Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Tomas Kaberle trade saga is a longer and more bloated tale than anything Stephenie Meyer could have concocted. This has been going on for three years and seems to get more and more disappointing with each passing year.
The potential Kaberle trade has been relentless discussed and dissected in every way imaginable. There was more excitement surrounding the possible end of this whole ordeal, rather than the actual excitement of a trade.
Even though everyone said they were sick of Kaberle, the Hockeybuzz servers still overloaded with the amount of traffic they received Sunday night, so people clearly cared.
However, there was no trade. I can’t say I’m pleased.
I consider Jeff Finger a capable defencemen (albeit grossly overpaid), so with Kaberle’s non-trade the Leafs have a group of eight defencemen able to play every night. This probably means that Jeff Finger gets waived to the minors and poor Brett Lebda sits in the press box.
Don’t you think that Burke convinced Lebda to sign with the Leafs by promising him an increased role on the team - perhaps an increase in power-play time? Assuredly, Lebda, like everyone else, believed that Tomas Kaberle would be traded before his contractually imposed trade deadline. It didn’t work out that way.
The reason Kaberle’s departure seemed so obvious is because he’s fifth on the Leafs’ depth chart and what team pays their fifth defenceman $4.25 million. Probably the same team that spends nearly $28 million on eight defencemen.
I will hear an argument that he is better than Francois Beauchemin, but there is absolutely no way that he is better than Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, or Luke Schenn. Just because he puts up points doesn’t make him a good defenceman. The primary job of a defenceman is to play defence. Kaberle isn’t Marc-Andre Bergeron, but I’m upset now so I’m not going to let fact get in the way of hyperbole.
So why would Brian Burke refuse to trade Tomas Kaberle even though the Leafs are stuffed full of defenceman and extremely thin at forward? He overvalued Kaberle and he’s too stubborn to relent from his unrealistic demands. Asking for a top-6 forward is a stretch and asking for a high draft pick as well is insane.
There is no harm in setting the bar high in trade negotiations, but knowing when you need to lower your demands is necessary in order to avoid the scenario that just played out.
In hindsight, it’s clear why Brian Burke would not relent from his demands if he didn’t receive an offer that would immediately help the Maple Leafs. At first I thought his statements proclaiming Kaberle is likely to stay a Leaf were just posturing in order to keep some minimal leverage in trade talks. In reality, Burke desperately needs the Leafs to make the playoffs this season. And if by some disaster the Leafs are in another lottery position, meaning the Bruins would have received two top-5 picks in exchange for Phil Kessel, Burke will surely be fired and have his legacy tarnished.
That’s why any “futures return” for Kaberle doesn’t help Burke and Leafs in the short-term and that’s all Burke cares about at this moment. The offers Burke received probably provided no immediate help for the forward corps because any deal involving even a potential 20 goal scorer should have been jumped at immediately (provided they were young).
Trading Kaberle was Burke's chance at mitigating the damage the Phil Kessel trade did to the Leafs' farm system. However, by Burke's logic, letting Kaberle go for prospects that aren't able to immediately help further endangers the outcome of the Kessel deal.
Of course, only Brian Burke and the upper management of the Maple Leafs know the type of offers for Kaberle, so it's a little unfair to criticize Burke. If the offers truly were horrible then keeping Kaberle is probably the best course of action. I just don't believe that there was no one that offered anything of value - whether that be short-term or long-term value.
So now the Leafs are stuck with their longest serving member (again). Does having Kaberle necessarily make the Leafs better (which is the logic Brian Burke is operating under)? That may seem like a silly question considering Kaberle is consistently in the top-10 in scoring by defencemen. However, before the Dion Phaneuf trade, Kaberle had 5 goals and 38 assists in 56 games (all while being -10). After the Leafs acquired Phaneuf and Giguere, Kaberle scored just 2 goals and 4 assists while being a -6 (despite the team’s much better goal differential). So Kaberle played well when the Leafs were bad and played poorly when the Leafs were good.
This isn’t totally fair, considering the Leafs power-play went south quickly after the new additions. Kaberle gets most of his points on the power-play and it could be just a matter of unfamiliarity and lack of practice that affected the power-play. Although, considering Phaneuf has a bomb from the point it seems pretty clear that the game plan should be feed him the puck and have someone stand in front of the net.
Or the lack of power-play proficiency could be attributable to Tomas Kaberle – if we are continuing the Kabby bashing (because I’m bitter).
Now, the best case scenario that I can possibly think of for the upcoming year is that Kaberle and Phaneuf form a 2010 version of McKaberle on the power-play, reminiscent to when Bryan McCabe blasted home shots from the point after being fed passes right in his wheelhouse. Kaberle is in a contract year and should be sufficiently motivated for a big year in order to cash in on a big UFA payday (from another team because there’s no way he wants to come back to Toronto after being dragged through the mud for three years).
If Kaberle is here to stay we may as well hope he has a huge year that makes this entire article look stupid. I'm hoping for that. I want desperately to be wrong about this.
The worst case scenario is that Kaberle is pissed at the Leafs for the way he has been treated for the past three years, particularly this summer, and shows up sullen and unmotivated. I hate to see how little an unmotivated Kaberle shoots and hits.
Either way Kaberle blocks any sort of trade during the season because either a) he loves Toronto and never wants to leave (the ol’ Mats Sundin trade blockin’ speech) or b) he decides he doesn’t owe Toronto any favours after being treated so shabbily this off-season.
Plus, unless the wildly overblown Kaberle trade market does a complete 180 during the season, Burke will have no motivation to even try to trade Kaberle while the Leafs try to contend for a playoff position. So can we please agree that no one should discuss any potential Kaberle trade during the year? It's too much to handle.
Barring any other trade (please do not even think of trading Luke Schenn), the Leafs go into the regular season with heightened reliance on a very young and inexperienced group of forwards. The Leafs are now banking on Mikhail Grabovski having a huge bounce back year; Nazem Kadri contributing immediately, rather than slowly acclimatizing to the league; Tyler Bozak avoiding a sophomore slump; Nikolai Kulemin playing like the $3 million player his agent sees him as; Kris Versteeg proving he’s an actual top-6 forward without the help of superstars; and Colby Armstrong adding more than just truculence. Otherwise, Phil Kessel will be largely alone.
Or the Leafs can just turn Kaberle into their new number one centre. Uh, people are stretching this Kaberle story pretty thin…