Toronto Maple Leafs: In Appreciation of Tomas Kaberle


Toronto Maple Leafs: In Appreciation of Tomas Kaberle

Tomas Kaberle was never exactly a fan favourite in Toronto and he ultimately left town under rather unceremonious circumstances, but his impact on the Toronto Maple Leafs can’t be denied.

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For 12 seasons, Kaberle adorned the Blue & White and was a key part of the team’s offence from the back end. He recorded a career-high 67 points (9 goals, 58 assists) in 82 games during the 2005-2006 season, representing a powerful one-two punch with defensive partner Bryan McCabe beside him. There was even a time when Kaberle and McCabe were the most feared power play tandem in the whole league.

(McCabe also set a career high in points during the same season: 19 goals and 49 assists across 73 games for 68 points in total.)

Things slowly began to unravel, however, as McCabe’s offensive production declined sharply in 2007-2008. The Brian Burke era, which began in the fall of 2008, also signaled a new direction for the club with Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek emerging in the early years as the “top” defenders on the team.

Apr 8, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

McCabe didn’t survive in Toronto long enough to see the start of the 2008-2009 season, but Kaberle was still there and would remain a member of the Leafs until getting traded to the Boston Bruins in February 2011.

It’d be a lie to say Kaberle’s final seasons in Toronto were free of distractions. After the high of the 2005-2006 season, things quickly spiraled downward as he was subjected to constant trade rumours and the team made no effort to show any appreciation for his offensive contributions. He was a lame duck and everyone knew it – the team was simply waiting for the right moment to unload the unwanted defender.

For his part, none of this seemed to affect Kaberle’s game. He remained the team’s top point-producing defenceman from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011 with a short interruption by Pavel Kubina in 2008-2009 (Kubina scored 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) that season in 82 games compared to 31 points (four goals, 27 assists) in 57 games from Kaberle). Despite playing in a poisoned atmosphere, we never really heard Kaberle complain about the situation.

Feb 14, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Latvia forward Ronalds Kenins (91) battles for the puck with Czech Republic defenseman Tomas Kaberle (7) in a men’s preliminary round ice hockey game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Bolshoy Ice Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, it was an unexpected complaint from his father that momentarily seized the headlines and dominated the city’s radio call-in hockey shows. No one else, including Kaberle himself, was willing to speak strongly in his defence. Kaberle was even apologetic about his father’s comments.

Before finally exiting the NHL scene in 2012-2013, Kaberle would also dress for the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens. It was actually a bit odd and uncomfortable to see him finish his last two seasons playing for the Habs, but you can’t fault Kaberle for wanting to play the game he clearly loves.

Through it all, it’s hard to dismiss Kaberle’s impact on the Leafs. He would finish his time in Toronto as the club’s second all-time scoring defenceman and he was a key component of the teams from the late 1990s and early 2000s – a time when the Leafs still made regular playoff appearances.

When we look back on Kaberle’s time in Toronto, this is what we should remember and appreciate. He played his best despite all of the distractions, and that should be good enough for us.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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