Kaberle rests up

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

All that glitters is not gold, especially when it comes from a silver lining.

Those may have been thoughts on Tomas Kaberle's mind when he returned to his Czech home in Velka Dobra near Prague from Riga, Latvia, site of this year's world hockey championship.

The silver medal was sitting on the dining room table and Kaberle probably was wondering why he can't seem to play on a prize-winning team. With the Maple Leafs, he didn't even make the playoffs. In the world championship final, his Czech national team lost to Sweden, the team that was without Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg.

It bothered the Maple Leaf blueliner, a player with great peripheral vision, clever puck distribution and, toward the end of the NHL season, fairly accurate shooting.

When I suggested to Tomas on the phone yesterday that I was surprised to see the Czechs lose to the weakened Swedes, he reacted swiftly and pointedly:

"Now, just wait a minute," he said in a louder than usual tone of voice. "It's true the Swedes were without Mats and Forsberg, but don't forget we were without our top stars such as Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Tomas Vokoun, Dominik Hasek and Martin Rucinsky.

"We had a young, inexperienced team and still managed to beat Russia and Finland, two decent accomplishments.

"The Swedes played extremely well in the final and deserved to win."

Kaberle, who had a goal and five assists at the world championship, is presently resting his battered body.

But his siesta won't last very long.

"The world championship is over and I have to start thinking of the upcoming season with the Toronto Maple Leafs," he said. "I'll start training in the next couple of weeks, so when I come to Toronto I'll be ready to do battle.

"My brother, Frank, is still in the playoffs with the Carolina Hurricanes who are in a 2-2 tie with Buffalo. And my father is still with the team, trying to cheer them on. He has been with the Carolina team since they were down two games to none to the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe he's their lucky charm."

Kaberle is hoping new Maple Leaf coach Paul Maurice will turn out to be the team's lucky charm and help propel the Leafs to the playoffs. I asked him if he has any misgivings about the coaching change.

"The coach is the boss," he replied. "My job is to give it my best shot."

Will other players on the team have similar sentiments?

"I'm not involved in clubhouse politics," he said. "I'm getting paid to perform to my best ability."

But for now and the foreseeable future, Tomas' focus is on Toronto, his home for the next five years, barring an unprovoked trade.

The way he has been playing, with or without his partner Bryan McCabe, suggests that general manager John Ferguson Jr. has no inclination to move the bouncing Czech.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

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