Thus, the drama is over—for now.
For years, the belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs would commit to rebuilding their franchise centered around moving out all of the old pieces so that the new pieces could grow.
It began with the Muskoka five (Sundin, Tucker, McCabe, Kubina and Kaberle) and the on-trade clauses contained within their contracts.
More specifically, the adamant belief (if proven to be mistaken) that those five players should use that clause to prevent any trades because they believed that they could lead the Leafs into the playoffs.
They did not, and the Toronto Maple Leafs ended up getting extremely poor returns on the stars of their past.
Sundin left without any compensation; McCabe was traded for a talented defenceman in Van Ryn who was so plagued with injuries, it was a gamble at best that he could play long enough to complete the term of his contract (He didn’t); Kubina was traded for a defenseman (Exelby) and a pick (flipped for Primeau) that ended up spending one misfit season; and Toronto actually had to pay a penalty on their salary cap just to push Tucker out of the dressing room.
All that remained was Tomas Kaberle, and today, he is gone.
A part of me, quite a large part, is very sad to see this. Kaberle has been a productive (despite criticism) and professional member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He was one of those rare people for whom it was not about the money. He loved playing hockey, and, more importantly, he loved playing hockey in Toronto. He wanted to begin and end his career here. He wanted to stay through the rebuilding and bring Toronto a Stanley Cup.
Ignore the haters who complain about how Kaberle was not competitive and how he did not really want to win a cup. He wants to win a cup badly, but what he really wanted more than anything, was to win one in Toronto.
As a Leaf fan, how can you not like and respect a guy who loves and believes in your team just as much as you do.
But his wonderful skills and abilities also made him an asset—an asset that other franchises, such as Boston, were willing to gamble futures away to obtain.
And for a Leaf team that is still far away from being a real contender, those future talents are more important to the long term health of the franchise.
The newest Leaf, Joe Colborne, is a great example of just what this team needs: A promising young talent that is ranked below only Tyler Seguin (and let's not start that debate all over again) on the Bruins depth chart of future prospects.
The biggest, if not only major criticism, of Colborne is that despite his massive 6’6” frame, he plays like he is 5’10”. Not unlike many of the criticisms of Joe Thornton to be honest—which is not to say Colborne will turn into the new Jumbo Joe, but it has not stopped Thornton from being an elite center in the NHL.
According to Hockey’s Future, Colborne is a decent skater for his size, but his strengths really stem from his on-ice vision and how that translates into elite passing and playmaking ability; in other terms, a guy who can get Phil Kessel the puck maybe?
He is also rated by Hockey’s Future as an 8.0C prospect. While Colborne is one year older, that is the same rating that highly touted prospects like Brayden Schenn have been assigned. Make no mistake, Colborne is a top prospect and one who has the potential to really develop into something special.
It is also reasonable to suggest that Colborne, in an environment where testosterone and truculence are thrown in your face around every corner, might very well decide that to fit in, he will start using his great size and strength.
But in the end, like most really big and tall players, they are a huge gamble until their bodies have enough time to mature physically. They take a little longer and are much harder to assess accurately.
Toronto also gets Boston’s first round pick in the 2011 entry draft. While the draft is considered shallow on elite talent, it is also thought of as a draft which is deep in terms of NHL type players.
In simpler terms, not a lot of superstars, but a lot of second and third liners/second pairing defencemen to be had. After the top five or so picks, the draft seems to be very open. With Toronto now having two first round picks, the chances are very good that there will be some productive NHL players coming up to help in about two or three years down the road.
There is also reportedly a conditional pick from Boston coming to Toronto in this trade.
In the end, Brian Burke did a wonderful job getting huge value out of Kaberle.
Toronto has taken a huge step forward into developing into a talented young team, that can be competitive in two or three years time. Burke has built something that might not be visible to a lot of people yet, but is picking up steam and I think will really make Toronto fans proud in a few short years.
It was only unfortunate that it had to come at the expense of a great guy and an awesome player in Tomas Kaberle; I will miss seeing Kabs in a Leaf jersey.
A little part of me hopes that somehow (against all reasonable logic), he gets signed back as a UFA this summer and everything can be made all better, and I hope that if he ever gets an invitation into the HHoF, he proudly wears that big blue maple leaf through the doors.
And if I can say something on a personal note.
Tomas, here is one Leaf fan that will never give you the boos and hisses. At least, not any more of them than I would give to anyone who is playing against the Leafs.
Good luck Tomas, and on the behalf of everyone (even those people who never understood you or saw what you were really about), thanks for everything you gave Toronto.