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K-Cup?

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  February 16, 2011 08:43 AM

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Kaberle.

Kaberle.

Kaberle.

At this point in the discussion, I'm not even sure if Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle is enough to help the suddenly struggling Bruins, but I'd just as soon the deal get done so that we can all move on.

Last night's stinker against the Leafs was the third loss in a row for the Bruins, all of a sudden tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Northeast Division, less than a week after their spirited fight night vs. the Habs had everybody in Boston thinking they had just watched a character-defining performance. Bring on the Cup. (Or trophy, if you will, Mr. Jacobs. A big one.)

The acquisition of Chris Kelly aside, the Bruins need help on the defensive side of the puck, and since Kaberle's name has been mentioned more as a possible trade target than Adrian Gonzalez's over the past few years, the assumption is he's finally headed to Boston for...what, Blake Wheeler? Toronto's first-round pick? The soul of Dennis Wideman?

Kaberle would help the Bruins, of course. You don't exactly need a science degree to tell you that.

But ask yourself the simple question: Is he enough to put this team over the top?

Um...I guess?

If the price for the defenseman is giving Toronto its pick back, I'm not sure it gets done. That's the problem sometimes with riches: everybody wants some, and they aren't willing to settle. Meanwhile, GM Peter Chiarelli seems to sound like that draft pick is his first-born. Would he surrender it? With a draft not nearly as deep as last year's Hall-Seguin crop, it would have to be considered, especially since you have an aging All-Star goalie and a fandom more fearing than looking forward to April, May, and...maybe June after last year's collapse against the Flyers. The window is ajar, but only slightly. 

But whether it's posturing or not, he doesn't exactly sound like a guy willing to discuss it. Maybe that's the result of an assumed slap to the forehead by president Cam Neely, who sounded none too pleased on the radio last week after learning that Chiarelli was revealing trade discussion on air. But it's clear that he has to do something if the Bruins want to solidify themselves for the playoffs. If the season ended today, they would host the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. If they started tomorrow, it's anyone's guess. 

If Boston falls to the awful Islanders tomorrow night, they could sit as low as sixth in the Eastern Conference by week's end. Three losses in a row aren't reason to throw a panic switch, but that might be. The Philadelphia Flyers' acquisition of winger Kris Versteeg for first and third-round picks on Monday does nothing to hurt their status as Eastern Conference favorites. What does Chris Kelly change for the Bruins?

Clearly, adding Kelly is an admission that the Bruins don't trust Tyler Seguin heading into the playoffs, but whose fault is that? As a rookie during the 2008-09 season, Tampa Bay standout Steven Stamkos saw nearly 15 minutes on ice. Seguin has seen less than 10 this month, when he's spent more time in the press box than on the bench. Taylor Hall, by the way, has seen an average of just over 18 minutes on ice this month. Yes, he's 19, but is it fair to ask if Claude Julien is babying the kid a bit too much?

Then, there is the elephant in the rink. In case anyone hasn't noticed, Tim Thomas has been average at best over the past 16 days or so, and with Tuukka Rask going through the sophomore slump, suddenly the Bruins' greatest asset has become a liability. Is Thomas' recent performance a hiccup or a trend? Depends. Thomas has surrendered 14 goals in his last three starts, and for a guy that's going to be 37 when the playoffs start, the concern that he's wearing down isn't going to go away. But Rask has been so downright awful, you can't trust him in net during a playoff push.

But is that more an indication of struggling netminders, or a defense that is breaking down?

When approached by reporters last night, after his current team beat his possible future team, Kaberle addressed the rumor that he had waived his no-trade clause. If traded, would he prefer Boston?

"I would think so. They've got a pretty good team, good goaltenders. I've played a lot of games against them and they're always tough to beat," he said.

Except, you know...last night.

Chiarelli wouldn't tip his hand this morning, appearing on "Toucher and Rich" on The Sports Hub. Actually, the information he disclosed wouldn't have tipped a coffee cup. But if Kelly is the only guy coming on board, the Bruins and Julien still may not make it out of the second round of the playoffs. Actually, that even may be optimistic.

I have no idea if Kaberle is enough to make the Bruins a Cup contender. But get used to hearing his name for the next 12 days, right up until the trading deadline. Then, maybe we'll all do this again next year too. 

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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