In Defence of Bryan McCabe

The crticisms of defencemen Bryan McCabe seem to be a bit excessive and at times unwarranted.

I am not sure if it has to do with the sweater he wears or what but there are alot of things that people do not like about McCabe.

Bryan is a very good offensive defenceman. Specifically he is a very good scoring defenceman. He has a great shot from the point and has scored alot of goals with it.

One of the big arguments is that his shot often misses the net. According to statistics compiled by, McCabe is 27th among defencemen in missed shots. He has missed 49 shots this year in 48 games. To be more specific considering McCabe was hurt and missed time, there are 11 blueliners with a missed shots per game average greater than him. They include the likes of Lidstrom, Schneider, Chara, Rafalski, Niedermayer, Blake, Pronger and Phaneuf. I doubt you would find any criticisms for those players and their shooting accuracy. He is doing a good job getting his shots through and hitting the net since he is in the top 10 for shots (tied for 7th at an average of 2.6 per game). And for that amount of shots, he’s pretty productive. He is 2nd in shooting percentage and 2nd in goals scored for blueliners.

There are many who dont consider McCabe to be a good offensive blueliner since most of his points are on the powerplay. I have to question that as well. A power play is an offensive situation. Perhaps the most important offensive situation in the game. He has helped his team to the league’s 5th best powerplay. To be successful teams have to take advantage of the situation and McCabe helps the Leafs do just that. He is 2nd in power play goals and 3rd in power play points. So what if more than half his points are power play points, what good offensive blueliner doesnt score points on the powerplay? To me, that is a opinion that is pretty flawed to think McCabe isnt one of the best offensively.

One of the main knocks of McCabe’s game is that he is a poor defensive player. Indeed, McCabe has his defensive shortcomings. He is prone to blunders that at times prove costly. But he is not the absolute worst defensive defenceman and he has definitely cleaned up that part of his game. By the numbers, McCabe has had 48 giveaways so far this year in 49 games. That is still alot, but there are actually 13 blueliners who have a higher giveaway per game average than McCabe. They include the likes of Pronger, Chara, Jovanovski, Zubov and Markov. To say any one of them cannot play D or are error prone would be exaggerating.

Some other key defensive stats include block shots, hits and plus/minus. McCabe is averaging 1.8 blocks per game. And he actually has more block shots than the likes of Hatcher, Chelios, Rathje, Meszaros, Souray, Gill, Rafalski, Timonen, Sarich among many others. He also has 77 hits. That is more than supposedly more physical blueliners like Phillips, Rathje, Blake, Foote, Regher, Jackman, Gill, Souray. I am acutally surprised at McCabe’s plus/minus. He is a +2 currently which isnt bad but isnt great. But when you consider as a team the Leafs are a -11 and 22nd defensively, plus the fact that McCabe averages just over 28 minutes a game which is 3rd in the league, it is a surprise to find Mccabe a plus player. I think he holds his own in the defensive end for someone who really isnt a shutdown guy. He is not the best at it that’s for sure, but the numbers show that he is far from being one of the worst.

Now I do realize that the numbers dont really tell the whole story. However the numbers are the best evidence as to how well a player is doing. For example, with the way the likes of Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Marc Savard are going being among the leading point getters, that should have gotten them a spot on Team Canada. Instead guys in scoring slumps or little offence like Draper, St. Louis, Bertuzzi did make it. It made no sense to alot of fans that the leading scorers arent even on Team Canada. The numbers dont lie they say. Well in this case, they positively support McCabe. His stats are pretty solid. Yet the criticisms are in great numbers.

It’s the intangibles they say that make the player not just the numbers. Indeed that is very true. But I think McCabe brings many intangibles. He is definitely a leader. He has grown into that role with the Leafs. I think he has matured a great deal this year. He still takes some bad penalties, he still may complain about some of them too, but they have declined from past years. Alot of that has to do with maturity, and it also has to do with his increased responsibility. McCabe moreso this year, has been asked to give guidance to the team’s younger players, specifically the blueliners. Before he learned from the likes of Leetch, Yushkievich among others and now he is passing the torch himself to the team’s future. To me that shows some growth. I think it did help plenty to be around Roberts, Niewy, Leetch to help him grow into a better player.

McCabe is not the most skilled player. Many people knock him for that. But he has significantly improved his all-round game and that has gone unnoticed. He has improved as a playmaker on the point on the powerplay. He has proven that he has a laserbeam of a shot from the point which he uses quite well. And he has shown a much more controlled game on defence. Yes i do realize he still makes mistakes, and costly ones at that, but it’s not every play and every shift that it’s happening.

I think alot of that has to do with work ethic. There is no doubt McCabe works hard and gives an honest effort every game. He will have his bad plays and bad games but it isnt for a lack of trying. Any player who has improved as much as he has did so through hard work. Sure there is times where he doesnt channel his energy and efforts correctly, but he gets full marks for at least putting forth the effort every night.

For all the good things about Bryan, there are alot of things he needs to work on. McCabe takes alot of chances. It often leaves him being caught out of position. He does need to work on that and get better at being smarter. But McCabe is one of those high risk, high reward players who I think need to play the way he plays to maximize effectiveness. He does take chances to have a greater impact for his team. Sometimes it doesnt work but I think most of the top blueliners play a bit on the edge.

He is not the best stickhandler. That is why it pays for him to play with a top puck moving blueliner. He found most of his success playing with Tomas Kaberle who is one of the slickest players and Brian Leetch who is a hall of famer to be because of his terrific hands. If he is paired with someone who can move the puck and pass the puck with precision and allow McCabe to be the trigger man, it maximizes his effectiveness. You can see that when he isnt playing with a good puck mover he tries to do things he isnt capable of and it causes trouble. The coaches have to put McCabe in a position to be successful.

And most importantly, McCabe needs to improve his discipline. That part of his game has improved 10 fold but still he needs to get better. The team needs him on the ice. He is such an important player that the shorthanded Leafs cannot afford to see him in the Box. Alot of that has to do with him playing on the edge and again he needs to be like that to be successful but still, he can be better. Considering the new rules have not eaten him alive I say McCabe is on his way slowly but surly to improving this part of his game.

I do realize others will have a differing opinion on Mccabe. But keep in mind I did mention some of the faults in his game. Yet I also laid out sound evidence that contradicts many of the opinions that he is one of the worst players in the NHL and undeserving of any accolades.

Much of your criticisms completely go against the voters for the year end awards who put McCabe 4th in Norris voting last year and will likely give him votes this time around. It goes against Pat Quinn who is the active leader in wins, the coach of Canada and an NHL coach for over 25 years. It goes against Wayne Gretzky and his staff for Team Canada who picked him to not be on the team, but a member of the taxi squad ready to substitute in case of injury. Obviously they felt McCabe could bring something to the table. That management group won Gold last time out. That team they pick in 2002 has several question marks as well but it delivered. The 2004 World Cup team was also one that was questioned. It too was ravaged with injuries to the blueline and yet it still worked out perfectly for them. I think Gretzky and Co. DO know what they are doing.

You people can nitpick at every pass, every mistake, every skate stride McCabe makes at this Olympics all you want. But if he wasnt a good player, he wouldnt be there. This isnt about a coach doing a favor for one of his own players. We know Quinn isnt about that. If he was, he would have stuck with Cujo in 2002. He would be giving McCabe his usual 30 minutes of ice time. This is about McCabe actually being a good player and a productive player. I wish people would see that. He earned the right to be there and in all honesty was a better option than those not chosen.

So as you can see, by the numbers and otherwise, McCabe is not as bad as some of you make him out to be. My goal was to prove that McCabe is what he is, not a superstar, not the best blueliner in the world, but a good defenceman who should not be considered among the worst. So I hope that people do away with their outlandish opinions of McCabe and actually see things for what they really are.

194 Responses to In Defence of Bryan McCabe

  1. Neely4Life says:

    Mccabe played well today, again, i said about 1000 times, keep him of the PK, let him play on the PP where he shines, give him the limited time even strength, and thats what Quinn did.

    Quinn’s PP and the staff looks f***ing brutal, and Pronger is an absolute moron.

    And the ref today i think was a good thing for Canada, because they are gonna think before they take a NEEDLESS penalty now. Bertuzzi’s, no need for it, Pronger going to the net, no need for it, Gerber had the puck covered, and the whistle went, Pronger just decided to be an asshole.

  2. Kraut182 says:

    I’m not saying Robin Regehr is a defensive liability (or that I hope Pronger gets hurt, and I know about the foot). What I’m saying is that if Bryan McCabe did either of the things that either of those two players did, then I know that there would have been more McCabe bashing posts than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means). Since it wasn’t McCabe there may be some negative feedback, but however much it is I know that it would be far worse if it was McCabe.

    And that’s not a fair chance.

    P.S. If Canada has enough scorers why did we just get shutout?

  3. wingerxxx says:

    Pronger seemed to be really into the game actually. He was very hungry. He also made a few very good defensive plays. Bertuzzi was trying to push the limits of the rules and frustrate the Swiss defenders. It wasn’t a horrible game he played. Canada did a very, very smart thing later in the game by sending Bert and Pronger down low, against Gerber. With a goalie as hot as he was…you’ve got to do something to rattle him. I don’t think you can pin today’s loss on any of the Canadian players. If not for Gerber, Canada did outplay them today. And even the best teams can take a loss somewhere in the tourney.

    The gods were with Gerber today. It just happens sometimes. Especially when Richards hit the crossbar in the closing minutes…Iginila gets tied up, and has to take a penalty to negate a crucial power play (which you can’t really blame him for, he was tied up)…Two point blank stops with just a couple of seconds on the clock…If anyone is blamed for Canada going down today, it should be Gerber.

  4. Neely4Life says:

    i dont disagree with him on Canada after all the inuries, i disagree how they use him. but Phaneuf should be there too, which is stupid why hes not.

    After this, how can u not question gretzky.

  5. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    i thought atleast taxi squad for phaneuf.

  6. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    even the best of them get shutout every now and then but pat quinn needs to put the north west connection back together

    Berutzzi sakic iginla. Put THEM BACK TOGETHER.

  7. Kraut182 says:

    Pronger didn’t touch anybody for that last penalty. He’s going to the net, Gerber covers, and he eases up. Somebody bumps him and may be his stick brushes somebody, but its not a damn penalty.

  8. Neely4Life says:

    Gerber played amazing, no one is takin that away from him. But, Bert and Pronger were both making needless mistakes, and both took extreamly ill timed, and bad penalties. I was jumpin on Mccabe for playin like trash against a week nation, im gonna jump on Pronger too.

    He was playin like an asshole, and not an agressive defensemen. There was no point to going for the covered rebound in the third, no need to cross check the guy in front when he could have cleared the puck. He was palyin like he does in the NHL, and he is the dirtiest player in the game, lets get that straight, and he should know by now, with his expeirence, all of that is going to get called in the international game, there is no excuse.

    Quinn needs to do somthing, that game was just as much abotu coachin as it was the players. Dumb penalties (the ref was bad, but they didnt help), piss poor PP, and no structure what do ever, he was just throwing players out there and hopin for the best.

    And drapper, he is on the team isnt he? maybe they should put Doan out there a little more, hes been their best forward after today, to this point in the tournament, and get something going, some energy.

  9. Neely4Life says:

    I liek boyle too, hes suited for this game, but again, Gretzky went with the horses that got him there 2 years ago. Cant say the 02 olympics, becuase it was a totally different team.

  10. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    Mccabe did improve today hes got that. Blake played really well. thought pronger was decent.

    i do agree with draper. Get him on the penalty kill with shane doan or ryan smyth. thats why we have those 3 for energy and for checking get those guys on a line out there together.

    we need

    thornton nash and gagne on the same line

    Smyth doan Draper on the same line or out there quite a bit.

    Sakic Iginla and Bertuzzi they did well first 2 games and they were split up. thats brilliant.

    Heatley Lecavalier and Richards. throw in st. louis to come in on that line and on the the thornton and on the thornton line every now and then aswell.

    just so you guys know i dont want our lines in that order.


    Blake-Foote does pat quinn know they played together for 3-5 years?

    Regehr-Mccabe Mccabe has been improving and regehr is solid defensively.

    Boumeester-Redden. Big physical presence with a strong offensive presence.

    pronger can get tossed in for regehr or boumeester but right now with his play he is the odd man out.

  11. Neely4Life says:

    pronger went after the puck in Gerbers glove, it was pretty obvious. It was a stupid penalty, wouldnt have been called in the NHL, but it is called in the Olympics, Pronger should know that, hes been there before.

  12. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    with the way they have played as late im starting to wonder if this is canada. Yes gerber played amazing but come on.

  13. Neely4Life says:

    Foote and Blake never played together really though, they wetny partners.

    Mccabe and Regehr together is asking for trouble too, Regehr is very agressive in his own zone, and Mccabe is very weak, thats just asking for trouble, maybe Pronger and Mccabe.

    Mccabe still should be the 7th D, and 2nd option on the PP. Beawmister should be the 6th D, he looks great out there when he does get a shift.

  14. Neely4Life says:

    you wont see n e one defending pronger like thier life depended on it either.

  15. Neely4Life says:

    What does scoring have to do with this?? They were 0 for 10 on the PP, thats a lot more to do with the coachin staff and the system then the players.

    Id say Quinn is playin the scorers far too much righ tnow, and not lookin down the bench at Drapper, Doan, and Smyth, they need some time out there, again, i think todays game was coaching and stupid penalties.

  16. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    pronger has played decent at best for whole tournement and mccabe is improving. foote and blake did play together on pp/pk and usually together during the game. trust me on that fact please im an avs fan :).

    what about forwards what u think about them.

  17. Neely4Life says:

    Just a bunch off all-stars it looks like, with no kind of idea where they should be or what they should be doing. The piss poor offensive display is Quinn, Martins and Hitch*****’s fault.

  18. wingerxxx says:

    Quinn does need to do something else with his line combos. Draper absolutely must have a bigger role. Sakic, Iginla and Bertuzzi should definitely be a full time line.

    Blake and Foote almost never played as a pairing in Colorado. They’re both very average on the left side. The only way that I would play them together is on the power play with Blake on the left point. Blake has been one of the better Canadian defenders.

  19. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    yea i agree quinn needs to get his act together or hitch***** martin and the other one(forgot his name) need to like mutiny and throw him overboard.

    but it is nice to see that others agree with that line. that would be a killer energy/checking line.

  20. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    i was actually referring to my ideas for lines but yeah ur right on again. i know there experimenting but when you had lines that were clicking why would you split them up? hint hint Sakic/Iginla/bertuzzi.

  21. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    canada also played against italy and germany. he did have a better game against the swiss though.

  22. Aetherial says:

    Go look at +/- and offense over the last couple of years. Consider that he plays with some grit also and will take the body.

    The fact is, everyone seems to have it in their head that this guy sucks… yet somehow, he made the Team Canada reserves, somehow he was a second team all star, somehow he was right up there in Norris voting.

    Go compare his points and his +/- for this season and last season… to ANY of the big name Dmen in the league. Last I looked only Chara was better lats year and only Redden this year.

    I realize that these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

    What I question, and why I just chalk this up to typical Leaf hating is that other people have no evidence really? They have no numbers themselves! Hell the only one who really dug into the numbers is Nordiques … and the picture he paints in this post is pretty good.

    See… I may not have a perfect arguement but WY WAY WAY WAY too many people here haev ZERO arguement. They just have opinions.

  23. CanDude says:

    Just thought I’d say that Bryan McCabe doesn’t need much defending. I mean… highest scorer on the leafs and chosen for Team Canada.

    I don’t personally like McCabe.. but it has more to do with his personality. Nothing more.

    He’s a 3rd defensement with excellent forward skills.

    Quinn knows it, all the leafs know it, Gretzky knows it… hell, anyone who has any access to hockey stats knows it.

    Why is there any defending of McCabe? How can the Leafs top scorer, who also happens to be a defensement, need any kind of defending?

    I think he’s a punk but I’d take him on my team. Especially for Powerplays.

  24. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    if your reading thats all we want him for is powerplay. let him take powerplay and some 5 on 5 4 on 4 3 on 3 just a bit. and leave him off penalty kill.

  25. Rroucu says:

    WOW! lots of controversy, opinions, and such…

    Interesting to say the least. How does one person drum up so much controversy? I thought Gretz and Wagergate were gonna be the ‘thing’.

    Listen McCabe is what he is, on the small ice his speed makes him a liability, He cant skate backwards. He would have been better swicthed to wing from junior.(like Wendel Clark)

    He is pretty offensively gifted. And his speed in a forward stride is wicked, he can lead a rush, and he sees the ice well. That being said, in Turin his WORST partner is Wade Redden. They do not compliment eachother at all. He should be with either Foote OR Regehr on the powerplay. Quinn has a knack for making horrid lines. That being said he also strikes gold occasionally, who would have thought Antropov/Neiuwendyk/Ponikarovsky would have been a good line a couple of years back. But Back to McCabe, He is what he is, All one has to do to look at his ability on the big ice is look at his tenure in Europe last year. Nough said.

    Good NHL d-man…

    Bad on big ice….

  26. MikeGartner says:

    On McCabe–Havent seen him play all that much, besides the Canada Olympic Team and the few games against the Rangers. I’ll say this about him, (and I’m a Ranger Fan), he has a cannon from the point, and with Kaberle passing to him, its a pretty deadly duo on the PP, (I wish the Rangers would blast shots from the point like this). On the flipside however, McCabe is porous defensively, but not horrible. He’s not shutdown, but he isn’t a Gonchar. I’d take McCabe on my squad, christ, we have all 6’5 of Poti, and he hasn’t hit someone in years—all he does is pokecheck. That being said, McCabe is a above average player, with mediocre defense skills, which of course, a coach and fans are willing to put up with as long as he produces offensively.

  27. aFanOfTheGame says:

    Just watching Mccabe play he brings nothing to the team if he cant hit the net on the powerplay…thats all he is. A couple reasons why people hate him is because leaf fans totally overrate him, hes a dirty player, he still uses the effing can opener…and oh ya DION PHANEUF IS SO MUCH BETTER THEN HIM…………… makes me wanna puke. Mccabe is there for one reason and thats the powerplay and if he cant hit the net then he is of no use to Canada.

  28. mojo19 says:

    and his 79-80 flyers have the record for longest unbeaten streak in nhl history. 35 games without a loss (25 wins 10 ties). thats practically going half a season without losing.

  29. quick_stick says:

    I’m not try to start an arguement, but rather give you some perspective.

    “well the fact that ur a leaf fan really doesnt give you any credit on this topic.”

    First of all, the fact you bash the Leafs constantly makes your opinion every bit as suspect as a Leaf fan’s opinion.

    Also, I guess since you’re an Avs fan, this means you must not know anything about Blake and Sakic? Additionally, if I were to bash them, I could just easily dismiss your opinion?

    McCabe is not a defensive liability. Like ANY offensive defenseman McCabe will occassionally make a poor choice or get burned, but in his zone he does a decent, if not spectacular job.

    I’ve watched nearly every Leaf game since hockey centre ice package came out, and I’d have to say my opinion is slightly more educated than someone who reads a couple articles and has seen 2 or 3 Leaf games in the past 5 years (I’m not necessarily bashing you, but sooo many of the Leaf bashers on this site). I’m well aware of the strengths of the Leafs, as well as their nurmerous deficiencies. McCabe simply is an elite defenseman in the league, and has consistantly improved his game since the Leafs stole him from the Hawks. Is he the best in the NHL? No, probably not, but he’s in his own company in the Olympics.

    To be honest, I haven’t been impressed with any of Canada’s d-men in the Olympics thus far (McCabe included). Some nice plays, then some stupid give aways. None have been spectacular so far.

  30. Neely4Life says:

    and the end result……..

  31. oilers_rock says:

    Well, the rest of Canada (other than Toronto) hates the leafs. No offensive, but if u ask anyone out west they’ll say they hate Toronto. McCabe is a good defensman, so I think it’s just the city that he plays in.

  32. oilers_rock says:

    what r u a flames fan? Cause a lot of Calgarians act like that.

  33. habs_punk says:

    On quite a few occasions I have brought up stats that don’t paint such a pretty picture for McCabe. The most telling stats, that for some reason no one seems to defend are his stats from playing in sweden last year.

  34. 24_cups_and_counting says:

    I had a good laugh when i read the title. McCabe and the word “defense” in the same sentence. Too funny!

  35. Aetherial says:

    I have yet to see anyone assessing an NHL player on this site bring up the year off in Europe stats.

    I can’t agree with you that they are even relevant. It is not a problem with the quality of hockey over there.

    First, the NHL is not one of the European leagues. Second, I seriously wonder about the effort most of the NHL’ers put in there. I think it was a “keep in shape, earn a few bucks thing”, they also had adjustments to their lives (just like Europeans coming over here used to, before a lot of them started playing junior here).

    It isn’t that he didn’t suck. I am guessing he did by your post. It is just that, I don’t see that yardstick used against other NHL’ers when discussing their merits? So why bring it up against McCabe. I am quite certain we can find other NHL’ers who did precious little over there also.

  36. Realistic says:

    Yeah, you’re hilarious yourself!!

  37. Realistic says:

    Wow, judging by the sheer number of posts from the likes of sharkmaker, neely4life, etc. I can see that some people on here realyl need a girlfriend!

  38. Darcy16 says:

    It doesn’t matter how many pp goals he’s been on the ice for cause you don’t get a plus for pp points. Like Habs Punk said, if pp points counted for +/- McCabe would be like a +25 or something.

    As for his 10 games with HV 71 last season, did you actually see those games?

    I only watched the last 2 games in the olympics but it seems to me that McCabe has not even been close to being the worst dman for Canada. He is the least of their problems.

    All of this McCabe bashing is so uncalled for it really makes me sick.

  39. shakrmakr says:

    Actually we need McCabe to play more on the PP because Blake can’t hit the net at all.

  40. shakrmakr says:

    Shouldn’t we be bashing Regehr’s defensive play not McCabe’s? Regehr has been really brutal in his own zone. And it is not just this tournament, he is a very overrated player.

  41. shakrmakr says:

    YOu stole the words right out of my mouth. Great comment!!!

  42. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    really who led calgarys d to the finals last season? defintly was not phaneuf… and kipprusoff is a goalie.

  43. shakrmakr says:

    Kiprusoff was their defence. Who was on for all of Tampa’s game winning goals? Regehr. You put a goalie like Belfour behind him, his plus would be one of the worst in the league.

  44. dcz28 says:

    Wings have Lidstrom, Schneider, Kronvall and maybe even Woolley to QB the powerplay so they have no need what so ever for McCabe and the salary he will demand…just the fact that you think he is the best powerplay QB in the league (above Lidstrom and even Schneider to name a few) proves that you dont know much about the players on other teams so go ahead and tell us that your a scout for the Leafs or something like that because that would shut Leaf fans up about the Leafs getting the best scouting staff in the league last summer

Leave a Reply