Rookie defenseman Tomas Kaberle fits the Leafs' new step-it-up
Were the Maple Leafs the plodding, cautious team of a year ago,
Tomas Kaberle wouldn't be welcome on their roster. That was
then, this is now. This season the Leafs are worrying about
defense only after striking the fear of goals into their
opponents' hearts. Kaberle, a 6'1", 200-pound defenseman who has
emerged as a rookie of the year candidate, fits in perfectly.
"He skates well, he handles the puck well, and he can pass,"
says Toronto coach Pat Quinn. "That's what we need."
In June, after Toronto had missed the playoffs for the second
straight season, Quinn was hired to replace defense-minded Mike
Murphy. Aiming to capitalize on the Leafs' speed, Quinn
installed an aggressive go-to-the-net system that has turned
Toronto into the Eastern Conference's most entertaining and
highest-scoring club. Through Sunday the Leafs had 157 goals,
and they were 28-17-3 (compared to 117 goals and 17-24-7 at the
same point last year). "We wouldn't be able to play the way we
do," says Quinn, "if we didn't have defensemen who can move the
Those defensemen include veterans Sylvain Cote and Dimitri
Yuskevich, recently acquired Bryan Berard and 20-year-old
Kaberle (pronounced KAW-ber-law), who has impressed his elders.
"Tomas sees the ice very well," says Yuskevich. "He has the
confidence to move the puck wherever he is. You don't see that
often in a rookie."
When Kaberle, who was the Leafs' 13th pick (204th overall) in
the 1996 draft and who played last season in the Czech Republic,
came to training camp in September, Quinn was only vaguely
familiar with him. By camp's end, Kaberle's poise with the puck
had gotten Quinn's attention. In Toronto's season-opening 2-1
victory against the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings, Kaberle
played a game-high 29:13.
If Kaberle's numbers--at week's end, he led rookie defensemen
with 17 points and 14 assists--aren't enough to carry him past
first-year forwards such as the Canucks' Bill Muckalt (28
points) and the Devils' Brendan Morrison (24) in the race for
the Calder Trophy, he has certainly become a contender for the
award. Kaberle has often been outmaneuvered by experienced
forwards, but his defensive shortcomings have not seriously
undermined the Leafs, who had surrendered 2.96 goals per game,
the most of any team with a winning record. "We're thrilled with
him," says Quinn. "He's going to be a good player for many years."
Bob Goodenow's Kid
HE'S THE SON OF A...
You've probably never heard of Joe Goodenow, a freshman forward
for Michigan State, which was ranked third in the nation as of
Sunday. But you've surely heard of his father, Bob, the
steel-willed lawyer who heads the NHL Players' Association. The
5'10", 177-pound Joe, with eight points in 22 games for the
Spartans, is ranked a respectable 151st by the NHL's Central
Scouting Service and is regarded as a potential pro because of
Joe, 18, says he's constantly reminded of the shadow Bob casts.
"My teammates ask me things like who's going to get traded," Joe
says. "I tell them Dad doesn't know that stuff--a lot of general
managers are his enemies." Might that hurt Joe in the June draft?
"I hope I don't get buried because of my dad," he says, "but it
General Managers' Poll
HAS NOLAN BEEN BLACKBALLED?
When coach Ted Nolan and the Sabres parted ways in July 1997,
there were ill feelings on both sides. That summer Nolan, who
had been named NHL Coach of the Year after he led Buffalo to a
40-30-12 record in 1996-97, rejected the Sabres' one-year
contract offer, calling the duration of the proposed deal, and
the fact that he was given only a few days to consider it, "an
insult." Nolan had previously engaged in a divisive power
struggle with general manager John Muckler, who had been fired
in May '97 and, according to sources close to the Sabres, held
Nolan responsible for the sacking.
In the 19 months Nolan has been out of work, there have been 15
NHL coaching changes. He was interviewed for the Bruins job that
went to Pat Burns, and he turned down an offer from the lowly
Lightning (there are some things a man can't do!) in October
1997, but Nolan has otherwise been conspicuously absent from the
lists of prospective hires. When the Islanders and the Canucks
brought in new coaches last month (Bill Stewart and Marc
Crawford, respectively), Nolan's name never came up as a
Thus the question: Has Nolan been blackballed? SI polled the
NHL's general managers (granted anonymity, 23 of 28 responded),
and while few said that Nolan had been officially banished,
nearly all echoed the spirit of the one who said, "Who would
want to hire him when he torpedoed his former G.M.?" Another
general manager said he's wary of Nolan because he "knifed
Muckler in the back," while another said that Nolan thinks "he's
bigger than the team." (Nolan did not return calls seeking
Given the Sabres' continued success under coach Lindy Ruff, who
at week's end had a 60-48-25 record this season and last,
general managers are split in their assessment of Nolan's
coaching ability. Said one, "He's too good of a coach not to get
a job." Whether it will be a job befitting a former coach of the
year, however, is unclear. "There was a minor league vacancy,"
said one G.M., feigning disappointment, "and Nolan never even
BUST AND BARGAIN
RW JIM CAMPBELL
1998-99 salary: $900,000
St. Louis expected Campbell, who had 22 goals last season, to
help shoulder the scoring load after Brett Hull left as a free
agent, but through Sunday he had only three goals.
LW PAVOL DEMITRA
1998-99 salary: $800,000
St. Louis expected
Demitra, who had 22
goals last season, to help shoulder the scoring load after Hull
left, and, through Sunday, he led the team with 21 goals.