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Phil Kessel Has Been Very Good

from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,

If there was a Toronto newspaper that headlined ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ on the day the Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel — and who could resist such an opportunity? — it was only half right.

He was undeniably gone from Toronto, but the greatest time of his life was just about to start.

Now, with Kessel leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in playoff scoring and the Pens one win away from the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday night, giving them a 3-1 series edge, The Thrill is the polar opposite of gone.

“He’s been so good,” raved Pens’ 39-year-old forward Matt Cullen. “He’s playing such a complete game right now. He’s just such a dynamic player. Whenever he touches the puck, something good happens, and it’s not just shooting the puck. He’s creating, things happen with his speed, he’s finding open guys. He’s such a challenge for defencemen to handle. He’s been awesome.”

Kessel assisted on both the first goal and the eventual game-winner Monday night, pushing his post-season totals to 10 goals and 11 assists in 22 games, and continued to warm his hands over the ashes of all the newsprint that ushered him out of Leaf Nation, convinced it was a case of addition by subtraction.

This is not to unduly criticize the critics. Kessel, sullen and often appearing indifferent in Maple Leaf silks, provided plenty of ammo.

Only now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems an inescapable conclusion that Kessel’s shortcomings in Toronto had much to do with the general hopelessness of the Leafs (not the first good player to be thus stricken) and was exacerbated by a dearth of first-rate linemates.

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: phil+kessel

Comments

Primis's avatar

Honestly?

If Kessel had been Canadian and not American, he would have escaped a lot of criticism in Toronto (not all, but a healthy chunk of it).  For some reason, his status as an American made him more of a lightning rod than he deserved to be.  So instead of spreading blame, he was just a convenient scapegoat for everything.

The basically two worst teams he could have ended up on were MTL or TOR, and he ended up in TOR of course.  I don’t know that OTT or the teams west of Ontario have that same problem (maybe VAN at times I guess).

It must be infuriating to Leafs fans to watch him excel though and have it sink in that he could have excelled in TOR too if he could have ever found anything resembling a team around him.

Posted by Primis on 06/07/16 at 07:45 AM ET

topshelf14's avatar

Phils a quiet guy who doesn’t like the limelight. Toronto was not a good fit. The fact Rutherford got him for a low level prospect and a pick is a steal and makes me wonder if KH even tried.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 06/07/16 at 08:14 AM ET

Canucklehead's avatar

Another issue he had in Toronto is that people expected him to be a Toews or a Bergeron type player.  He’s not.  And never will be.  He’s a scorer.  He’s not a checker.  He’s not a shut down guy.  I repeat, he’s a scorer.  Let him do what he does best.  Any team in the league would take an annual 30-40 goal scorer on their team.  Except Toronto, who want a team full of Gilmours and Clarkes.

Posted by Canucklehead from Ottawa, Ontario on 06/07/16 at 08:58 AM ET

Avatar

Makes one wonder how long Leafs nation will wait before finding their next scapegoat. I’m sure half of them are expecting Austin Matthews to be enough to make them into a serious contender again.

If they pressure was more because Kessel was an an American, I bet it’s higher when they realize their new savior is not even from a typical hockey locale.

Posted by evileye on 06/07/16 at 09:37 AM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

Another issue he had in Toronto is that people expected him to be a Toews or a Bergeron type player.  He’s not.  And never will be.  He’s a scorer.  He’s not a checker.  He’s not a shut down guy.  I repeat, he’s a scorer. 

Can this be explained to KH & Co?

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 06/07/16 at 12:00 PM ET

Canucklehead's avatar

Can this be explained to KH & Co?

Nope.  They’re too busy re-signing Cleary and Helm.

Posted by Canucklehead from Ottawa, Ontario on 06/07/16 at 12:13 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Nope.  They’re too busy re-signing Cleary and Helm.

Posted by Canucklehead from Ottawa, Ontario on 06/07/16 at 01:13 PM ET

:sadrofl:

 

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 06/07/16 at 12:41 PM ET

Canucklehead's avatar

:sadrofl:

Posted by SYF

Sorry.  I couldn’t resist. grin

Posted by Canucklehead from Ottawa, Ontario on 06/07/16 at 01:48 PM ET

Avatar

Makes one wonder how long Leafs nation will wait before finding their next scapegoat. I’m sure half of them are expecting Austin Matthews

Matthews is going to be the next scapegoat. We all saw the expression on his face when the Leafs won that pick. Fast forward about five years and watch the knives start coming out when it dawns on the Toronto Sun that he ain’t sticking around when he goes UFA.

We’re talking about a guy who tried to bypass the draft entirely. He’s not going to be cool as an American dealing with the Toronto freakshow media.

Posted by larry on 06/07/16 at 02:07 PM ET

Avatar

Kessel was an easy target for the pieces of sh!t in the Toronto media like Cox, Feschuk and the talking pile of human waste Steve Simmons.

- He’s got a round face, he must be out of shape.  Nevermind that it’s a direct result of the medication he takes after his ball cancer.
- He huffs and puffs when sitting on the bench after a shift.  Yeah?  He’s fast as f*ck and plays 20 minutes a night.
- He’s not good with the media.  Because he was treated like sh!t the entire time he was in Toronto.  Amazing that he’s so much better now that he doesn’t have disgusting people like Steve Simmons making up stories about his hot dog eating habits.

I have no doubt that his nationality contributed to it, but I think it was mostly because he didn’t score 40 goals a year (while being saddled with mediocrity as his centreman).

The next scapegoat will be whichever UFA they bring in on a big salary who doesn’t immediately show that he’s worth even more than he’s being paid.

Or Auston Matthews.  I can already see the Steve Simmons article carrying on about Auston’s smug face not looking contrite enough after a hard loss.

Posted by Garth on 06/07/16 at 02:52 PM ET

Avatar

Toronto has a hockey club????

Posted by Bay Area Wings fan on 06/07/16 at 06:23 PM ET

Avatar

Good for Phil Kessel. I am happy to see him succeed.

Posted by Puckbubba on 06/08/16 at 11:26 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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