Kaberle wants to taste post-season again

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

TORONTO - The pass was a thing of beauty, a three-line tape-to-tape masterpiece that sent Kris Versteeg in all alone on New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron.

It was the third period of a 2-1 game in favour of the visitors and Tomas Kaberle, the architect of the beautiful feed, could now sit back and see if Versteeg would tie the game.

Surely, with the way the Hockey Gods had been smiling on the 4-0-1 Leafs in this young season, the equalizer was pretty much a fait accompli.

Not on this night, however.

Not on a night that was more 2009 than 2010.

Versteeg would miss, the Leafs would lose by that 2-1 score and, for the first time in six games this season, Toronto would not come out of a game with at least a single point.

For Kaberle, thankfully, there have been few down moments like this so far in the 2010-11 campaign. After all, he has had more than his fair share of them over the years.

For Tomas Kaberle, after all, nothing has been more irritating, more disturbing, more frustrating than the constant losing of the franchise he has been a fixture for since 1998.

"It bothers me," said Kaberle, the only member of the Leafs roster to have played a playoff game in blue-and-white, that coming way back in 2004. "It bothered me all summer. I can't tell you how much."

Having said that, such moribund performances as the one against the Rangers have been the exception to the rule recently.

In fact, Thursday's loss notwithstanding, Kaberle has noticed an excitement in the city he hasn't felt since the team was making regular visits to the postseason earlier in the decade under Pat Quinn.

"You can tell how happy people are out on the streets," Kaberle said. "They like to get signatures and stuff.

"It kind of reminded me my first six years here when we went to the playoffs every year. The atmosphere ... well, it's another level of hockey and you could feel it from the fans because every game means a lot.

"I would like to feel this again. I would like to see the city like that again."

He might get that opportunity.

Having been part of proposed deals with the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins that, for one reason or another, fell through the past three years, it seemed inevitable that Kaberle would be moved during the offseason.

But general manager Brian Burke, not satisfied with the offers he was getting this summer, held onto his asset. To that end, he said this week that he would not ask the veteran defenceman to waive his no-trade clause this season.

"Obviously things could change along the way," said Kaberle, who is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season. "But I would like to finish my career as a Maple Leaf. The fans are unbelievable, it's a good organization ... Why would I want to play anywhere else?

"We talked before the season about extension. It's up to Brian and my agent. I'm sure that will come up by the end of the season."

Enough of all this happy talk. Surely he must be pissed at having the "A" stripped from his uniform. After all, he has been averaging more than 25 minutes without it while Mike Komisarek, who is wearing one, is getting slightly more than 13 minutes of ice time.

"I wore the 'A' with pride," he said. "Big time. But not having it has not changed the way I've played. The guys know I am always there for them."

As for all the reports of a feud with Wilson, Kaberle said it was part of his "tough summer." But, at least on the surface, amends seem to have been made, with Wilson telling reporters this week that Kaberle "deserves" to be gobbling up so much ice time.

In the end, maybe Tomas Kaberle will get the chance to be in the playoffs in a Leaf jersey again. Whether there is an "A" on his uniform or not, that's all he could ask for.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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