It is, Tomas Kaberle says, the last thing on his mind to say good-bye to Toronto on Tuesday night.
After all, he has faced the “this-could-be-my-last-game-here” scenario often enough to shrug it off.
And when you are around the Maple Leafs as long as the 32-year-old defenceman has been, you must get used to shrugging things off.
But what if the game against the Philadelphia Flyers is it for Kaberle, what if it is his last home game as a Leaf? How will he be remembered?
One can start with the fact that with 482 career points, he is the second-most productive defenceman in franchise history (behind only Borje Salming) and 11th in overall scoring in the Leafs’ history.
He has played at Maple Leaf Gardens and in another trait foreign to everyone else on the roster, has represented Toronto in the playoffs. He has been a fan favourite and a fan target and since being drafted by the team in 1996, has seen a few highs and way too many lows.
He was never as popular as Mats Sundin or Curtis Joseph or Darcy Tucker. That in part is because of his personality — not shy exactly, but not engaging either.
And through it all, he has, for the most part, loved growing up in Toronto, developing from a talented kid fresh out of the Czech Republic to an all-star defenceman renowned to be one of the best in the league at moving the puck.
The odds seem to be tilting toward it all coming to an end, however.
With the Leafs missing the playoffs again this spring, Kaberle loses the protective no-trade clause that may or may not be the only thing that has kept him here for so long. Once the season ends on Saturday, general manager Brian Burke has two months to swap Kaberle to whatever NHL team makes a legitimate offer.
Though by no means a done deal and he won’t be given away for anything less than a top draft pick and prospect, the speculation is that Burke would prefer to move Kaberle rather than keep him.
If it’s bugging the player, he isn’t letting on.
“It could have been in the last five years, my last game,” Kaberle said when asked about it Monday following what may have been his final home practice as a Leaf at the Mastercard Centre.
“Whatever happens, happens. It’s not in my hands.”
Kaberle put up a stern front Monday, adamant that until (or if) he gets dealt, he is a Maple Leaf forever. That said, he wasn’t shy about reflecting on his career here, which hits game 818 against the Flyers.
“If it happens, this is a question for the summer,” Kaberle said when asked if he will miss Toronto fans.
In some ways, Kaberle is a curiosity among his teammates, many of whom were more concerned about the mid-stages of puberty than the NHL playoffs the previous time the Leafs were there.
“They have been asking (about the playoffs) a few times,” Kaberle said. “I told them this city is unbelievable. It feels like totally different hockey and a totally different atmosphere. My first six years we were there every year and it was lots of fun.”
There were lots of memories, too.
“The Ottawa series and the Battle of Ontario,” Kaberle said when asked to rank them. “Even against New Jersey we did a good job. Just the experience from those games ... nobody’s going to take it away from me.”
But what if they do? What if the next cheers he hears from the Air Canada Centre crowd come following a video tribute when he returns as the opposition?
“I was always proud to play here for the Maple Leafs, it became my second home,” Kaberle said (and note the past tense). “There are a lot of good things in this city. Hockey is No. 1. It will never change in my mind.”