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Ulmer: Depth Will Help Leafs In McCabe's Absence

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
This, it turns out, must be why you spend half of your payroll on defencemen.

When the Leafs start the second turn of their seven-game road trip in Carolina, they will simply flip one 30-minute defenceman for another.

Bryan McCabe’s left hand injury, the subject of surgery Monday, means 30-minute nights for Pavel Kubina. When they both play half the game, Kubina and McCabe are virtually indistinguishable.

The long-term effects of this changeover won’t be catastrophic.

Now Kubina gets his chance to emerge as the lead dog. The Leafs enter play Tuesday tied with Pittsburgh for eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. If they swoon, for once no one can lay the blame on McCabe.

McCabe should be back by mid-February, rested, healed and ready to go. By then, Kubina will have probably had his fill of 30-minute games. It won’t take a genius to determine whether the Leafs power play, 27th in the league at this writing, needs a different triggerman. This way, no egos are ruffled.

And, if Kubina delivers the way the Leafs projected when they signed him from Tampa Bay, the club finds itself with a solid six defenceman for the stretch run.

The Leafs get to spot 20-year-old Anton Stralman and learn whether his superb puck-moving skills are enough to overshadow his inexperience. They reward Ian White, who has quietly matured into a dependable player, with more power play time.

Most miscues will be whisked away by Vesa Toskala, who has provided the Leafs with their best goaltending in years.

And, with Carlo Colaiacovo set to resume hard practice, the club figures to enlist help in the bottom part of the rotation. Colaiacovo, remember, was projected as a top-four defenceman.  Assuming his knee is sound, the Leafs may have their best defence in place before McCabe comes back.

The Leafs problems end at the blueline. The stagnant unit of Kyle Wellwood, Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker, good for only 12 goals in a combined 76 games should be a concern for Leafs coach Paul Maurice.

So should the inability of Mark Bell to supplement his excellent defensive play with more than one goal and the disappearance of formerly valued role players John Pohl and Chad Kilger.
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It is the kind of question that applies not just to sport, but to crime and punishment and the meting out of justice.

Do you extend mercy to people who showed none?

That is the Chris Simon question in a nutshell.

It a story is not about the recognition of psychological issues, although that is the beguiling smokescreen the Islanders have thrown into the mix. If Simon had psychological problems when he stomped on a completely vulnerable Pittsburgh Penguin named Jarkko Ruutu, he was equally in need of help when he hatcheted the Rangers Ryan Hollweg last March.

Same goes for his cross-check and mugging of Ruslan Fedotenko, his vicious elbow on Anders Eriksson, his cross-check in the face of Peter Popovic, the slash to the head of Denis Vial and his racial slurs directed at Edmonton’s Mike Grier.

Does this guy need therapy? I’m guessing yes. Looks to me like he has for a while.

But does he deserve another chance?

Well, would you see merit in the argument of any eight-time offender, especially if the last offence was more hideous than even the last harrowing assault?

I don’t think you do. You help him get well and then you tell him the best thing he can do for the game that has made him wealthy, that has helped lift his community in Wawa, is to go.

Chris Simon showed he was impervious to mercy when he brought his skate down on Jarkko Ruutu.

Okay. See how he likes living in a world without mercy now.
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