Wilson had some choice words for the media after last night’s brutal loss that made Phoenix, one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, look like an offensive juggernaut out there. Talking about why he benched his all-star defenseman for the entire 1st period, Ron had this to say about Tomas Kaberle:
â€œYeah, I sent [Kaberle] a message, and he sent me a message back by being minus-4″.
It’s safe to say that this might be one of the lower points in Tomas’ NHL career. Last trade deadline, he was nearly pawned off to Philadelphia in the infamous “Carter and a 1st rounder” swap, but instead invoked his NTC to stay. Boy, how good would the league’s leading goal scorer look as Toronto’s #1 centre right now?
This season, Kaberle’s continuing trend of sub par play is starting to become very worrisome. He’s Toronto’s most desirable trading chip heading into this year’s deadline, and it seems like he’s already packed his bags and has mentally checked out. He’s been god awful over the past few games, and instead of taking Wilson’s benching as a message to light a fire under his behind, he goes out and nonchalantly plays a -3 game compunded by some serious gaffes.
The statistical trend isn’t pretty:
The offensive defenseman has not recorded a point over his last 6 games played, and has been a -6 player over that span. It should be no surpise then that his ice-time has been consistently decreasing from 25+ minutes a night, to a couple games where he played 20-21 minutes, to under 20 minutes for the 1st time this season in San Jose, and finally topped off with a 14 minute game last night. This might even be a bit of carry-over from late last season when Tomas scored just 4 points and was a -3 over his last 10 games played.
Here’s an interesting fact: The last time Toronto played the Coyotes was last year around this time, on November 24th out West in Phoenix. The Leafs got pummeled 5-1 and Kaberle was a -4 that night.
Now here’s a scary fact: If you were to guess at the beginning of the season, who would have the worst +/- rating on the team, you probably wouldn’t have guessed Tomas Kaberle. That -10 is not looking pretty.
On the other hand, the one player who seems to have stepped up his game in that time is Jeff Finger. Over his last 8 games, Wilson has been giving some of Kaberle’s ice-time to Jeff, who has averaged nearly 24 minutes a night during that stretch. Finger ranks 2nd among Leaf defensemen in ice-time, 2nd in hits/game, 1st in blocked shots/game, 1st in takeaways/game, and 1st in shorthanded ice-time. Might not be much of a stretch to say that he’s been Toronto’s best defenseman this season.
This might be a subtle “changing of the guard” as Toronto’s top pairing from last season, Kubina and Kaberle, are slowly being eased out of the picture due to their declining play. Kaberle still leads the team in ice-time, but Finger is quickly catching up, and Kubina’s already down at #4 behing rookie Luke Schenn. Let’s hope Kaberle picks up his play soon, because at the current rate he’s going, he’s on pace to have his worst point total in in 5 years, and the worst +/- rating of his NHL career.
Always a pleasure,