Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Tomas Kaberle: From Gun Shy to Trigger Happy?

Toronto Maple Leafs fans are notoriously Anti-European. Call it the Don Cherry Disease, or just a general "We want to be like Americans" attitude of the city, but European players have to fight a lot harder to earn the respect of Leafs Nation.

Doug Gilmour? Wendel Clark? Tie Domi? These good old Canadian boys are revered as demi-gods. Borje Salming, Nik Antropov, Alexander Mogilny, Robert Reichel, Mats Sundin, Dmitri Mironov, and Tomas Kaberle? They are just soft 'Europeen' pussies. (Although Sundin seems to have finally earned some respect, it took him an awful long time to do so).

The one player who has had to put up with far too much crap than he deserves is Tomas Kaberle. A great 2-way defenseman, he can never seen to do any good in the eyes of many Leafs fans.

One of the main criticisms of Kaberle's play is that he just doesn't SHOOT(!) enough for the Leafers. Kaberle, as he has admitted many times, always looks to pass first and shoot second. As a European trained defenseman, he was brought up to QB the Power Play with passing skills and setups, while letting the forwards take the shots with more high-percentage plays. Putting the puck back to the blue-line for a shot on goal is not as desirable of an option for European coaches as North American coaches.

With Kaberle already at 6 goals this season (including a recent hat-trick), I've heard a few Leafers comment something along the lines of "It's about frickin' time!"

It's not that Kaberle can't shoot. Tomas has got a blast that would make Peter North jealous. So, is the criticism valid?
Looking at the numbers, I can see their point. Before the lockout, Tomas reached the century mark in shots only once, and his high was 1.45 shots per game. For an offensively talented defenseman, that tally is in Craig Janney territory of gun shyness.

After the lockout, and an MVP season in the Czech Extraliga, Tomas has been shooting the puck more and getting good results. Sure, the shot% last year stunk, but he racked up a lot more assists on the Power Play. When not setting up a Bryan McCabe blast, Kaberle's shots were creating more opportunities.

It's nice to see Tomas showing more confidence in his shooting. Being less predictable on the Power Play will only make him even deadlier as the lanes open up for him as defenders second guess themselves. It would be in his best interest to keep his shots-per-game at a level of 2 per game.

"Toronto Maple Leafs fans are notoriously Anti-European."

What is this, 1985?

When was the last time you were in Toronto?
Seriously, Jes -- I second what anonymouse said.

Of your list of guys Leaf fans hate (Borje Salming, Nik Antropov, Alexander Mogilny, Robert Reichel, Mats Sundin, Dmitri Mironov, and Tomas Kaberle) Salming, Mogilny and Sundin were and are loved during their tenure here. Antropov and Reichel did and do get their fair share of abuse.

But that has more to do with their suckiness than their birthplace. Ditto for Aki Berg and Jonas Hoglund, though they didn't make your list.

If you're looking for a list of wheat-fed Canadian boys that Toronto fans have run out of town, it's a lengthy (if ignominious) one: Cory Cross, Mike Craig, Wade Belak, Todd Gill, Kent Manderville, Todd Warriner, Drake Berehowsky and Luke Richardson (twice!), and, of course, Larry Murphy, to name a few of the more recent ones that spring to mind.

Leaf fans aren't half as blind as people always accuse us of being, you know.
Excellent observation about Tomas last year turning the corner when it comes to shooting. When McCabe was hurt in January and Tomas could no longer dish the puck on the PP, he started looking for his shot and hit career high numbers for any single month of play. He hasn't looked back since.

The slow start to this season had alot to do with the groin injury that kept him out of pre-season action.

Thanks for giving the guy kudos. I think the situation with Kaberle is more akin to half of LeafNation heralding the guy (the other half thinks McCabe is the second coming), and other fans thinking Leafs' fans like him because he gets so much exposure. Which is total crap. Kaberle is world-class.
I second what Pete said. We Leaf fans ran those Canadian guys out of town as well, and for good reason. I think that in general we like anyone who puts out and just does their job.
Our impatience for success intensifies our impatience for assholes like Reichel, Hoglund, Murphy, you know, dudes that we knew sucked all along, and had too long of tenures with the Leafs.
Gad, I still hate Reichel and Hoglund especially.
Nice piece on Kaberle, tho! He has always been one of my faves.
Don't forget, McCabe and Kaberle are given the most icetime out of anyone in the NHL, generally. That helps offensive output as well.
Quite a few people still talk about how the Leafs let Markov go, and I know many a fan who long for Robert Svehla [who I thought was very underappreciated when he was here] and Dmitri Yushkevich, injured or not. Hell, people here are still wondering why we let Mogilny go. And as for your list, Reichel and Antropov *are* "Europeen" pussies. So there's that, too.
"It's not that Kaberle can't shoot. Tomas has got a blast that would make Peter North jealous."

I don't know which is worse, the fact that you went there, or the fact that I immediately got the joke.

Either way, you owe me a keyboard.
I disagree on your whole premise that Kaberle doesn't get the credit he deserves. Of all the Leafs defensemen over the past several years he probably gets the least criticism. The main criticism that Kaberle gets is that he is soft, which he is. Playing a physical game isn't his style. But there are some in the media and lots of fans who think he is the Leafs best defensemen and that a lot of McCabe's success is significantly a result of Kaberle. Being a Leaf means you will get criticized by someone but generally I don't think he has been unfairly criticized by the media or the fans.
OK, is time now for BIG BANG!

1. I will acknowledge that certain Canadians, such as No Skill Todd Gill, have also been run out of town by the lemmings. I still hold that the Leafs fans, in general, have an anti-Euro bias that is stronger than other Canadian towns.

2. NJDevils fan, I'm like the Dennis Miller of hockey bloggers. About 1 in 1,000,000 get some of my somewhat-obscure references.

3. McCabe gets WAY too much love, especially from the 'dumb' fans. At least the smart fans acknowledge Kaberle, although I have talked to some who still look at him as a pillow.

4. Why the hate for Reichel and Hoglund? I mean, I know Hoglund loafed a bit, but the Leafs got more of his talent level than anyone else. Hoglund was just slow and not all that great, yet he was useful while with the Leafs. Reichel didn't display nearly as much of his mercenary behaviour with the Leafs and did a solid job defensively.

5. Antropov - D00d has some talent and was just ruined by the Leafs. I don't know why they keep him around, because he'll never blossom there. I figure Antropov could do some damage if he got a fresh start in life.
Reichel did turn into a defensive specialist, I'll give you that.
But given his recent history, we didn't want him to be a D man. We wanted 40 goals, which he failed to deliver.
Hoglund had his moments, and you are crediting his regular season performance with TO. He only had 11 points in 37 playoff games with them. He was weak. It was there that I hated him the most.
Oh, and Reichel's slapshot penalty shot on Cechmanek in the playoffs??!!!
Lots of pr0n star references around here lately. Max Hardcore and Peter North? Is there something we don't know about, Jes?
Lots of pr0n star references around here lately. Max Hardcore and Peter North? Is there something we don't know about, Jes?

Look! Behind you! It's Mark Tinordi!
*runs away*
I have to strongly disagree with this supposed Toronto anti-Euro bias thing. Torontonians are harder on all players, quite frankly. Playing in Toronto is like playing in a fishbowl, and if you mess up, Torontonians are only to happy to flush you down the toilet.

I remember the hatred for Larry Murphy...Don Beaupre got his fair share by the time he hit Toronto. Antropov gets hated on because yeah, he hasn't lived up to his potential...but if you talk to any "real" Leafs fans, they'll likely be straight up with you and admit that it's the Leafs that have thrown his career into a blender on puree. Sundin? He's a captain in a psychotic hockey market. A large percentage of fans aren't going to be happy until he actually physically puts the entire team on his back and singlehandedly steals the Stanley Cup. He's also another guy who got hosed by deal 'ol Pat Quinn, lover of rolling four lines and giving Sundin (relatively) no ice time.

Anyways, I think Torontonians are far more objective than just "OMG, I hate Europeans! Don Cherry 4eva!"
I agree that T. Kaberle doesn't shoot enough.
A. Hemsky
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