Puck Daddy - NHL

Every team has its fan-base whipping boy; that player who draws the ire of fans for inconsistent play, underwhelming numbers or being Scott Gomez(notes).

For Maple Leafs fans, it's Brett Lebda(notes), and it's not even close. He's a minus-18 in 21 games. Mention his name, and fans recoil. Or contribute to a "#LikeaLebda" meme on Twitter.

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Lebda's in the lineup tonight against the Calgary Flames, with Freddy Sjostrom and Kris Versteeg(notes) out. It's expected he'll play forward again, an experiment that started late last month. From the Toronto Sun on Dec. 20:

Lebda, who the Leafs acquired in the off-season as insurance in the event of a Tomas Kaberle(notes) trade, has not had the kind of season expected of him. He has only dressed in 16 games and is minus-12 with just one assist. So, it is unlikely the move to forward will have any great impact, but it does send a message to the rest of the team not to get too complacent.

"He's such a good skater and with playing left wing on the fourth line I can almost automatically say he is the third man high. It's like playing the shift with three defenceman," Wilson said.

How has the shift worked out? From the Globe & Mail report card, on which Lebda received an 'F' grade:

Talk about a nightmare start to his tenure in Toronto. At 5-on-5, Lebda has been on the ice for zero goals for and 17 against. On the power play, he's been a relative non-factor. It's no wonder, in other words, he's been a healthy scratch so many times.

So Lebda's in tonight, and the fans are preparing themselves for another game for "a terrible human being." (Pension Plan Puppets, tongue-in-cheek. We think.) Some are asking if recently demoted goalie James Reimer(notes) could play forward instead. Puck In Eh has an exposé on Lebda's Stanley Cup-winning season with the Detroit Red Wings.

It's gotten to the point where fans are asking: "Is there a single person in here who doesn't despise Brett Lebda?"

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