Kaberle and Building through the Draft

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Feb 182011

First off, it should be a sad day in Leaf land as we all say good bye to Tomas Kaberle.  It seems many people are unaware of just how good Kaberle was and still is.  Here are some facts about Tomas Kaberle:

  1. Since Kaberle entered the NHL in 2008-09 the only defenseman with more assists than Kaberle is Niklas Lidstrom and only Lidstrom, Gonchar and Pronger have more points.
  2. Since the lockout only Lidstrom has more assists among defensemen and only Lidstrom and Rafalski have more points.
  3. Among all skaters, not just defensemen, Kaberle ranks 20th in assists since the lockout and has more assists than Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Staal.
  4. His point production has not tailed off significantly the past several seasons despite many people seemingly believing otherwise.  He had 49 points last season and is on pace for about 52 this season.
  5. Only 2 defensemen (Keith, Enstrom) have more combined assists this season and last and only 8 defensemen (Green, Keith, Boyle, Lidstrom, Enstrom, Visnovsky, Doughty and Yandle).

That is pretty good if you ask me and while he had his flaws he truly was an elite puck moving and passing defenseman.  He’ll be missed in Toronto.

Now, it is time to take a look at the Leafs future.  What Burke has done the past couple years has actually been pretty extraordinary and for all those who have begged for the Leafs to go with the build through the draft method of team building here is some of the assets currently in the Maple Leaf organization.

  • 2011 Boston 1st round pick
  • 2011 Philadelphia 1st round pick
  • Nazem Kadri – 7th overall 2009
  • Luke Schenn – 5th overall 2008
  • Joe Colborne – 16th overall, 2008
  • Jake Gardiner – 17th overall, 2008
  • Phil Kessel – 5th overall, 2006
  • Dion Phaneuf – 9th overall 2003
  • Joffrey Lupul – 7th overall 2002
  • Mike Komisarek – 7th overall, 2001
  • Fredrik Sjostrom – 11th overall 2001
  • Colby Armstrong – 21st overall, 2001

Now we don’t know what Kadri, Colborne, Gardiner and the two 2011 draft picks will turn out to be, but that is what rebuilding through the draft is all about (and isn’t that what Leaf fans have been demanding).  So while it may not be the traditional build through the draft, what Burke has done to the depth of young talent on these Leafs has been amazing, even if we haven’t seen the results on the ice yet.  On top of that, the Leafs should have about $25M in cap space available for next season (though MacArthur, Bozak, Schenn and Gunnarsson need to be re-signed). Fear not Leaf fans, I believe good times are ahead, and not too far away.

Feb 102011

I have seen and heard a lot of comments on the Beauchemin for Lupul and prospect Gardiner trade with respect to Lupul’s value and most of them suggest Lupul was the cost Burke had to pay to have Gardiner included in the trade and that Lupul doesn’t have a lot of value and won’t likely score 25 goals.

From Bitter Leaf Fan Page:

Lupul may be a top six player on the Leafs but this is more a testament of just how thin the Leafs top six is, than it is an indication of Lupul’s so-called talent;

I doubt Lupul pushes the 25 goal mark as many have suggested. He’s only crested that mark twice in 6.5 seasons and it’s rare for an oft-injured 28 year old to suddenly find a scoring touch;

In general, that seems to be the sentiment though there are exceptions.  But honestly, I think everyone is down playing Lupul’s potential to perform.  If you just quickly take a look at his stats you’ll see this:

  • 2005-06:  28g, 53pts, 81 games
  • 2006-07:  16g, 28pts, 81 games
  • 2007-08:  20g, 46pts, 56 games
  • 2007-09:  25g, 50pts, 79 games
  • 2009-10:  10g, 14pts, 23 games
  • 2010-11:  5g, 13pts, 26 games

So, in 6 years he has only scored 25 goals twice and only scored 20 goals half the time, but that is in large part due to his injuries.  If we prorate his goals scored to 82 games each season his goal totals would be 28, 16, 29, 26, 35, 16.  Looking at those totals and things seem a little more impressive.  He’d have been a 4 time 25 goal guy in the past six seasons.  The two seasons he didn’t reach 25 goal pace was an awful season in Edmonton on an awful team and this current season when he has been recovering from a serious back injury and has seen his ice time fall and has played more time with lesser talented players.  Over his entire career he has scored 117g in 421 games which works out to 23 goals over 82 games.  In the playoffs he has scored 14g in 39 games which equates to 29 goals over 82 games.  Based on this there is no reason not to expect Lupul to be a 25 goal guy, maybe even more, if he is healthy.  Over the past 3 seasons there has been an average of 63 twenty five goal scorers (or just over 2 per team) and 110 twenty goal scorers (or under 4 per team) so I am perfectly happy to see the Leafs add another one to their lineup which already included 3 guys (Kessel, Grabovski, Kulemin) who should reach 25 this season and two more who should/could reach 20 (MacArthur, Versteeg).

Now I’ll grant the naysayers that Lupul’s health is a question mark and whether he can return to pre-back surgery and subsequent infection form is a question mark, but it is certainly a question mark that is smaller (probably much smaller) than any question marks that would come with a draft pick or a 20 year old prospect who has never played an NHL game (see Caputi, Luca).  As for Lupul’s salary, who cares.  Yes, it is probably $1.5M on the high side, but the Leafs have ample salary cap space this season and going forward and if they need more have the financial ability to bury contracts in the AHL (see Finger, Jeff).  I don’t see it as an issue.

All in all, I love this trade for the Leafs.  They traded a good, but not irreplaceable defenseman for a potential 25 goal winger and a good defense prospect.  They haven’t really solved their #1 center hole yet, but they have really filled in the parts around that hole nicely.  If they could just plug in Brad Richard’s I’d be more than happy with next seasons group of forwards.