Brett Lebda: Does He Fit?

Usman ShabbarContributor IJuly 8, 2010

CALGARY, CANADA - OCTOBER 31: Brett Lebda #22 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during warm-up prior to their game against the Calgary Flames during their game on October 31, 2009 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Red Wings defeated the Flames 3-1. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Brett Lebda is now a member of the Maple Leafs.  Toronto management announced the free agent signing late Wednesday afternoon.  The 28 year old is regarded by some as one of the most underrated defensemen in the league.  There have been murmurs of Toronto being a possible destination for Lebda as Brian Burke seems to have taken notice of his skill and ability (and the fact that he is American, of course).

Now comes the question; Does Brett Lebda fit the Leafs’ system?

Standing only at 5’9”, he’s not the biggest.  He will not bring the level of truculence, belligerence and testosterone Burke usually looks for in defensemen.  The Buffalo Grove native does, however, bring a strong hockey IQ to the Leafs.  He is able to recognize whether to jump into an offensive play or not (even though he only recorded 8 points in 63 games last season), and he is able to hold his ground.  And considering his two-year, 2.9 million dollar deal, he will pose a minimal burden on the Leafs’ budget.  With all this being said, Brian Burke probably signed this man to play for the Leafs not as a skill guy, but as a character guy. 

Okay, so not a horrible signing by the hockey club, but does Toronto even have room for him?

Don’t think so.  With plenty of well-established talent and an abundance of young, developing defensemen, the Leafs have created a problem for themselves.  Here is what the defensive pairings would have looked like without Lebda:

Komisarek-Phaneuf
Kaberle-Beauchemin
Schenn-Gunnarsson

On top of this very impressive blueline, the Leafs also have to worry about Jeff Finger and now Brett Lebda.  Some might say that it is becoming apparent that the Maple Leafs fully intend on trading Kaberle before his trade window shuts back down in August.  Including Finger in a potential Kaberle deal would be a smart move, as if to say ‘You get the best puck-moving defenseman in the league for a very reasonable price, but you also have to take Finger and his lousy contract.’

No matter how it breaks down, Brett Lebda is now a Maple Leaf and will be a part of Toronto’s future endeavors.

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