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12 Burning Questions: Will Tomas Kaberle Be Able To Focus On The Game?

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In part eight of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the past year that has been for Tomas Kaberle, and whether he can put it all behind him and play at the top of his game.

Yes, I know.  Yet another article dissecting the recent events that have surrounded Tomas Kaberle.  I will pause briefly and let everyone get out that large groan now.

There, now that’s out of the way.

Easily the longest serving member of the Toronto Maple Leafs on this current incarnation of the team, Tomas Kaberle has more or less seen it all in Toronto.  Over the past eight years he has seen highs and lows, heroes and heartbreak, and has been entrenched as a constant on the Leafs blueline.

He has been here when things were good, or at least relatively good, think conference finals playoff runs and many classic series’ against the hated Senators.  He has been with the organization for 12 years.  He currently ranks second all time for points by a Leafs defenseman, and as many can attest, when you rank near the top in something for any franchise, it’s impressive.  It’s even more impressive when you consider how long and storied the history of this franchise is.

He is a low-maintenance player who skates with the best of them, manufactures plays that seemingly are not there for the manufacturing, and is one of the best passers in the league.

Off the ice he is quiet, respectful, and somewhat reserved, something that doesn’t exactly seem like the best qualities for someone who has to play in Toronto, where media and fans are both equally intense.

When you consider the type of person Kaberle is off the ice and away from the rink, it makes you wonder exactly the type of mental toll the last three years more or less has taken on him.  It has been an annual occurrence to hear his name routinely brought up through trade speculation, which obviously was not aided by Leafs GM Brian Burke’s public admission that they were trying to shop Kaberle, and were reportedly ready to deal him on more than one occasion.

And while one can very well argue that it goes along with the territory, what with being a professional athlete who makes good coin.  A few rumours are bound to come out.

A few rumours may be one thing, but when the management of the team openly admits to attempting to move you, one has to wonder just how the situation can continue to work.

Indeed, when the clock struck midnight on the night of Sunday, August 15th, and the no trade clause went back into effect for Kaberle, the Leafs and their fans began looking forward to the season, one in which Kaberle will be again suiting up for the Leafs, at least to start the year.

While many in Leafs Nation are divided as to whether or not the team missed their chance in dealing Kaberle-he is a free agent following this season and could technically leave for a new team, with Toronto getting nothing in return-there is no denying that the Leafs will be a better team on the ice with Kaberle in the lineup.

While there is a lot of money tied to defenseman on this team, it can be argued that none of them can make the type of plays Kaberle can make, who seems to skate with ease and dissect the opposition back check easily, en route to carrying the puck into the attacking zone, or making the quick pass to the forwards.

There is also no doubt that despite the rather quiet nature Kaberle carries himself, he is a leader in actions.

He has learned under the best (Sundin, Roberts) and has always been a player who has given his all for Toronto, though perhaps in a different way than other players around him.  He often plays at his best when the game is on the line as his penchant for overtime goals will tell you.  And lest we forget that it was Kaberle who was instrumental, collecting a goal and four assists in a game which the Leafs beat the Ducks last season.  That game ended the Leafs terrible slide to start the 2009-2010 campaign.

Kaberle himself has carried himself extremely well over the past three years while his name was dragged into the trade rumour mill.  He has persisted that, despite the Leafs trying actively to move him, he is happy with the Toronto Maple Leafs team and organization, and loves the city and would like to stay.

However, there continues to be, even past the deadline in which his no trade was reinstated, mounting evidence that may suggest a split between Kaberle and the Leafs organization is more or less inevitable.

For starters there is strong rumours that Kaberle and Leafs coach Ron Wilson do not get along.  These were of course fueled by Kaberle’s father, who did an interview in Czech Republic stating as such, among other things.  It has been a hot topic in and around Leafs Nation the past week.  The interview was in fact such a hot button topic, the Toronto Sun just had to “write” about it.

Last night during the World Hockey Summit in Toronto, Brian Burke’s media scrum was captured by the great folks at Puck Daddy.  Among the things Burke talked about was the Tomas Kaberle situation, saying that they had offers, just not offers they felt were good enough for Kaberle.

He also went on to say that Tomas Kaberle’s father “doesn’t play for the Leafs” and if there is friction between Kaberle and Ron Wilson, it hasn’t been brought to his attention.  He concluded his thoughts on the matter by saying that “the head coach isn’t going anywhere” a quote which will certainly make Thursday’s installment more like “12 burning questions: The one Burke already kinda made irrelevant.”

Obviously Tomas Kaberle, Brian Burke, and Ron Wilson are all, as they say, big boys.  They can all handle themselves, and handle the media in Toronto talking about them.  Still, one has to wonder if the situation between Kaberle and the Leafs is now broken?

The team who drafted him, the team who gave him a chance, the only team he has ever known, and they have been trying pretty hard for the better part of three years to move him.  One has to assume that would take a toll on a player, and certainly play a role in his decision when it came to renewing a contract.

Perhaps the bigger question is whether or not the Leafs and Kaberle will in fact ever get that far.

While Brian Burke spoke adamantly about the fact that if they couldn’t trade Tomas they would look to extend his contract, there is no indication that the process of such has began.  And while the words of Kaberle’s father have largely been shaken off by Leafs management, one has to wonder if he has struck a cord when it comes to his son and his chances, or lack thereof, of finishing the season with the Leafs.

We all know that Burke will not ask players to waive their no trade clauses, but we also know that if the agent for Kaberle approached Burke with a list of teams and was looking for Tomas to be moved, Burke would certainly oblige, as would most teams at the deadline looking for some powerplay help heading into the post season.

Playing the devils advocate, lets say that Kaberle does not submit the aforementioned list to Leafs management, and decides to play out the year here.  Exactly what type of year should we expect?  Will we see a slumping Kaberle work his way through the motions of his final year in Toronto, or will we see a hungry, motivated Kaberle play at the top of his game, as a way to increase his value, one way or another, be it the trade market or free agency.

If we know Tomas Kaberle like we think we do, there is no reason to believe that he wont be in fine form with the Leafs this season.  Kaberle has never been one to let off ice rumours drag down his on ice efforts, and as many fans of this site have pointed out, a full season of him laying in passes for Dion Phaneuf to one time at the oppositions netminder, and Kaberle could see his point totals rise from last season’s efforts.

There are a lot of variables and unanswered questions as far as Tomas Kaberle is concerned.  The only thing we know for sure is that, with this being the final year of his contract, there is no way this situation will be quiet anytime soon.

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