|Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson has sat down and talked with defenceman Tomas Kaberle. The coach says there are no issues between the two. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)
Relations between Ron Wilson and Tomas Kaberle have reconciled to the point where the coach is making jokes about their reported feud and referring to him again with his fatherly 'Kabba' nickname.
When Wilson was asked if the much anticipated summit with the defenceman had taken place after a summer of salvos across the Atlantic between Brian Burke and Kaberle's father, he warmed to the topic.
"We've sat down and talked," Wilson said "All our talks have been really positive, as I expected them to be.
"I'll get this out there now so there are no issues, he may only play one of the first five exhibition games (next week). Because I know what he can do and I know he can play with other people. Kabba is 32 years old. At the end of training camp I need to have him fresh. You don't want your team dead after one week.
"I know (a feud) is a nice story for you guys to hang your hats on," he said added with a smile, "but there really isn't an issue. I just wanted to get that out there and be on the offensive and give you the information so you aren't running around thinking (he's benched) and there is something else going on."
No one was laughing a few weeks ago when Kaberle's trade window closed after he and just about everyone else thought general manager Burke would finally move him. Burke didn't deem the offers, whatever they were, to be adequate compensation for the potential 50-point defenceman and hung on to Kaberle, even though he'd added Brett Lebda and Matt Lashoff on defence in the summer, had a healthy Mike Komisarek coming back and has two or three budding blueliners with the Marlies.
But the man who took it hardest was Frantisek Kaberle Sr., who told a Czech publication that his son and Wilson were incompatible, that he would never re-sign with the Leafs while Wilson was coach and that NHL free agents were being turned off coming to the 29th place team. Wilson had been critical of Kaberle's play at times the past two years and it was clear that he would never be the bruising type the Leafs were loading up on.
As he has done since Frantisek's comments were published, Tomas said Friday that his father's views were not his and that he was ready to resume playing for Wilson and the team he has called home since 1998.
"We cleared everything out," Kaberle said. "We had a few talks. You have to talk with your coach and GM no matter what.
"It's nice to finally talk about hockey instead of these things off the ice. I've got a good feeling about this team. A few changes and free agents have signed. I think we have the best team in the last five years, we just have to show it on the ice."
Wilson said there was no sense giving players such as goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Kaberle the majority of starts when the Leafs play five times in five nights, he knows they've made the team and there are so many young defencemen to grade in a big-league setting. There are four more games in a more manageable six nights the following week, after the Leafs have cut down to about eight defencemen.
"Most of our (older players) have two games, Kabba's the only veteran with one," Wilson added.
"I've told him you can play as many as you want, but I have you pencilled in for just one. Then the real hard-core work starts the week after.
"I really hope Kabba has the kind of year he's capable of having."