First off, respect and congratulations to Mr. Mirtle and PPP for the inaugural Mirtle Mailbag No. 1. I think it's a really awesome feature and I'm looking forward to many more.
The first question was from kidkawartha, something about Bobby Orr being in town and visions of huge, multi-player deals, and what would James do/like to see? To my dismay this was the response:
I think they should move Kaberle, but it doesn't have to necessarily be by the deadline. Maybe he fetches more in the off-season when there are more teams in the mix?
The Leafs appear to pretty much have their top five on the blueline figured out at this point (Phaneuf, Beauchemin, Schenn, Komisarek, Gunnarsson) and with Kaberle's minutes down into the 17, 18 minute range lately, I don't see him as an integral piece going forward. Yes, he's produced points, but I can't help but look at his QCMP and GA/60 at even strength and think it's time to move his salary for some help up front.
Well, look out, here comes my rebuttal. It's got a lot of questions in it, not because I'm trying to be arrogant and sarcastic, but because these are actual questions that run through my head that I think I know the answer to but then again maybe I don't.
"The Leafs appear to pretty much have their top five on the blueline figured out at this point"
Why can’t it be that they have their top-six D figured out? Kaberle, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, and Schenn is an awesome six-pack on the blueline. Why would you be in a rush to break that up? Unfortunately, Komi is gone for the season so the only way we’ll see these six suit up together is to not trade Kaberle in the off-season. Gunnarsson replaces White nicely, but he won’t replace Kaberle’s unique skill set. If you trade Kaberle, who’s your set up man on the point? Who carries the puck through the neutral zone against the trap? Who’s your sixth defenceman? Suddenly the puzzle pieces don’t fit together so well. If we’re building from the blueline out, with the acquisition of Phaneuf I feel like Stage One is complete, but only if we keep Kaberle, otherwise there’s still a huge hole.
"with Kaberle’s minutes down into the 17, 18 minute range lately"
Kaberle’s Time On Ice last 8 games: 22:33, 21:44, 21:31, 19:18, 20:35, 15:20, 17:48, 20:53. I only see two games below 19 minutes. Still, the arrival of Phaneuf could be seen as an opportunity to lean on Kaberle a little less and give him a bit of a break since he’s been overworked for most of this season. I’m sure it wasn’t part of the plan to have Komisarek play less then half the season or for Jeff Finger to suck balls. Kaberle has still averaged 22:42 ice time this season, 2nd on the team only to Beauchemin (but not including White or Phaneuf). He deserves a rest and deserves to have some of the responsibility off his shoulders for a few games. Also, I think the Leafs are still figuring out what they’ve got in Gunnarsson. Obviously he’s good but he’s only played 21 NHL games. How much pressure can he handle? How many different situations can he play in? I suspect they’ll push Gunnarsson as much as they can from now until the end of the season to try to get a read on what they really have there. With the Leafs out of the playoff picture, it makes sense to give developing players more time on the ice.
"he’s produced points, but I can’t help but look at his QCMP and GA/60 at even strength"
Is it really so horrible? It honestly doesn’t look that bad (2.85) to me. It’s better then XLB (3.06) and much better then Finger (3.98) and within range of Schenn (2.67) and Beauchemin (2.62). That doesn’t scream DEFENSIVE LIABILITY GET RID OF THIS GUY! to me. Keep in mind that all of the GA numbers are skewed by the fact that they had a goaltender who lets in random shots regardless of quality. His +/-ON60 is 8th best on the team (forwards and defence) and that includes both newcomers Phaneuf and Sjostrom. The only defenceman with a better +/-ON60 rating is Schenn, who also happens to have a lower QCMP rating. So stats-schmatz. Kaberle is awesome at what he does, not at WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO. He’s having his best offensive season in years – and doing it without Antropov, Kubina, McCabe, Tucker, or Sundin – but we’re going to trade him for not being quite good enough defensively. Too much.
"it’s time to move his salary for some help up front"
Seems like Kaberle’s contract is among the best values in the league. The difference between Kaberle (4.25) and Finger’s (3.5) cap-hit for next season is just 750,000. Think about that… If, as Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran claims, Kaberle believes he’s "part of the solution" and wants to stay, isn’t that an indication that Kaberle’s next contract will also be better then market value if he stays in Toronto? Isn’t that good asset management to have players outperforming their contracts? With the NHL’s salary cap, every dollar saved on one contract can then be spent usefully on another. Kaberle has always seemed like a team-first guy and has never once come across like a megalomaniac superstar princess that requires special attention or adoration. Why would you want to get rid of a guy like that? Where the fuck is the loyalty?
Lastly, speaking of loyalty, honour, and integrity, which Brian Burke often does, do you think that what happened at last year’s draft – with the whole Kessel-for-Kaberle trade thing falling apart – was that at all professionally embarrassing to Burke? And do you think that if Kaberle handled the situation with class and dignity, which I imagine he did, and then showed up for camp and was the Leafs best player through the first month of the season until Kessel arrived, that Kaberle might have earned Burke’s respect just a little bit and that Burke might want to demonstrate some loyalty in the one situation where it really matters, with the team’s leading scorer and longest serving player? Just wondering.