Guest Post: Why the Leafs should keep Tomas Kaberle
The Value of Loyalty
BY MOE GREEN
Let's re-sign Tomas Kaberle to a long-term deal. No, I didn't say trade the bum at the deadline for a second-rounder. You read correctly: Let's re-sign him. To a long-term deal.
To my way of thinking, loyalty should be worth something in the NHL. Quite a lot, actually. The Kaberle situation is unique. He is the longest-serving Leaf. He is a former all-star. He is a soft-spoken, thoughtful player who you can count on to play a clean and honorable game. He is, if nothing else, a class act. A rarity in a league chock full of brash, young, disrespectful players and outright louts and goons.
Kaberle is also a good puck-mover. With a very few exceptions, there's no one on the team who I'd rather see with the puck when the other team is bearing down on a forecheck. He is cool, sometimes frustratingly so. He sees the ice well and is a brilliant passer. He is one of the few Leafs who consistently puts it on the tape.
He has taught Luke Schenn a thing or two about composure. He sits 33rd in shots on goal for defensemen. That's more than Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Pronger, Drew Doughty and equal to Kevin Bieksa and Sergei Gonchar. Though he only has one goal this year, he sits 12th in the league in points among defenders.
And he has more assists than the next three Leaf defencemen (Beauchemin, Schenn and Phaneuf)... combined!
Trouble is, Kaberle is also second-last in the league in shooting percentage (only teammate Phaneuf is worse). For a guy who is a pinpoint passer, a guy who once won the accuracy competition at the all-star game, this chronic misfiring is a mystery.
He's also playing this season like a short-timer. He has only one minor penalty – quite a feat for a Top 4 defenceman in the NHL. It's almost as if Kaberle is afraid to get a boo-boo. And I'm not sure I blame him.
Does Kaberle like or respect Ron Wilson? If you believe the off-hand remarks Kaberle's father made over the summer, the answer seems to be "no." Ron Wilson has a certain style. None find it charming, though some could argue it's been effective through a long career. Wilson has at times called Kaberle fat, soft and even benched the long-serving veteran. And no one can deny that removing the "A" from his sweater was a classless act.
Whether he resigns or is fired, and close friendship or not, I don't think Wilson will be along for the ride past the end of his contract. He may not even be back next season. So If Kaberle is re-signed by Burke, you can virtually guarantee he will outlast the coach he probably doesn't like.
And rightfully so.
Finally, a lot of people will invoke the Sundin Argument and say they don't want Kaberle because he is not a "winner." What does this mean? Does it mean players such as Sundin and Kaberle "don't have what it takes" because they won't waive their no-trades and move to a contender at the deadline? Does it mean "winning" is more important than who you play for?
For the people making this argument, a guy who plays out his career with the team he loves, for the city he calls home, is in some way a "loser." Whereas guys like Ray Bourque or Marian Hossa – hired guns who change teams for a twilight shot at a championship – are "winners?"
I see it completely differently.
To me, those guys are nothing more than self-serving mercenaries. There is no honour in changing sides to win. I don't think history will look more favourably on the careers of Hossa or Bourque because they won a Cup. I'm trying to imagine Rocket Richard changing teams to join the Leafs to add to his arsenal of Cup rings. I know it was a different time. But I think he would rather have died than worn the Blue and White.
So re-sign Kaberle. Offer him a deal below market rate to stay. Where are we going to get as consistent a point producer and puck mover for less money? Sign him to a three-year deal, if he'll have it, for what he's making today. Not only will you solidify the defence for the Leafs' Cup run in 2012, but you'll have sent a message to the team that is far more valuable than money.
I think it's an excellent lesson to teach young players and the right kind of bait with which to entice future free agents. Just ask class organizations like the Detroit Red Wings. You'll have paid more than lip service to the notion that class and loyalty are worth something these days.
The pseudonymous Moe Green cheers for the Leafs while living deep in the heart of Texas. Now that's loyalty.
MAIN PHOTO: TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR