Farewell, Mattias! We hardly knew ye.

Posted November 30, 2011

19 games may be all the chocolate this Swede can take... (Photo credit: M. Richter)

For those not hyperactive in the twitter ‘verse, the word is out that Mattias Sjögren is considering a return to Sweden.  And by considering, I mean that his agent has already stated that it’s happening. As of the writing of this article, no final decision has been publicized by the Capitals or Bears, but Sjögren opted out of the current Hershey road trip to “consider his options.”

Word on the street is that his old club, Farjestad BK (wiki page here), was lobbying hard to get him back home, and that Sjögren’s unhappy with the fact that he’s not in the NHL (as is every 2011 first round draft pick not named Couturier, Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins, or Larsson).  George McPhee was less than impressed with the purported decision, stating “If you’re going to quit on us, you might as well go [back].”  I think it’s safe to say that the GM has had a lot on his plate over the last week, so he can be forgiven for being blunt.

The news comes just three days after his 24th birthday, and 19 games into his AHL career.  At a point that most of us would probably call “jumping the gun.”  He’s in the first year of a 2-year entry level contract, signed over the summer prior to D-camp, and still on the young side of the quarter-century mark.

Now, I’ll admit, despite the short burst of attention he received during the Development and Rookie camps, Sjögren isn’t much more than a name to most Caps fans.  He’s far less distinctive-looking than Eakin, and he doesn’t have the wheels or game control that have distinguished our other Swedish centers.  Sjögren played in a maximum of three preseason games with the Caps (roster information isn’t available for the game played in Baltimore; it’s possible it was only two), and only one of those was at Verizon Center.

He’s a bit better known up in Hershey, but he’s been far from a show-stopper.  New to the NHL ice surface and the North American game, he’s bounced between the third and fourth lines, and that’s led to an entry-level showing on the scoresheet. Which is what an entry-level player is supposed to be doing.  He’s not shining like Boyd Kane, Graham Mink, or Keith Aucoin are, but he’s also not a career AHLer with NHL experience.  That takes time, and skills that he simply hasn’t demonstrated with any form of consistency.

One of the great strengths of the Caps family is the depth available within its ranks, and we’re likely to see a center coming back down to Hershey in the next few weeks as the Beagle situation resolves.  So, having hashed out my own thoughts in literary form, I find myself in roughly the same position as our illustrious GM – if Mattias Sjögren has delusions of grandeur, he’s welcome to take them back to Sweden.

If Sjögren’s leaving because of trouble acclimating culturally, or a decision that the North American game really isn’t for him, that’s something else.  I can respect that, because let’s face it, we’re all human.  We all have varying priorities, and every decision is weighted just a little differently.  But at the moment, that’s not the the vibe I’m getting from this situation.  I wish Mattias all the best in Sweden, should he depart, but I hope he knows that he’s burning his bridges and scattering the ashes.  Let’s face it, his slapshot isn’t that good.