Now that Mats Sundin is no longer sporting the Maple Leaf sweater, Tomas Kaberle is the senior member of the club. He's been the subject of trade rumors for the better part of the past year, and was reportedly close to being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers at last year's trade deadline (the name Jeff Carter was involved). While he was brought up in rumors once again this season, new general manager Brian Burke seemed to like having Kaberle around, telling the Toronto Star back in January, "I like this guy. Bet on him staying."
Kaberle missed nearly 30 games this season with a broken hand, finishing with four goals and 27 assists in 57 games. Despite missing such a large portion of the season, he was still second on the team in scoring for defensemen, trailing only Pavel Kubina (now a member of the Atlanta Thrashers) by just nine points.
Draft Year: 1996
The No. 44 player on my list, Shea Weber, came out of one of the strongest draft classes we've ever seen. Kaberle, the No. 43 player, comes from one of the weakest, at least as far as the top is concerned. Check out this top-12 from 1996: Chris Phillips, Andrei Zyuzin, J.P. Dumont, Alexandre Volchkov, Ric Jackman, Boyd Devereaux, Erik Rasmussen, Jonathan Aitken, Ruslan Salei, Lance Ward, Dan Focht, and Josh Holden. Ugh. Despite the down year, there were some gems discovered in the later rounds, including Zdeno Chara, Pavel Kubina, and, of course, Kaberle. The Maple Leafs selected him in the eighth round, 204th overall. Only eight players taken that year have played more games in the NHL.
Why He's On My List
He's on the list, but he's been trending downward, and not as high as he would have been had I done this two or three years ago. Still an extremely valuable player as a puck-moving defenseman, his numbers have declined across the board in each of the past four seasons, and not just in terms of raw numbers. His points-per-game and points-per minute, as well as his overall ice-time, have dropped since his career-year in 2005-06.
That said, he's still a great skater, the best player in Toronto, a four-time All-Star, and one of the better two-way blue-liners in the NHL. Plus, as a random observation, he never takes a penalty, tallying just 206 penalty minutes in his 738 career games. By comparison, Daniel Carcillo led the NHL with 254 penalty minutes this season ... in 74 games.
Obligatory YouTube Video
Perhaps the finest Tomas Kaberle video out there. It's the Tomas Kaberle song.