With yet another season seemingly headed to a disappointing end, again missing the playoffs, we fans often struggle to find anything positive to hang onto going into the offseason.
This year, I submit that we draw hope from Pavel Kubina.
Yes, that Pavel Kubina.
One of the untradable five at the deadline, and target of many a fan's wrath, Kubina has quietly put together a near career best season for the Blue and White.
So how come he seems to draw nothing but criticism?
Look no further than the ridiculous amount he is paid, though no fault of his own. I won't sit here and claim he's a five million dollar player, but to hold it against Kubina that John Ferguson Jr. overpaid dearly for his services would be unfair. That money could undoubtably be better spent elsewhere to improve the team, but you can't say Kubina isn't doing what he's capable of.
Wildly compensated is an understatement, but there's no denying Kubina is a quality NHL defenseman, and I'm willing to argue he may just be the best on the Leaf's blue-line this season.
It's true that his play has been rewarded recently on the score sheet, with three game winning goals in the past four games, but his solid play has been there all season long.
Currently sitting at 32 points in 64 games, he's nearing his career high of 38, all the while leading the defense for the Maple Leafs at plus five.
He might not have the booming shot of a Bryan McCabe, or the skating ability of a Tomas Kaberle, but Kubina posseses a solid mix of skills that make him a quality top three defenseman on any NHL team.
His phyisical play in his own end, and willingness to shoot when given the opportunity in the offensive zone can not be undervalued.
I believe the amount he's earning sets expectations far too high for Kubina; he will never be a Nicklas Lidstrom, but you can't fault the fans for wanting more. It's unfortunate that his contract may be too much for the Leafs to bear and ultimately force him out of Toronto.
Is Kubina overpaid? No question.
Is he the Leafs best defenseman this season? I think you can seriously make that argument.