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?