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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fond Farewell to a Friend

tomas kaberle leafs trade
It didn’t really hit me that Tomas Kaberle was actually gone until Saturday night when it was evident the Leafs’ blueline was missing a certain slick, steady presence.

It was weird watching a Leafs power-play that didn’t employ Kaberle as the quarterback, feeding seemless passes to anxiously awaiting teammates. It’s crazy to think that Brett Ledba, the man Leafs Nation has relentlessly bashed all year, is now the commander of the PP. Gulp.

But I’m not complaining. This was a trade that was essential for the Leafs moving forward. Kaberle was Burke’s one true trade chip that many other teams coveted and he wouldn't be back with the club next season. If the Leafs went through another Mats Sundin situation it would make this re-build/re-tool even more arduous than it already is. Plus, it was about time.

It seems like the Leafs tried to trade Kaberle since the very moment he re-signed with the club in 2006 (okay, not exactly, but it felt that way), yet they could never manage to actually pull off the deal. Sifting through endless Kaberle rumours every year was wearing down on everybody – including Tomas. Eventually, even the consummate Leaf was ready to move on despite an unhealthy desire to stay amidst the misery.

Finally, Burke was able to not only trade Kaberle, but maximize his value as well, getting the Leafs a nice return not many expected. This is even more impressive considering the Leafs were really only dealing with one team (technically).

This isn’t to say the Bruins were totally fleeced in this trade. Their team has needed Kaberle for a long time and his acquisition firmly places them among the elite in the Eastern Conference and the NHL. Plus, trading their own first-round pick wasn’t damaging considering scouts regard this as a weak draft class (look at the amount of first-round picks being traded) and they already own the Leafs’ first-round pick which will be a much higher selection. And even though they traded Joe Colborne, their second highest prospect next to Tyler Seguin, they are already flushed with talent at centre and have one of the deeper prospect systems in the league.

Over the past two weeks Burke has solidified the Leafs’ rebuilding effort by adding two good prospects formerly taken in the first round in 2008, while adding two first-round picks, a conditional second-round pick, and a third-round selection. Of course the first-round picks will be near the end of the first-round, but it’s a start for a franchise with a history of having no first-round picks. These also give Burke the flexibility to make other deals if he so chooses. And this is the Leafs we're talking about here, we shouldn't get comfortable with those draft picks.

But the Leafs and Bruins completed the trade on Friday and there has been ample time to thoroughly analyze it. What I really wanted to do is to thank Tomas Kaberle for his years of service to the Toronto Maple Leafs and… ummm… apologize for being a part of the angry mob that tried to run him out of town two years running.

Dear Tomas,

How is Boston treating you? I went there once, but was surrounded by Red Sox fans, so my stay could have been better. I’m sure you feel the same way. You love Toronto. Of course you feel the same way.

Thank you, Tomas. Thank you for taking the mantle as my favourite player during the lean years. Thanks for rising above the mediocrity (read: shittiness) and providing me with an example that there was an actual NHLer in Toronto. Thanks for the passes. Oh, those glorious passes. The ones where you pretended to shoot (like you always did) and slapped the puck right on someone’s stick. Tap ins. Does Darcy Tucker still miss you? Is he still sending you part of his salary? And thank you for the times you actually shot. We hollered at you to shoot until we were hoarse, but it was never enough for us. We always wanted you to shoot. Yet you knew better.

Remember that time Cam Janssen gave you that cheap shot? We were all scared. Remember how excited we were when Wade Belak exacted revenge on the thug? We were all excited because we loved you. Wade was excited because he was momentarily useful.

Thank you for serving in 878 regular season games and 77 playoff games, too. Those feel like a past life, but you’ll get to experience them again soon. I’m excited for you. If I didn’t hate the Bruins I might actually cheer for you. Who knows, maybe I will. I think Burke negotiated for the conditional pick to vest if the Bruins made the Stanley Cup so we could cheer for you. I like that.

Thank you for serving this organization with class and honour, even when we said disparaging things about you. I apologize for claiming you were the team’s fifth defenceman (BEHIND KOMISAREK!) before the season began. Sorry, I was angry and clearly stupid. I also apologize for saying you were like a stale fart that wouldn’t leave the room. Sorry. You have to admit you did hang around an awfully long time though.

Thanks for playing with Luke Schenn. Thanks for teaching him that great spin move you always use to evade the forecheck. Luke’s a big boy, but it’s nice to know he won’t have to get drilled into the corners every time he goes back to retrieve the puck.

What else can I say about a player whose statistics rank him among the all-time Leaf greats? Fifth all-time in assists. Second all-time in points by a defenceman behind only Borje Salming. 11th all-time in points. Thanks.

Thanks for the memories. You were a great player, but it was time for us to both move on. I can’t wait until March 19th, so we can give you the standing ovation you deserve.

Sincerely,

Matt Horner

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

*Borje.

Great post, gonna miss Kabby.

Matt Horner said...

Fixed. Thanks!

Theodore said...

Love that Czech bastard. In the end, the Leafs got a very fair haul for him, so I take back all of my Kabby bashing. It was in the heat of the moment, I'm sorry.

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