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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
After being one of the teams reportedly interested in him near the trade deadline in 2010-11, the Habs acquired Tomas Kaberle from Carolina in December in an effort to boost an anemic powerplay. Kaberle put up okay numbers but didn't do much to reverse the teams' fortunes with the man advantage or in the standings. Now set to begin his first full season with the club, is he a player fans should count on to step up?
After signing a three year deal with Carolina in the offseason, the Stanley Cup hangover seemed to affect Kaberle who reported to camp out of shape which set the stage for a disappointing year. After a porous -12 rating in 29 games that saw him rack up just nine points (all assists), he was dealt to the Habs. He got off to a strong start with Montreal (five points in his first four games) before returning to post rather pedestrian numbers the rest of the year (3-14-17, -6 in 39 games), well off of his career numbers. He also saw a reduction in ice time as coach Randy Cunneyworth attempted to shield his weak defensive zone play.
Season Stats: 72 GP, 3 G, 28 A, 31 PTS, -18 rating, 12 PIMS, 1 PPG, 0 GWG, 87 SOG, 17:43 ATOI
It looks as if the upcoming season will feature Kaberle in a similar role to 2011-12. He will see at best 3rd line minutes in 5-on-5 situations (he's a prime candidate to be double shifted for in late defensive situations) but should see lots of powerplay action even with a healthy Andrei Markov. Markov's presence will bump him down to a second unit that looks to remain intact from last year's struggles so a huge leap in production there shouldn't be expected. With eight bonafide defencemen on the roster, Kaberle likely will get the odd game off in a rotation assuming everyone is healthy.
There's no denying that Tomas Kaberle is in the downswing of his career and that trend will continue; he is no longer the legitimate top pairing fantasy defender that he was for many seasons. That said, he still should put up offensive numbers that are above average for defencemen. He is still a must draft player in all fantasy formats, just this time in the latter stages instead of the mid-round or higher slot he would have been going in as few as two years ago. Move him up in leagues that place a high emphasis on assists but drop him down in ones that reward goals over assists or are particularly punitive for players with poor plus/minus ratings.
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