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Kaberle earned respect in Toronto; now he has earned a Stanley Cup

I well realize Tomas Kaberle was not everyone's cup of tea in Toronto.  He wasn't always mine, either.  I spent too much time agonizing, as a fan, over his defensive deficiencies in his early years with the team, particularly come playoff time.

Sometimes it was quite painful.

But over his 12-13 years in blue and white, I came to slowly develop a kind of personal "like" for the guy, and a respect for the way he carried himself.  No, he wasn't a phyical presence, or particularly interesting to listen to, but he brought a lot of skill to the table many nights.  In his hey-day he could usually skate away on a dime from trouble, make that great outlet pass and move the puck (though rarely shoot, eh?) well on the often maligned Maple Leaf power play.

As the latest new regime (Wilson, then Burke) came to town, we all realized Kabby's days were numbered.  They didn't like the way he played.  They obviously felt they couldn't win with him.

And maybe they were right, in a sense.  But to me, they bungled his never-ending departure scenario with far too much public comment, though they would claim they were supportive of the player and did him a favor by moving him to the Bruins.  (I don't buy any of that. They were trying to extract every thing they possibly could by moving him as an "asset", which is business, of course...)

Kaberle always kept his head down.  He never put down the organization, teammates ("I need to play on a winner..."), media or fans.  He was class and he maintained that approach to the end- and beyond. (We all remember, though, that his Dad was none too pleased last summer...)

In Boston he was never the best Kabby we sometimes saw here.  He was often unsure, tentative, looking more like an unsteady rookie you can't depend on than a composed, experienced eveteran on the blueline.

Yet he always stayed in the line-up, and played almost 20 minutes in the all-important Game 6 win in Boston, though far less in Game 7 in Vancouver.

Regardless, it was nice to see a guy who stayed on the high road during- and after- his Toronto time achieve something special.

If you're interested in re-living some of my Kabby posts from the past couple of years, here is a sampling:

-a story on Kaberle and un-named sources

-when I was pondering what the Leafs needed to do with Tomas

-when the Leafs were, in my view, handling things poorly

-when I suggested Kabby needed either real love or a trade

-when the damage had already been done

-a column from February of this year

-on why I was going to miss Kabby (after the trade was finally made)

-on his struggles in the playoffs with the Bruins

Yes, Kaberle has been a popular topic for me.  But he remains an interesting, if often frustrating, subject.  Now, though, he will have a Stanley Cup ring to ease any bad memories he may have..

Are you happy for Kabby, or among those Leaf fans who don't much care now that he's gone?


  1. Kaberle was always loyal to the Leaf organization, despite some of the poor treatment, and he did the Leafs and their fans a favor that Sundin refused to do, waiving his no-trade clause. He helped the Leafs rebuild and got his just reward.

  2. Would love to see him back. In one of the games, an opposing player went into the corner for the puck. Kabby slowed down and did not make the hit, although he did end up with the puck. When they showed the replay, I saw him look over his right shoulder, then left. while slowing, and then went into the corner, took the puck away and made a tape to tape outlet pass. Lucky I watched the replay. It showed he was thinking, not looking for a hit. That was his game, a thinking game. The Bruins and their fans thought he was going to come in and take over, and when he did not, his minutes were decreased. In the playoffs, he was tied for 11th overall for +/- and 33rd overall for points. For Boston players only, he was tied 10th for both points and +/-, and second last in time on ice for their defensive core. More time for him and he could have been near the top.