The truth about Tomas Kaberle

There seems to be a general consensus within the hockey community that Tomas Kaberle has been a disappointment in Boston.  Specifically, we're talking about his production on the man advantage.  In twenty-four games with the Bruins, Kaberle amassed a measly three assists on the powerplay.  He has since equaled that amount In eighteen postseason games.  But there is one interesting truth about Kaberle: he has never, save for one season, been an elite powerplay specialist.  Continue after the jump for more...

In 2005-06, the first season post-lockout and following significant alterations to how the league called penalties, Tomas Kaberle amassed 51 points on the powerplay.  He was first in the NHL for powerplay production amongst defensemen and fifth among all NHLers.  '05-06 was a special season for Kaberle and his defensive partner, Bryan McCabe.  Not only did they drive the second best powerplay in the NHL, but they each set personal highs in point production.  Conveniently forgotten is that the first season following the NHL lockout was an aberration concerning the number of penalties called league wide.

In 2003-2004, the Leafs had 373 powerplay opportunities.  In 2005-2006, that number was 501.  Assuming (for the sake of argument) that all powerplay opportunities last two minutes, that increase equals an additional three minutes of powerplay time per game, which went exclusively to Kaberle and McCabe.  For reference, these are Kaberle's PP point totals and PP mins/game for each season of at least 65 games:

Season PP points D Rank PP mins/gm
1999/2000 15 32 03:04
2000/2001 17 31 04:05
2001/2002 20 17 04:28
2002/2003 19 24 04:29
2003/2004 10 58 03:20
2005/2006 51 1 07:32
2006/2007 30 17 05:49
2007/2008 30 9 05:21
2009/2010 25 8 04:29
2010/2011 25 10 04:05

How much of a factor did the strict officiating in 2005-06 impact Kaberle's point totals?  A stunning 76% of his points on the year came with the man advantage.  That is a huge jump from the 45-55% range of Kaberle's other post-lockout seasons.

Tomas Kaberle is a fantastic hockey player.  But one thing he is not, nor has ever been (save one season) is an elite point producer on the powerplay.  '05-06 was a statistical outlier for Kaberle brought on by a change in officiating that has since normalized.  And due to this one great performance, the player has wrongly earned a reputation as something he is not.  Personally, I feel Kaberle has gotten a bad rap since the trade that sent him to Boston.  He is what he has always been: a solid puck-moving defenseman who's a bit on the soft side but always steady with the puck.  The question should not be "Why has Kaberle struggled to produce on the powerplay in Boston?"  The correct question is: "Why did the Bruins think Kaberle would be a bigger factor on special teams than his career numbers suggest?"

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