The Toronto Maple Leafs suck. And its time that people realize this. The Leafs suck because their players are worse than the majority of other team’s players. This means that players that would be third or fourth line plugs on other teams, might be first or second liners on the Leafs, and therefore receive more playing time. If Leafs management is smart, they can turn and trade these middling forwards for significantly more than they’re worth, then watch as their overvalued players disappoint on their new teams.
We’ve seen this before in Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky and Dominic Moore (to his credit, he’s producing for the Lightning on their third line this postseason). For a few years now, there had been chatter about potential Tomas Kaberle trades. We’ve heard rumours of him going everywhere from Boston to L.A., and these rumours finally became a reality when he was dealt just prior to the deadline to the Bruins for a first round pick, Joe Colborne and a conditional second rounder.
Kaberle was supposed to be different than Antropov and Poni because he is supposedly an elite puck-moving defenceman. Another offensive defensive who has taken a ton of criticism for playing subpar defense is the Capitals Mike Green. Probably the best point-scoring defenseman in the league, he was held off the Canadian Olympic roster because of his many defensive deficiencies. Having watched both players play, I can tell you that Kaberle isn’t so much better than Green defensively. Neither seem to know what they’re doing in the defensive zone, and always seem to be caught out of position at the worst of times. The fact that Green was left off Team Canada illustrates how important defense is. Green was putting up record offensive numbers for a defenseman, but Steve Yzerman chose to leave him off the team. That is quite the statement.
On the offensive side, Kaberle hasn’t scored more than 10 goals in a season since 2006/07. Sure, he’s a decent anchor for a powerplay, but his unwillingness to shoot makes him a lot less valuable than most people realize. In fact, I think you could even attribute Dion Phaneuf’s strong end to the season to Kaberle not being there to man the point with him on the man-advantage. Since a guy like Carl Gunnarsson is more of a threat to shoot, the wingers must pay attention to both d-men and not just Phaneuf. Not coincidentally, the Leafs play also dramatically improved once they were rid of Kaberle.
Why am I writing all this? Well, it seems to me that lately Kaberle has taken a lot of heat in the media for not living up to expectations in Boston. While that may be true, maybe Boston’s expectations of Kaberle were too high to begin with. At the end of the day, he is just a power play specialist who won’t shoot and a defenseman who can’t play defense.