coaching problem’ of some sort in the Maple Leafs’ dressing room.

    * Just because this team is in need of a total rebuild, from the ground floor up … does not mean that there are no suitable ‘NHL level talents’ on their current roster AND that every player needs to be traded away.

    * I identified 4 current players, I would re-build around … that’s all.

    * From the Leafs upcoming draft picks AND the additional ‘mid-low level’ picks they can acquire from moving other players, e.g. McCabe, Tucker, Antropov, Ponikarovski, Kilger, Wellwood, Kubina, Raycroft, White, Belak, etc., on their existing roster … even if having to give them away, in ‘fire sale’ … there is every opportunity for their new competent full-time GM to assemble a high calibre team OVER THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS … BY BUILDING EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH THE DRAFT.

    * If the Maple Leafs make the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this season …

    What is the lowest/worst # pick they can still end up with in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft?

    * If the Maple Leafs miss the playoffs this season …

    What is the lowest/worst # pick they can still end up with in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft?

    There’s no ‘real’ difference in either of those two scenarios … in terms of what’s actually needed to re-build the club, over the long term.

    Toronto simply has to do a better job with whatever Draft Picks it has already AND those they can obtain going forward from this point … which is the job of their SCOUTING STAFF … after they find a competent, full-time GM.

  5. khandor Says:

    Btw, what Cliff Fletcher has done ‘properly’, so far, in handling the Mats Sundin situation is … show the long-standing Captain of his team the type of Respect he deserves in the first-class way Fletcher’s dealt with Mats, 1-to-1, and in the media. It’s in this regard, that Fletcher’s done a solid job.

    Now what he needs to do is …

    1) Make trades with the other movable parts
    2) Make the right decision about Paul Maurice
    3) Change/improve the Scouting Staff
    4) Hire a competent full-time GM/President.

  6. When a Core Covenant is formed « Khandor’s Sports Blog Says:

    […] Oh Captain! my Captain! […]

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