Look at this beautiful man. Look at the cool confidence he exudes, his poise and calm determination, his natural competitive intensity. He is the total package of skill and grace - casual, in control, ready to win. And this guy doesn't even play volleyball! He plays hockey. For us. The Toronto Maple Leafs. At least, for now he does, as long as nothing dramatic happens this summer.
Ah, but this post isn't just about the way he looks in a sexy, black, sleeveless t-shirt (though, it could be). Let's look at the way he plays... goalie.
How about we watch one of the league's best passers win the Shooting Accuracy contest at the NHL Skills Competition?
Awesome. And a little sad, too. This moment is the happiest I've seen Tomas in 3 years. The past 2 seasons Kaberle has been suffering from what I like to call "a startling non-commitment to execution", also known as "uninspired hockey". Still, after surviving the deconstruction of a terrible, dysfunctional team, plus a slow, painful year of rebuilding, Kaberle remains a Leaf (for now) and maintains his commitment to the uniform:
"I don't know how many times I have to tell people," Kaberle said at the time. "I want to be a Toronto Maple Leaf."
"My thing never changed. I signed here because I love to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That never changed. Let's leave it at that." Kaberle.
"My main focus is being a Leaf," said Kaberle. "I love being a Leaf. That's how it stands. I want to do my best here."
You wanna know the stats? Let's do it: 10 seasons, all with the Maple Leafs. The longest serving Maple Leaf by far right now with 738 games (12th all time, one behind Bob Baun, 39 behind Domi). 433 points, good for 16th all-time, one ahead of Syl Apps and likely to pass Wendel Clark(441), Doug Gilmour(452), Tim Horton(458), and Lanny McDonald(459) this season to move up to 12th. When he reaches 459 and ties Lanny, he'll move one ahead of Horton and become the Leafs' 2nd highest scoring defenceman ever, behind only the legendary Salming. 73 goals, 28 on the powerplay, 14 game winning goals, 360 assists (6th all-time, 2nd for defenceman), and an impressive plus 43. Also, the 2nd last Leaf player to score an overtime goal in the playoffs:
That was from Game 3, 2003, against the Flyers. Travis Green would actually score the Leafs' last overtime playoff goal that same series in Game Six but that's the kind of thing someone like me could easily overlook.
PPP mentioned this excellent quote once in a Game Thread and I actually just found it in a great little piece by Paul Hunter from January 2007:
Everything proceeded according to script until the new coach hit upon the subject of the power-play breakout. "They all looked at me like I had three heads... We give it to him," the players said, almost in unison, motioning toward defenceman Tomas Kaberle. "They were serious," continued Maurice. "It's the Kaberle breakout. Give it to Tomas, let him bring the puck up-ice and we'll set it up from there."
That's right. Nobody takes the puck from blue line to blue line like Tomas Kaberle. Nobody. And of course, the man makes a cross-ice pass like you wouldn't believe.
Interestingly, from the same article is another good quote from that terrible coach:
"I also think that most of the defencemen that get the recognition have... played on great defensive teams. I don't think Toronto has ever had that handle of being a shutdown defensive team."
Hmmm... I wonder what kind of team Burke wants us to be this year? A shutdown defensive team, maybe? Is this the year Kaberle finally gets the recognition he deserves? The point is, I think, that maybe with the right elements in place (Komisarek, Beauchemin, Exelby, Orr) protecting the goal and their teammates, Kaberle should be free to do what he does best, with a renewed commitment to execution.
"Do something with the puck; whenever I get the chance I try to do it. It's my comfort level. That's the way I always play," Kaberle said. "That's probably my game, if someone would talk about it."
Well, I don't mind talking about it, but my wife is bored to tears. Not that she thinks Burke should trade Kabby, but she fails to appreciate that one of the most talented Leafs of our generation is also one of the most charming and modest hockey players around as well. She also doesn't care about hockey at all.
"I'm happiest when I make a nice pass for a goal".
Says it all right there.