Jeff Domet at CBC Sports has an interesting idea:
Is it crazy to think that Kaberle can transform from an all-star defencemen into a top-line centre in the National Hockey League, and quickly?
It's been done before.
Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly was an all-star defenceman for Detroit in the 1950s, winning four Stanley Cups for the Red Wings. Once Kelly arrived in Toronto in the 1960s, Maple Leaf GM/head coach Punch Imlach asked him to switch to centre.
Like Kelly, Kaberle is a great playmaker, who has stellar vision on the ice. Kaberle is also an underrated skater who could keep up with the speedy Kessel.
Kelly recalls the day he made the switch:
After I signed (with the Leafs), I told Punch (Imlach), 'I've been off skates for ten days or so. I'd hate to make a mistake out there and cause a goal,' and Punch said, 'Red, how would you feel about playing centre?' I said, 'Great! No problem.' I didn't care where I played as long as I was playing hockey. He said, 'If we're going to win the Stanley Cup, we 're going to have to go through Montreal. I need somebody to check Beliveau.' He said, 'How would you feel if I started you against Beliveau?' I just said, 'Fine. Great. Love it!'"The fact that Kelly so seamlessly made the transition was an amazing feat. I've long said any player who can play both forward and defense at a high level is personal favorite of mine. To be able to understand the game, think the game and master the game from two very different vantage points is a true rarity.
It was a little more common in the olden days (think Dit Clapper, Ebbie Goodfellow, Goldie Prodgers, Cowboy Tom Anderson), but in the modern era Kelly is joined by the likes of Mark Howe, Doug Mohns, Jimmy Roberts, and Reg Fleming. Wendel Clark was drafted as a defenseman but played in the NHL as a winger.
There is a long list of goons who really could not play much at either position but they were just there to fight. The best of that list was probably Marty McSorley who became a pretty good defenseman with Los Angeles.
Most recently we've the likes Mathieu Dandenault, Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien swing back and forth. Sergei Fedorov, Sami Kapanen and Phil Housley are among those who experimented out of position, but only briefly. There is a long list of others in this category, but all were too brief to be considered as masters of both ends of the ice.
I have no idea whether Tomas Kaberle would be able to make the transition. I would certainly be interested in watching him progress. Imagine that - I might actually look forward to CBC's force-feeding of Leafs games this year!
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