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THN.com Blog: Leafs could have had Brunnstrom last season

Fabian Brunnstrom has eight goals and 30 points in 36 games with Farjestad this season. (Photo by Bruce Jessop/IHA)

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Fabian Brunnstrom has eight goals and 30 points in 36 games with Farjestad this season. (Photo by Bruce Jessop/IHA)

A couple of months ago, we told you about Fabian Brunnstrom, a talented 22-year-old Swede who’s getting lots of interest from NHL teams wanting to sign him as a free agent. 

Interesting to see, as reported on Sportsnet.ca yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs are among those teams and have reportedly sent Brunnstrom a DVD on the merits of the city. 

The funny thing is, the Maple Leafs would have had Brunnstrom in their organization already if they’d simply listened to the advice of Thommie Bergman, their very capable director of European scouting. 

According to a source close to the situation, last season Bergman was one of the first to discover Brunnstrom, who was dominating for Boras of HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden’s second-highest level league.

When pro scout Craig Button was in Europe on a scouting trip, Bergman had Button check Brunnstrom out. In fact, the two were so concerned other teams would discover Brunnstrom that they purchased tickets to the game instead of getting a game pass and sat apart wearing large coats and hats so people wouldn’t recognize them. 

Button agreed with Bergman’s assessment that Brunnstrom would be a great signing and, since nobody else knew about him, the Leafs could have signed Brunnstrom for a fraction of the rookie cap maximum he’ll receive when he signs with someone this summer. 

The only proviso was that everyone involved, including Bergman, agreed Brunnstrom’s best development path would be through the Swedish Elite League and the Farjestad program rather than the NHL or the minors. 

Leaf management, led by GM John Ferguson and assistant GM Mike Penny, thought otherwise. They were unwilling to sign Brunnstrom unless he was willing to play for the Toronto Marlies of the American League and the Leafs refused to budge. 

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Which now means they’ll either miss out on a player many think could be the next Daniel Alfredsson, or they’ll pay far more than they needed to in order to sign him.  And it was all because they wouldn’t listen to the people they pay to evaluate talent. 

Still with the Leafs, there’s a growing sentiment that Cliff Fletcher was given the interim GM job because the organization feels he’s best suited to doing a deadline deal to trade Mats Sundin, then re-sign the captain as an unrestricted free agent over the summer.

Sundin is indeed playing some very inspired hockey under almost impossible circumstances, but if the Leafs are going to deal him at the deadline, isn’t it time they cut ties with him permanently?

The Leafs are, or should be, going in a direction of rebuilding and Sundin won’t be around if and when this team becomes a contender.

But if there’s one thing the Leafs do well, it’s acquiring and bringing back players based almost entirely on their past accomplishments.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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