Where to Go From Here
Alexander Karpovtsev is 37, probably still out of shape, undoubtedly still fond of a good time and skating for Novosibirsk Siber of the Russian league.
Karpovtsev was the player, you might remember, who the Leafs peddled to Chicago seven years ago to acquire Bryan McCabe, a trade that actually paid very good dividends.
But Karpovtsev as he is now is about the quality of asset the Leafs can expect to get in return if they try to move McCabe this very minute.
It's something Leaf fans should probably take into consideration as they consider whether to give McCabe the old raspberry - and loud - each and every time he skates for the club on home ice from this moment forward after his disastrous own goal in Buffalo Monday night.
Far be it for me to tell Leaf fans how to cheer or how to respond to their favourite hockey team. The mere fact they continue to support this franchise in sellout fashion despite years of mediocrity is enough to make it obvious nobody, but nobody, can reason with these folks or tell them what to do.
And that's probably the way it should be. Fans should be fans, its about passion, not logic, and its not necessarily supposed to make sense.
But it's at least worth pointing out that making McCabe the focal point for all that is wrong with this franchise and this team, and all that has been wrong from the day Jim Pappin was traded for Pierre Pilote, isn't going to benefit the team - and therefore the fans - very much.
Now is probably the least productive time to move McCabe. The best time was March, 2006, when he was finishing up a big offensive season with the club but had also, to anybody that was really watching, identified himself as a deeply flawed defenceman who was nonetheless headed for a rich payday as a free agent.
The Leafs weren't going to make the playoffs, although they kept trying to convince themselves that they were, and McCabe would have been an appealing asset to be moved at the March trade deadline.
Instead, as the Leafs almost always do, they dithered and chose not to make such a bold move, instead retaining McCabe and ultimately awarding him - and overpaying him - with a five-year, $29 million contract that is turning out, as expected, to be a major burden on the club's salary cap situation.
McCabe, now 32, was never going to be worth more than he was in March, 2006. And he's probably never going to be worth less than he is now because the team he plays for is losing and he's not performing up to his considerable ability.
Other clubs aren't in the business of helping the Leafs, nor are they likely to be interested in adding a $5.7 million cap hit for a player who may or may not help them, at least right now as opposed to much later in the season.
The optimum solution right now for the Leafs, McCabe and Leaf fans, then, is to stabilize the situation, not make it worse.
The Leafs, destined to possibly be in the battle for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth at best this season, need McCabe to once again become the type of player that other teams would consider an asset even at his inflated salary.
For that to happen, they need him to start playing better, and probably to regain his spot on the right point of the team's power play where he can start racking up some points to overshadow his chronic defensive positioning problem and decision-making weaknesses.
If that happens, and if the Leafs use their heads this time around, he might be able to be moved for cap relief and possibly an asset in return sometime before the March trade deadline. Then you move forward from there.
Drenching him in boos and catcalls likely won't make him play better - Andrew Raycroft and Nik Antropov fought through similar treatment, but McCabe just doesn't look like the type - and thus won't help the team now or later, and thus won't help the fans feel better about their favorite team.
It will only humiliate him and, by connection, GM John Ferguson. If that's the objective, then by all means go for it.