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Only Phaneuf can lead? Kaberle loses an “A”

It’s not always fair to parse every word a coach or NHL GM says in public, but in this day and age, hockey executives know that, when they speak, everyone is listening.

So it was enlightening earlier this week when Leaf GM Brian Burke seemed to suggest to the assembled media that, before Dion Phaneuf, the team did not have any players that were capable— or deserving— of wearing the captain’s “C”.

Now, I don’t want to misquote or misrepresent what Brian was saying.  It’s best to check out his comments for yourself, to see the exact language and the context in which he made the statement.

But what thought I saw and heard led me to ask myself the obvious question:  Does the Leaf brass really believe there wasn’t a single guy on the roster, before Phaneuf, who could handle the pressure and responsibility of being the new Leaf captain?  Not Komisarek, not Beauchemin, both established NHL veterans?

Now, Komisarek and Beauchemin were just named alternate captains for the coming season.  And they both have leadership skills, to be sure.  Both players were in their first season with the Leafs a year ago, and Komisarek, unfortunately, was injured early on.

In fact, Burke may well be right.  Phaneuf was perhaps the right—and only— choice. And Burke knows more, way more, than the rest of us do about what he wants and what this club needs to get where it intends to go. 

I was just concerned, as a fan, hearing (unless I misunderstood) the boss talk like there was, earlier, a huge leadership void in the dressing room.  I say that, in part, because good teams— really good teams— need a room full of “leaders”—guys who lead in a variety of ways and bring different but important traits and characteristics to the ice and to the dressing room.  It can’t be just be two or three guys.

Hopefully the addition of someone like Versteeg will add to the leadership ladder in the organization, because I hate to think that the team still has a huge void in this very critical area.


The fact that Tomas Kaberle was not given an “A” this season is noteworthy, despite what the organization says.  He has been an alternate captain for years and three guys who weren't even here two years ago are now "ahead" of him in the formal pecking order.  So it is a demotion, no question.

What does this mean for his future in Toronto?

Perhaps nothing.  But the team was, as I’ve suggested many times before in this space, quite prepared to move him on a number of occasions over the past two seasons.  Even though his much-discussed “no-trade” clause is back in place, I believe nothing has changed—they would indeed move him in a minute, if he was prepared to leave- and if they could get a top-six forward in return.

Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey blog

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