Commanding Respect: Tomas Kaberle Deserving of Leafs Captaincy

Jon NeelyAnalyst INovember 1, 2009

TORONTO - OCTOBER 17:  Tomas Kaberle #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on during a NHL game against the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre on October 17, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada .  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Tomas Kaberle has never been one to complain during his career in Toronto. He's been here through the bad times, and the really bad times, and has simply stuck to his game.

He has been rumored in dozens of trades over the past three seasons, criticized for his lack of physicality, and constantly heckled for not shooting the puck enough.

Fans cried for him to be shipped out of town for the past two seasons, and on various occasions, he was all-but-gone. Yet the Leafs were never able to see a trade through.

He has never been given the respect that he deserves and  is regularly blamed as having a role in the Leafs downfall.

And through all that, he shows up every night and is consistently the most important defender on the team.

Well, this season we're starting to see that he might just be the most important defender in the league for his team. Without Kaberle leading the way, the Leafs terrible start to the season might just be down right indescribable.

His 17 points (2 G, 15 A) not only leads the Leafs in points, but puts him on top of the list of defenseman scoring. The next closest player to him is San Jose's Dan Boyle, who has 13 points, but has played 15 games; three more than Kaberle.

On their recent five-game road trip, Kaberle had a mind-blowing 13 points; five of them coming in the teams only win against Anaheim. He is averaging 24 minutes each game and along with Ian White, has been the best defenseman on the team, without a doubt.

Plenty of blue-liners have come and gone in Toronto during Kaberle's stay here and since 1998 (his rookie season) he has played 750 games for the club, scoring 450 points.

Never complaining once.

It's about time Tomas Kaberle was given the respect he deserves. It's about time he was named captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now, more than ever, the Leafs need a leader, and so far in this young season the 31-year-old has shown by example that he can lead this team.

At the beginning of the season, three players were given an 'A' on their chest as Assistant Captains; Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, and Kaberle. If the battle for the captaincy was between those three, Kaberle is already running away with it.

It's a no contest at this point.

He has been on the team the longest and he understands more than any other player the struggles the Leafs and their fans have gone through in years gone by. It wouldn't be right to hand the 'C' over to a player who just arrived this season, like Komisarek or Beauchemin, and continuing without a captain for much longer isn't right either.

Kaberle deserves it more than anyone on the team, and there is no better player to replace Mats Sundin as the leader. He has lead by example in every game this season and his confidence has been rubbing off on his teammates as their play improves game by game.

Kaberle has always been an important player on the team, whether fans will admit it or not, but now he is emerging as the cornerstone of the Leafs, and vital to their success; the most important member of the Leafs.

Now more than ever, Kaberle deserves to be the captain.