|Leafs Tomas Kaberle talks to the media ahead of the NHL All-Star weekend in Montreal. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)
The last thing Tomas Kaberle wanted when he agreed to a below-market contract with the Maple Leafs was any kind of attention.
That was the plan. Sign for less. Slip under the radar. Let the high-priced help take whatever heat was around.
It worked when Bryan McCabe was a Leaf. Just not now. So here is Kaberle, the defenceman with a no-trade arrangement, and while he keeps saying he doesn't want out -- and he actually doesn't want out -- and the Leafs keep saying they won't trade him and probably wouldn't mind trading him, the discussion about him continues.
It will continue for as long as the Leafs struggle, as long as he remains their most attractive asset.
Kaberle was asked recently by his agent, Rick Curran, if he wanted to remain a Leaf.
His answer was clear: He wants to be here when the Leafs are winning. He wants to be part of that team.
And that's the difficulty for the Leafs.
They can't seem to get better with him, can't trade him. Can't move forward in any way.
Hear and there
The NBA is nothing if not a giant trade rumour but this one involving the Raptors piques your attention: The rumbling is the Raps considering sending underachieving point guard Jose Calderon to Sacramento for the Kevin Martin who doesn't curl. Martin can score from the two-guard, can't play much defence, and wouldn't that make him the perfect Raptor? ... The case that Gilbert Arenas violated his NBA contract seems too simple: As per their own rules, the clause in the collective bargaining agreement that insists upon "good citizenship, good moral character and good sportsmanship" has been trampled upon. One more thing about this idiocy: The minute Arenas is cleared to play again, some NBA team will want him. He's too good not to want and lesser players such as Michael Vick and Bob Probert were given opportunities after doing their time behind bars ... What's the big deal about a professional hockey coach telling a fighter to fight? The coach tells the checkers to check and the scorers to score. If the NHL allows and encourages fighting, it can't get all holy if a coach wants to get what the team is paying for ... What seemed like a very good idea at the time isn't: Kevin Weekes on Hockey Night In Canada.
This and that
Were the Blue Jays cheated out of the 1989 playoffs? In retrospect, you have to wonder what part steroids played, with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire leading the Oakland A's past the Jays in the American League championship series. Yes, the Jays had Roger Clemens around for two years and two phony Cy Youngs. But they didn't win anything in those years: They were defeated by a dubious team after that ... Former Card Jack Clark, who was never all that warm and fuzzy, isn't all that happy about the suddenly honest McGwire being on the Cardinals' coaching staff. "I'm not going to say hello," Clark said. "I'm not going to shake his hand. He's a sad excuse for a player in the industry of baseball. Just seeing him in uniform makes me throw up." ... Silly winter rumour: Carlos Delgado to the Jays. Why would a team that already has Adam Lind and Travis Snider, need another DH, especially when they need just about everything else ... If the plan is to de-value the franchise and show utter disregard for their fan base, this sorting out of Argonauts ownership is succeeding grandly. And why would anyone buy a ticket for a team that doesn't have a coach, a quarterback and had a GM telling players that he doesn't have the authority to do anything at this time ... The new way to fix your goaltending problem in the NHL: Fire the goalie coach. The Ottawa Senators did it.
Scene and heard
The three worst teams in the NHL are coached by the Ron Wilson, Paul Maurice and Pat Quinn, the present and previous two Maple Leafs coaches ... There will be less than $1 million US remaining on Vesa Toskala's contract by the time the trade deadline comes around in March and still, there is next to no chance the Leafs will get anything for the goalie as he drifts off to free agency ... So someone asked me this week: Did Auger do it? And I heard: Did O.J. do it? ... Odd numbers: The Leafs are paying more for Darcy Tucker not to play for them this season than they are paying for Ian White, one of their best, if not best, defencemen to play ...When Neil Smith said he wanted back into mainstream hockey, don't think he meant coaching the Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League, a team he happens to own. Wonder if he has any Hansons and their toy trains in the lineup ... Department of tiresome: Mike Tyson cameos ... Hedo Turkoglu was right to grab the camera from the person trying to take his picture in a Toronto bar. It's about the only thing he's done right as a Raptor.
And another thing
Don't know what this means but Brian Burke is marching in the opening ceremony at the Vancouver Olympics and Steve Yzerman isn't. Not to tell anybody what to do, but if I was Yzerman and I had the chance to do it, I wouldn't pass on that kind of opportunity ... The Leafs have nine unrestricted free agents -- $20.4-million worth of them -- but the only one deserving of a raise is Matt Stajan, underpaid by NHL standards at $1.75 million. Some, such as Lee Stempniak and Alexei Ponikarovsky, are worth keeping, but only at less money, and in Stempniak's case a whole lot less ... I've finally figured out how it is the Colorado Avalanche keep on winning: The players think it's Joe Sakic coaching, not Joe Sacco ... If a player really is a Hall of Famer, there shouldn't be any argument. You should just know ... The late Tom Cheek is in tough for his Hall of Fame status this year: All-timer Jon Miller has been added to the broadcasters ballot ... Mandatory reading: The Marvin Harrison story in the February issue of GQ ... Trade rumours in the NHL have lost their cachet when no virtually trades are made ... Happy birthday to Muhammad Ali (68), Kip Keino (70), Mike Milbury (58), Jeremy Roenick (40), Don Zimmer (79) and Michelle Obama (46) ... And hey, whatever became of Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd?