More On Tomas Kaberle

As hard as it is to believe, I actually think both Damien and Howie both got it right in their assessments on last nights game and the effect on Tomas Kaberle. Damien’s take was much shorter, but I think he hit the nail right on the head. This certainly looks like the beginning of the end of Tomas’s career as a Maple Leaf. I think lots of people smarter then me are going to debate the merits of what Ron Wilson did last night. Wilson’s actions haven’t been seen around a Maple Leaf team in at least 20 years if not longer. I am not sure if thoroughly humiliating one of your players is the right way to go about things. I guess we will see how things turn out. Each coach has their own motivational techniques, some work, some don’t. I will say this. No one should be surprised at how poorly Kaberle played the rest of the game. We all have been in situations when we are under such scrutiny, that no matter how hard we try things go awry. You can bet he was either so pissed (which given his demeanor is hard to believe) or trying so hard (more likely in my opinion) that he was bound to mess up.

“Well, at least you can’t say Ron Wilson is picking easy targets. No, the Maple Leaf coach is going after the big boys. But with Kaberle, it comes with an underlying message. Don’t think you’re just going to ride out another lousy season and refuse to be traded. You may soon be begging to be traded.” Lots of people suggest that Maurice and Fletcher take a similar tactic with the Muskoka bunch last year; they didn’t and none were convinced to waive. With the exception of Kaberle and Kubina, none remain. What is interesting to me is that Kubina is a guy who allegedly Wilson really wanted to keep and in my humble opinion has been the one player who’s performance has retreated the most this year.

“Truth is, he’s been dissatisfied with the work of Kaberle and Kubina for weeks, the two members of the Leaf defence corps with no-trade clauses in their contracts. New GM Brian Burke is already on record as saying such clauses are “coach-killers,” and quite clearly its in the plans of the Leafs to have both players willing to waive those clauses sometime before March in order to facilitate trades elsewhere that will bring draft picks and/or players to the club. But the gauntlet has been laid down. And Kaberle, it’s clear, is in his final weeks as a Maple Leaf.”

I think that is a fair assessment. One wonders why effect this type of thing has on the trade value of a player. I say that is bunk. GM’s and Coaches believe they are supreme problem solvers and that where they if given the chance they will be able to get a player in a “bad situation” to reclaim either their ability to perform at an amazing level or to reach what was once unbelievable potential. There are teams out there who see Kaberle for what he is (a good puck moving defencemen) who is inexpensive in today’s game. They will be able to convince themselves that the lack of a supporting cast, the pressures of the media and Leaf nation and of course the need for a change in atmosphere will at the very least restore Kaberle to his prime if not vault him to stardom.

Meanwhile, Howie has apparently recovered from his night of glitz and glamor at casa de Fletcher and is ready to talk hockey again:

“I have covered the Maple Leafs – home and away — since 1994, and I can guarantee the club has never once practised at 8 a.m. Not under Pat Burns. Not under Nick Beverley. Not under Mike Murphy. Not under Pat Quinn. And, not under Paul Maurice. The early start time is partly the result of a 10:30 a.m. charter-flight back to Toronto, but the workout was not on the docket until after last night’s stinker against the Coyotes. And it may, in fact, prove a detriment to the club in the short term, as the Leafs — for the third time since Nov. 16th — must fly across three time zones and play a hockey game the following night… in this case, a home encounter against Washington on Saturday. But, Wilson isn’t concerned about short-term issues. Or about the dire predictions for his club this season. His mandate is to ensure that the players — regardless of the outcome on a given night — understand that nothing short of an honest effort will be tolerated. If not, there will be hell to pay… as the boys will discover early this morning here in the desert.”

And if they did skate at 8am, just how many reporters would be there??? In all seriousness he is right. Wilson could care less about the wins and losses right now. To him it is all about building the foundation and removing this country club like mentality that has engulfed this franchise for years.

“Kaberle had never been openly disciplined in his decade on the Leaf blueline, and he was clearly taken by surprise when assistant coach Rob Zettler continued to call every defenseman’s name except his in the opening period last night. Zettler changes the Leaf defense pairings, and he repeatedly arranged combinations involving his other five blueliners — Jeff Finger, Pavel Kubina, Anton Stralman, Luke Schenn and Ian White. It wasn’t until the second shift of the middle frame that Kaberle finally got onto the ice. Unfortunately for Wilson, the message he sent on this night apparently did not sink in. “Yeah, I sent [Kaberle] a message, and he sent me a message back by being minus-4,” the coach scoffed after the game [Kaberle was actually a minus-3]. Indeed, the blueliner seemed flustered by the first-period snub. His head was on a swivel in the final frame, as Phoenix scored all three of its decisive goals with him on the ice. But, making an example of Kaberle was an explicit reminder that there are no exemptions on this club. Kaberle didn’t perform to standard against San Jose, and Wilson made sure he was aware of it last night.”

Now, I didn’t see all of the game, so can someone who did tell me how Berger can say that Kaberle was “clearly taken by surprise”. The implication is that he could see this surprise on his face. The one thing I think is good (regardless of the method) is that Wilson doesn’t appear to be playing favorites…yet. Brian Burke has said that his young players have to feel comfortable to play in a system in which they are free from fear of making mistakes, so that excuses Schenn for a little bit. One has to wonder the effect on the younger guys when they see a veteran embarrassed for poor performance. The pressure not to screw up must be pretty intense so as not to let your teammates down and to not be embarrassed yourself.

“If I were Burke, goalie Vesa Toskala would be among the players excised from the roster. Toskala has one year after this remaining on his current deal and Burke will likely decide by next summer whether or not to extend the Finnish netminder. But, after watching him closely this season, I’m convinced the Maple Leafs will never win anything of consequence with Toskala as their No.-1 goalie. Though he has some exceptional skills [primarily a lightning-quick glove] and the ability to get hot over a limited stretch of games, Toskala doesn’t bring the complete package. He’s been just a step above mediocre during the first third of this season, and is providing no indication that he’ll be — as widely expected — the most valuable performer on the hockey club.”

I don’t think anyone has said that Vesa is the answer to Stanley Cup drought. Again he isn’t making a ton of dough and I think Cliff rightly figured they needed a goalie who could eat a lot of minutes and not thoroughly embarrass the team. So while Toskala may not be the eventual cup winner, he plays a role that is important enough right now. Does that mean that they shouldn’t try to deal him? No, I have said it before (see Howie, we all can say that) I am not sure there are any real untouchables right now. Yes, I know what about Schenn? All I will say is that if Wayne Gretzky can be dealt, under the right circumstances so can Luke Schenn.

you can read Howie here….

Damien be read here

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