First off, I am your prototypical diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan that hopes every year will be different and we will win the Stanley Cup. I really thought Kaberle would be traded before midnight deadline on August 15th. I did not necessarily want Kaberle dealt, but Burke made certain deals and moves that suggested a changing of the guard. He first named Phaneuf the team captain (not Kaberle) and to a lesser degree brought in Lebda (making it 8 NHL defensemen competiting for 6 spots).
There has been tons of backlash and it seems to be the consensus amongst Leaf fans that not trading Kaberle was the worst thing ever. So here we go... What is the definition of a great defenseman in the NHL?
Are Mike Green, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle, Chris Pronger, Sergei Gonchar, and Nik Lidstrom the definitions of great defensemen in the NHL? What about Tobias Enstrom, Marc Streit, and TOMAS KABERLE
? These men listed were the top 10 scoring NHL defensemen this past season. It appears to me that there is a high correlation between total points and great defensemen, as the first 7 mentioned are bonified greats in today's NHL.
Let us do some statistical anlaysis. Kaberle was -16 this past season (the worst of the 10), but plus/minus is an overrated category in my estimation. A team-by-team comparison shows that it is not a strong indicator for a great defenseman. The Toronto Maples best offensive players last season were Phil Kessel and who??? The Leafs did not have Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin (GREEN), or Towes, Hossa, Kane, and Sharp (KEITH), or Kopitar and Smyth (DOUGHTY), or Thornton, Marleau, and Heatley (BOYLE), or Richards, Carter, Briere, and Gagne (PRONGER), or Datsyuk and Zetterberg (LIDSTROM). I could have played 3 minutes a game for any of these teams and wound up with a better plus/minus than Kaberle. I think it fair to say, none of these defensemen would breakeven on last year's Toronto Maple Leafs.
It is often said, "Kaberle does not hit anyone." He actually had 44 hits... and it is not a far cry from Keith (46), Boyle (51), Gonchar (65), and Lidstrom (56). That is 4 of our top 7 "great" defensemen that Kaberle is relatively comparable to.
Does Kaberle block shots? This is another important defensive statistic. Kaberle had 98 blocked shots (More than Toskala if anyone watched last year). He had more blocked shots than Doughty (76), Gonchar (92), and Lidstrom (82). He was better than 3 of our top 7 "great" defensemen in that category.
My last statistical category for defensemen is giveaways. Kaberle only had 63 giveaways all season. That was better than Green, Doughty, and Boyle. Again, he was better than 3 of our top 7 "great" defensemen in that category.
A lot is made of Kaberle's age (he is 32). Four of top 7 "great" defensemen are older than him (Boyle, Pronger, Gonchar, and Lidstrom). When did 32 years old become old?
Let's talk dollars... Who in the top 7 "great" defensemen make less money than Kaberle? Only Drew Doughty makes less money ($3.5M), but he will see a considerable raise when his contract is up at the end of this season.
I will be the first to say I would rather have a few of those other guys on the Toronto Maple Leafs than Tomas Kaberle. The Leafs of course do not have those guys, but they do have Tomas Kaberle. If you are a general manager in the NHL and you look up and down your roster for one of those top 7 defensemen and do not have one, who is the next best option? TOMAS KABERLE!!
Unless Burke was able to pry Bobby Ryan from Anaheim or Brad Richards from Dallas or a package of top prospects and high draft picks, the best deal he could make was no deal. Kaberle will have Dion Phaneuf for a full season and will be feathering pucks over to the former 3-time 17 goal scorer. I am having visions of McCabe. Kaberle's best years may still be ahead.
GO LEAFS GO!!!!!