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Kris Draper: What a fine career (and I never got my wish to see him play for the Leafs...)

One guy that is not a Maple Leaf that I’ve posted about on more than one occasion here is Kris Draper.  Why?  Because for me, as a hockey fan, he embodies a lot of the qualities I love to see in a player.

He had speed, but as importantly he was clean, tenacious and smart, very smart, on the ice.  I just appreciated the way he played, notably with his longtime Red Wing line mates, McCarthy and Maltby.  He just seemed to me to be the kind of ultimate team guy that every good club needs if they are going to get to that elusive “next level”—which means they are a legitimate contender.

I shouldn’t say Draper was the straw that stirred that drink on that line, because they all brought a lot to the table.  They helped the Wings win those four Cups and almost a fifth.  But he was, to me, a special player.  And while I’m sorry he is retiring (I was actually hoping that he might play a final season in his first NHL city, Winnipeg), he is going out when he can still play.

We’re all aware of the (true) story that he was traded (sold, actually) by the old Winnipeg Jets to Detroit for one dollar.  It would be impossible to argue that that was anything but a brilliant investment by the Red Wings.

I’ve posted here in the past that I wish he had been a Leaf at some point in his career.  I still believe he is exactly the kind of player (in his prime) that the Maple Leafs will need in order to get to the level they have to be at to be in a position to win a Cup.  In fact, they need a few guys who are in their bottom-six mix to play a lot more like Draper.

I don’t know whether he has a future in management with the Wings.  Not every ex-Wing can land a job there, but my guess is if he wants to stay in hockey, he won’t go long without a job.  He’s part of a great hockey family and could certainly be just about anything he would like to be in the hockey world—scout, coach or somewhere in upper management.

In any event, he was a class guy who did a lot for the game.  Red Wing fans must be hoping the new generation of players they are integrating into more prominent roles in the line-up can become the kind of player Draper was for them.

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