When Tomas Kaberle puts on the blue and white jersey for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, one little letter will be missing.
The ‘A’ crested on the top left corner of his uniform will be replaced with an empty space.
Kaberle, the longest-serving member in hogtown, has drawn the alternate captaincy for several years.
As an 11-year veteran of the NHL, he has been a part of both the successes and failures of this squad.
While the move may be symbolic of a changing of the guard, it is also a potential sign of things to come for the 32-year-old.
The veteran blue-liner was the centre of attention in Leafland this past summer when his no-trade clause was temporarily lifted from the NHL entry draft in June until Aug. 15.
Although he was not dealt, his father Frantisek Sr. spoke publicly about some potential turmoil between his son and head coach Ron Wilson.
“I cannot imagine how he will get along with coach Wilson,” the elder Kaberle told a Czech hockey magazine (via the Toronto Sun) this past summer. “[Wilson] relies primarily on aggression and stress. That’s not Tomas, he’s a technical type of defender.
“I think that during the course of the year he will be traded to another club…In my opinion, I can’t see Tomas entering a new contract with Toronto. Not if Ron Wilson continues to be employed there.”
Unfortunately for Frantisek, Wilson is still employed in Toronto. His son, however, downplayed his father’s comments shortly thereafter.
“My father’s opinion I can’t control,” Kaberle told tsn.ca. “I love my dad, but I don’t agree with everything my father says. That’s normal. And I don’t agree with everything with [my coach].”
Whether or not Wilson and the Czech native can agree, Kaberle will have to accept his new role. Speculation may begin on his future with the blue and white, and his diminished role may be taken in many different ways.
While he will more than likely share the ice with newly anointed captain Dion Phaneuf, their roles will be different.
The defenceman has recorded 80 goals and 402 assists in 820 games with the Leafs during his career, and for now, he’ll continue to don the same colours.