Art Shoots the Breeze
In case you haven’t heard, Art Breeze is at it again. Breeze, Nathan Dempsey’s agent, has communicated a ‘play me in the NHL or trade me’ request to Leaf management. He’s gone so far to say on the FAN 590, a local radio station in Toronto that if he isn’t traded “he will play (in the NHL) next year and well beyond and come back to haunt some people.”
Without a doubt, there are many who would support Dempsey’s promotion to the ACC among followers of the Blue and White. In limited duty, he has impressed. But let’s be clear here, we are talking about ‘limited duty’. Ripping apart the blueliner’s game it’s fairly easy to add up the pluses and minuses. He’s a puckmoving defenseman who makes a snappy first pass, knows when to shoot, and can fill the role of powerplay quarterback on the second unit. On the downside is an utter lack of size as he is whisper thin at 6’0″ and 170 pounds. Despite good effort, this leaves him vulnerable in the corners and in front of the net.
Compare him to Tomas Kaberle, who is an inch taller, 8 pounds heavier, and five years younger. Kaberle fits the bill almost to a ‘T’ with the exception of a reluctance to shoot at this point in his career. However, more importantly that that is the age difference. Whereas Dempsey is always going to be 170 pounds, the Czech is still young enough to pack on some pounds and get up towards 200 where he will be better able to handle the action near the blue ice in his own zone. And for Dempsey’s value within the Leaf organization, that’s a major problem.
To be sure, there are other blueliners further down the rotation that aren’t the passers or puckmovers that he is. Three that come readily to mind are Dave Manson, Cory Cross, and Wade Belak. However Manson and Cross both weigh in at 219, and Belak tips the scales at 225. That is a lot of pounds to give up to get a bit more puckhandling into the lineup, especially when the second and fourth lines are primarily ‘dump and chase’. At the waiver draft the Leafs exposed Nathan Dempsey and anyone could have claimed him. No one did.