Kukla's Korner Hockey
Entries with the tag: phil kessel
From the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle:
It was a Stanley Cup party that had surprisingly little to do with hockey.
Held at the posh Forest Hill mansion of entrepreneur Michael Kimel, Phil Kessel’s night with Lord Stanley’s silverware last week was a well-organized to-do, with valet parking and a heavy security presence at the front door.
What the Pittsburgh Penguins star’s celebration didn’t have was many fellow players. No current members of the Toronto Maple Leafs were present, and former captain Dion Phaneuf – who flew in for the celebration from his off-season home in Prince Edward Island – was the only former teammate.
A rowdy P.K. Subban, meanwhile, showed up hooting and hollering at around midnight, still wearing a cowboy hat from his introductory press conference in Nashville that afternoon.
But that was it, in terms of NHL star power.
According to those who attended, Kessel wanted his Stanley Cup party to be a thank you to the other friends he made in Toronto, many of them from the hospitality industry. He was a regular at some of the higher-end restaurants in the downtown, and it was there that he first met many close friends during his six years playing for the Leafs.
From the New York Post's Larry Brooks:
A year ago at the top of Entry Draft week, Phil Kessel was a Maple Leaf, Nick Bonino a Duck and Carl Hagelin a Ranger. Which is to say that in a league in which trades have become tools of last resort, Gentleman Jim Rutherford was able to pull off three of them over the course of seven months to construct what became the most dynamic line in hockey.
The Pittsburgh general manager remade his team and organization on the fly in a process that began with the July 1 acquisition of Kessel, included a coaching change in mid-December, and culminated with a Stanley Cup victory that proves championship windows that seem shut can reopen darn quickly, even in a cap world.
Going into last June’s Entry Draft, Brandon Sutter, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Nick Spaling, David Perron, Daniel Winnik, Rob Scuderi, Ian Lapierre and Steve Downie were still Penguins a couple of months removed from a first-round defeat to the Rangers. So was Mike Johnston. None was with the team by the end of January.
The Penguins did not create a template to follow on the ice as much as they perfected the one adopted by teams throughout the league that want to play with speed and with the puck. It is not just one-way speed or north-south speed on the rush. It is speed on the backcheck to negate attacks as much as speed on the forecheck to create turnovers. It is speed to the puck in both end zones to create battles to be won.
The Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup final was all but devoid of drama. Never truly caught anyone’s imagination. Never was as competitive as the scoreboard connoted. Was not able to carve a niche in the national profile. The modicum of suspense in the series — through which Pittsburgh’s three-zone speed made San Jose look clunky, bad and out of place — was created singularly by the brilliance of Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones.
Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: blake+comeau, brandon+sutter, carl+hagelin, daniel+winnik, david+perron, ian+laperriere, ian+laperriere, jim+rutherford, martin+jones, nick+bonino, nick+spaling, paul+martin, phil+kessel, pittsburgh+penguins, rob+scuderi, san+jose+sharks, steve+downie
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
One of the NHL's most polarizing figures of the past decade pinched his eyes to try to stop the tears, the hugs from his family members only making it harder to do so.
Phil Kessel, Stanley Cup champion, playoff warrior, and now forever more seen in a different light.
"I mean, it's an unbelievable feeling, obviously it's special," said the teary-eyed Kessel as his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates celebrated with friends and family Sunday night on the ice at SAP Center following a 3-1, Game 6 win over the San Jose Sharks.
"It's been a journey," Kessel later added, a lump in his throat.
Booed out of Boston and then out of Toronto, the much-maligned and perhaps misunderstood Kessel was clutch all spring long, leading the Penguins in scoring with 22 points (10-12) in 24 games.
Below, watch Kessel's on-ice interview with Jeremy Roenick...
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.
from Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters,
Right winger Phil Kessel is a pretty low-key personality in his dealings with the media. He is usually brief and offers few words beyond the bare minimum wheather his team wins or loses. He's introverted and slow to reveal much in the way of a personality.
Tonight, the excitement he displayed over going to a Stanley Cup final for the first time in his career was so powerful it could have lit up a nuclear submarine.
“I'm so thrilled right now," Kessel said. "I… I... I... don't know what to say. Um … This ... is a … uh ... a huge moment in my career. I have nothing but good things to say about everybody here.... Heh … heh...”
Seriously, no transcription of this quote does his joy justice. You can listen to him giggle through his answer here.
The story of the 2015-16 Penguins, at least over the past six months, is excitement. They play a thrilling breakneck brand of hockey and it drives them to wins more often than not. They faced a team with a similar style of play of play and comparable depth in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Below, watch the game highlights and handshake line...
In six seasons with the Leafs, Kessel had 181 goals, 394 points and played in 446 games.
In 7 playoff games, he had 4 goals and 2 assists.
from David Alter of the National Post,
He was the team’s leading scorer and never missed a game throughout his six seasons in Toronto. But when Phil Kessel takes on the Leafs tonight, there will be no acknowledgement of his service over the previous six seasons as a member of the Blue and White.
“Management or game ops will not be commenting on the decision to not acknowledge a former player during the game tonight” said a Leafs spokesperson.
The decision is an interesting one, given the tradition of acknowledging the return of a former player or staff member marking their return to the building for the first time, particularly the size of the contribution Kessel has made.
Last season, the team drew much criticism when the players’ elected not to salute the fans following a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Unlike that decision, this one was made by Maple Leafs management.
Phil Kessel is a little...let's say socially challenged...but it's refreshing to hear Kessel tell the Pittsburgh and Toronto media that he simply doesn't care about the "spotlight" involved with returning to Toronto tomorrow night:
Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports that all is going well for Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh thus far, and Kessel's teammates certainly vouch for the ever-guarded #81:
"He’s pretty funny," said Crosby. "You know what, he’s just comfortable. He seems like he’s been here a lot longer than a month or whatever."
"We have fun with him — that's one part I'm a little bit surprised [about]," said David Perron, who met Kessel for the first time at training camp and now occupies the locker stall beside him.
"You never know what kind of guy you're going to get. He's been awesome, he's been pretty funny. Guys keep him loose."
These are the early days of what should be a long marriage. Kessel is under contract through 2020-21 and carries a cap hit of $6.8-million (the Leafs are covering the other $1.2-million) to go with a limited no-trade clause.
Often a change of scenery has a positive impact on a player, especially one coming from a team that missed the playoffs five of the last six years and is being promised more freedom.
"It's a tough market in Toronto," said Perron. "I think he was loving it there, but maybe it was time to move on. I don't know all that happened there. We're really happy to have him."
Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean spoke with Sportsnet's Luke Fox regarding five "hot topics":
On what the Phil Kessel trade means to Pittsburgh: “It’s great for Sidney Crosby. The challenge with Sid, thinking back to the Vancouver Olympics, is figuring out who to play with him. Finally after about three games, coach Mike Babcock said, ‘Sid, who do you think?’ And he said Eric Staal and Jarome Iginla. I see Kessel as maybe that triggerman that Sidney needs.
On 2015′s biggest free agent, Mike Babcock, moving to Toronto:“Mike Babcock is a big believer in ghost rosters. He doesn’t want too many of the same players. I’m not sure the Leafs had too many other Kessels, to be honest. Toronto will assemble a team in Mike Babcock’s version of teams.
“Mike didn’t want Marty St. Louis, who was the leading scorer in the National Hockey League [in 2013] to go to the Sochi Olympics because he had set out a roster of what he had in mind. He told Steve [Yzerman]: ‘You can pick him, but I won’t be able to play him.’ And Yzerman drafted according to Mike both at Sochi and Vancouver.
“In Vancouver at six in the morning, Yzerman called him and said, ‘Are you up?’ Mike said, ‘I’m a coach. I’m always up.’ And he let him make the final selection on forwards. Mike took Jonathan Toews and put him on the checking line with Rick Nash and Mike Richards—very unconventional. That’s what’s happening in Toronto: Mike’s doing the ghost roster as he sees fit.”
from Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun,
It’s trickier when your most talented player isn’t driven.
But in Toronto, this scenario isn’t just a disappointment.
It’s a train wreck.
As I’ve watched the Chicago Blackhawks in their various playoff runs over the past few seasons, I reached this vague conclusion: Phil Kessel is Patrick Kane.
Toronto wanted Kessel to be Jonathan Toews. But the key isn’t turning Kessel/Kane into Toews, because that never works.
The key is getting a Toews, too.
There’s an extra layer of complication in Toronto.
Since 1993, when the Leafs made their magical playoff run and came within a game of reaching the Stanley Cup final, Gilmour and Clark have combined to form the star template that we crave in Toronto.
Gilmour, looking more like a skeleton with each game, so vicious about winning that he would do absolutely anything.
And Clark, having survived many dark seasons in Blue and White when he had to be the scorer AND the fighter AND the hitter AND the leader, wringing every last morsel of energy out of his battered body, and rising to the occasion.
If you don’t fit that model in Toronto?
You are greeted with annoyed bafflement.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Told that an anonymous GM has called the asking price for Kessel “crazy” — likely a combination of prospects and picks — Shanahan said none of his peers have characterized Leafs demands as such. But dealing Kessel has all sorts of complications: A burdensome contract at eight years and $64 million US; whether it’s one of eight teams he’ll agree to join and, of course, getting a good return.
With most in agreement the Leafs need a shakeup in the room before new coach Mike Babcock gets to work, there is pressure on Shanahan to make a bold move.
“We like some of the things we are hearing,” Shanahan said. “Whether they develop into something more real, I couldn’t give a firm answer.
“For whatever reason, the mix hasn’t worked out well here. But we do have some strong individuals and talented players. I won’t say one way or the other who is going to be around (next year) and who won’t. It’s still too early for that. But when you have a guy like (Kessel) who is such a natural goal-scorer in the prime of his his career ... everyone wants goal-scoring. Obvioulsy, in a cap era, it’s not easy to fit that kind of player into the lineup any more. But he’s a great player, scorer and finisher,”
Shanahan said there has not been a firm offer for Kessel yet, so he didn’t want to talk about how much of the contract the Leafs would pick up or even approach Kessel for approval of a destination.
from Bob McKenzie of TSN,
- There's going to be considerable (trade) speculation, obviously, about the futures of Phil Kessel and many more Maple Leafs leading up to the draft.
Toronto is looking to rebuild and the Leafs' veteran core players will generate varying degrees of interest. Most of them have limited no trade clauses.
Kessel's limited NTC is believed to include eight teams he can be traded to. Prior to the trade deadline, TSN reported those eight teams were believed to be: Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minnesota; Montreal; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.
But that doesn't preclude the possibility of the Leafs finding a suitable deal with a team not on the list and asking the player to amend the list. Also, with each new contract year, it's believed a new list can be submitted by the player so the list can change from year to year. The contract year expires June 30.
- The 2015 unrestricted free agent class is not perceived to have a lot of marquee value, especially as it pertains to forwards, but there does appear to be keen interest in what looks like an intriguing list of defencemen.
Amongst those expected to be available on July 1 are: Pittsburgh's Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff; Los Angeles's Andrej Sekera; Chicago's Johnny Oduya; and, Washington's Mike Green, amongst others.
Sportsnet's Damien Cox suggests that the Toronto Maple Leafs must take an aggressive approach to pre-draft-day trades in order to move out bodies and bring in both younger prospects and picks, and while this entry fits under, "KK Hockey" more than my blog, I (George) read this as a Red Wings fan and thought, "How did two months suddenly turn Toronto's trash into another man's treasure?"
To be in position to get the best players over the next few years, more picks are needed and winning has to become a secondary goal, which means people have to go. Phaneuf almost went at the trade deadline to Detroit, and that’s a scenario that will be revisited, even though the Leafs have yet to hire a new general manager. Shanahan feels comfortable making major deals with Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas and Mike Babcock at his side, and the Red Wings may be willing to give up the futures now that they weren’t willing to relinquish in March when a deal that featured Phaneuf going to Motown for the contract of Stephen Weiss and defenceman Brendan Smith wasn’t concluded because the Leafs also wanted futures the Wings weren’t willing to surrender at that point.
Yes, because Teemu Pulkkinen scoring like a machine during two-and-a-half rounds of the Grand Rapids Griffins' playoffs = he's totally redundant.
Kessel, meanwhile, has seven years to go at $8 million per, but even in an off, off season he potted 25 goals. There’s no obvious match here, but lots of teams failed in the playoffs or missed them because they struggled to score and could have interest in the winger.
And so they're supposed to surrender major compensation for someone described by the Toronto media as nothing more than a malcontent and a cancer?
Bozak and Lupul would be the next two on the list, and if Kessel can’t be moved, they are easier to deal. Lupul has three years left at $5.25 million, Bozak three more at $4.2 million.
The Leafs have demonstrated in the David Clarkson trade with Columbus and the Phaneuf talks with Detroit they’re willing to absorb salary if that’s what it takes to make a deal. Moreover, they’re keenly aware that once the free agent market opens July 1, and with the cap likely to increase only to about $71 million, their options to move these players are likely to be reduced significantly as budgets get spent.
That doesn't mean their prices have gone up since the trade deadline, when the Leafs weren't able to consummate deals for any of the above-listed players.
Cox continues, and I'm not trying to rip the guy, but let's just say I think his take on the value of the players the Maple Leafs' press corps bashed for the entire 2014-15 season aren't any higher because other teams are desperate to take the Leafs' problem children on this summer.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Phil Kessel has to go.
More than any single player in blue and white, Kessel needs to be removed for his part in the stench of this Maple Leafs tire fire.
Kessel’s unwillingness to lead, his seeming inability to lead, his negativity on the bench and in the dressing room, his surprising influence he has over his teammates is just a growing short list of why the Leafs must rid themselves of their most talented player.
Kessel is the eighth highest-paid forward in hockey and yet is 89th in even-strength scoring among forwards in the NHL. Maybe anyone can have a bad year, and this is certainly one, although Kessel’s career has been something of a straight line prior to this season. But the odour of this dreadful season, from his lack of conditioning, his disdain for coaching, his unwillingness to accept ownership of any difficulty, his part in Salutegate, his tone-deaf ways trump any singular scoring skill that makes him unique.
continued plus more topics...
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
Kessel scored twice on the 16th of December. He doesn't have a multi-goal game since, totaling only seven in 42 games. That's a paltry 14-goal pace for a player who's topped 30 goals in each of the previous five full seasons.
His production in that time-frame (Dec. 17 – Mar. 21) is stunning to behold. Entering Saturday's play Kessel ranked:
• 247th (tied) in even-strength goals (3)
• 336th (tied) in even-strength points (7)
• 142nd (tied) in total points (20)
• 158th (tied) in total goals (7)
The numbers are even less flattering when narrowed down to just the New Year.
Kessel has just three even-strength points in 2015 – a stretch of 35 games. He does not have an even-strength assist since the calendar flipped over from 2014.
He has as many even-strength points in that same span mind you as fellow Leafs Brandon Kozun, Trevor Smith and Roman Polak and less than Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, who were traded just before the Mar. 2 deadline.
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
• I asked a scout earlier this week about what the trade value of Rangers’ backup/late-season hero Cam Talbot is likely to be. The answer won’t thrill New York’s fans. “Best-case for the Rangers? If they find someone really desperate? Maybe a second rounder,” the scout said. “More likely, though, a third and a little something on the side. Depends on where the [acquiring team] is picking.” He also said that unless he was blown away by the offer, he’d be inclined to retain Talbot if he was Rangers GM Glen Sather. “He’s cheap [$1.45 million] and reliable. You never know what can happen. He’s quality insurance.”
• The same scout on Toronto’s Phil Kessel: “He's a unique talent, but I don’t know about him. I think he’d excel as a supporting player on a top team, but if that’s true do you want to assume the risk that comes with him? You’d have to have faith in your leadership’s ability to bring him into the mix [and] find him a place where he fits in. It would take him a long time to get out from under [this] cloud, you know? I'd prefer a guy with a lower ceiling who was lower maintenance.”
many more hockey topics...
from Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail,
The relationship between the media and the athletes they cover is often framed in war metaphors. That’s apt. Though the two camps spend a lot of time in each other’s company, they are foreign to one another as people. “Dehumanized” isn’t too strong a word. The players are cartoon characters; the media, a faceless mob. We treat each other accordingly.
I thought about this as I watched Phil Kessel going j’accuse on the press before Tuesday’s game in Florida. He was surrounded by people he sees every day. However, he wasn’t talking to any of them. He was talking at them.
The presentation rendered the whole thing contrary to its motive: making his critics understand that he and his teammates are people and deserve to be treated as such. In essence: I don’t see you, but I demand that you see me. That he’s right is beside the point.
How did this toxic relationship develop – and why does it continue?
Sometimes, it has to do with the content of the reporting, or personal friction. There are feuds that kick off over nothing in a locker room and are resolved in print over decades. But it’s more fundamental than that.
There are players I’ve covered for years, talked to many times about all sorts of things. I think I know them, at least a little.
via Jonas Siegel tweets,
Phil Kessel just lambasted Toronto media for treatment of Dion Phaneuf: "It's not his fault. Why he does he get the blame?"
Kessel: "I think the way the media treats Dion Phaneuf in this city is embarrassing."
More Kessel on Phaneuf: "Is it his fault we're losing? No. Did he build this team? No.
added 12:43pm, Watch Kessel's comments below...
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch can only pen "'almost deal'" columns after today, so he's delivering a hum-dinger of a rumor wallop this morning. Among his trade deadline day ruminations:
A guy who isn’t being talked about much who may be attracting a lot of interest is New Jersey defenceman Marek Zidlicky. Nobody is sure if Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would actually deal Zidlicky, but teams have been calling to see what the asking price is, just in case he does decide to make a move.
The Maple Leafs want to be the busiest team in the league Monday. They have been trying to deal almost their entire roster, but all eyes will be on captain Dion Phaneuf and wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. They’ve also, for the past two weeks, been shopping centre Tyler Bozak and his $4.2-million salary. Toronto has a chance to make this a significant day if they make moves.
The Montreal Canadiens set up shop in San Jose on Sunday night after a long flight that left at 11 a.m. The Habs have been steadfast in their search for a defenceman since the quest for help began. They were able to help their forward ranks by picking up Devante Smith-Pelley from the Ducks earlier this week in exchange for Jiri Sekac, but the thinking is GM Marc Bergevin isn’t done. The Habs would like to get a defenceman and the belief is they’ve been eyeing Toronto’s Roman Polak and Edmonton’s Jeff Petry. Though teams have wanted draft picks in return, the talk is the Habs may be dangling goaltender prospect Zach Fucale, who was a second-round selection (No. 36 overall) in 2013.
Garrioch continues, reporting that the Sabres and Bruins may swing a Chris Stewart deal, that the Blues want to make some sort of impact and that Matt Beleskey is in high demand.
Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: chris+stewart, devante+smith-pelly, dion+phaneuf, jeff+petry, jiri+sekac, joffrey+lupul, lou+lamoriello, marc+bergevin, marek+zidlicky, matt+beleskey, montreal+canadiens, new+jersey+devils, phil+kessel, roman+polak, toronto+maple+leafs, tyler+bozak
Among the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo's Sunday notes:
Looking ahead perhaps: One reason why the Tyler Myers pickup by Winnipeg could really be bright? Dustin Byfuglien, the thorn-in-the-Wild-side hybrid defenseman, is potentially a year from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
If Myers develops, he could replace Big Buff if he departs. If that happens, he’s exactly the type of player the Wild needs. Rumor has it he’s from Minnesota, too.
Kessel moving? The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost 21 of 25 games with Phil Kessel scoring four times in those games. He has since been demoted to the fourth line.
“I go where they want me. I love Toronto, but [if] it’s not here, it’s not here,” Kessel said.
Don’t be surprised if the Florida Panthers try to trade for the high-priced Kessel. He has a place in Palm Beach, the Panthers might have the assets to give up, and Kessel, not exactly fond of the spotlight, would be able to get out from under the microscope.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons suggests that the ever-prickly Phil Kessel's being handled the wrong way by new Leafs coach Peter Horachek:
Randy Carlyle came to understand the remarkable but flawed oddity that is Phil Kessel. He didn’t coach him much. He didn’t speak to him all that often. Mostly, realizing what he was up against, having a petulant child as his most talented and most protected player, he left him alone.
Since the firing, the more attention that has been put on Kessel, by Brendan Shanahan, by Peter Horachek, by Steve Spott, by the media, the more he has retreated, the less he has produced. Kessel’s collapse in the final 22 games post-Olympics a year ago was supposed to be monumental. The Leafs won just six games. Kessel managed just six goals in that time.
But heading into Montreal on Saturday night, Kessel’s retreat has been unlike any other before it. The Leafs have won just two games for Horachek. Kessel has only six points, three of them goals, in the 16 past games. The collapse a year ago he scored at .68 per game. The collapse now: .38 per game — a 31-point pace.
By salary cap numbers, Kessel is the eighth-highest paid forward in the NHL and next season he will rank 10th. For a scorer who is usually in the top 10, that is paying market value for Kessel. And by my count, he would be the top offensive player on 21-of-30 NHL teams. That won’t necessarily make him easy to trade if the Leafs go that route. But one thing seems clear: The way to get the most out of Kessel is to put the least amount of pressure on him. He reacts like a spoiled kid when prodded, hanging on the periphery, rarely pushing his way through.
Simmons continues with the usual amount of Sunday notes...
from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,
The door has been open to a possible trading of Phil Kessel for a while now.
The Maple Leafs’ all-star winger nudged that opening a little wider on Thursday night.
Asked following the Leafs’ 3-2 loss against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum whether he is worrying about the future for himself or the team.
“No,” Kessel said. “You know, I go where they want me. I love Toronto, but (if) it’s not here, it’s not here.”
The Leafs lost for the 13th time in regulation in 16 games since Randy Carlyle was shown the door and Peter Horachek took over as interim head coach.
It’s one part of another terrible run for the Leafs’ core of players that has been part of disasters in each of the past three seasons. The Leafs have lost 21 of their past 25 games, with 20 of those losses coming in regulation. That’s nine points of a possible 50.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons offers a unique take on one of the Toronto Maple Leafs' most important players using a statistical metric, which is...Interesting...given that this particular metric is poo-poohed by the advanced stats crowd that Simmons has so very often gone to-to-toe with:
The Phil Kessel Factor has become an absolute, stunning telling point with the up-and-down Maple Leafs. Consider these numbers:
When the enigmatic Kessel has a plus game — which means he is on the ice for more goals scored than given up at even strength — the Leafs have a breathtaking won-loss record of 11-0-1. That’s .958 hockey, almost perfect.
When the defensively disinterested Kessel has a minus game, which has been the case in 43% of Leafs games heading into Saturday night, Toronto has won just four of 17 encounters, with a 4-11-2 record. That’s .294 hockey. That’s lottery-pick territory.
When Kessel is an even player, the Leafs are 6-4, which is sound enough. What has become clear in this strange season of searching for identity is that the great gaps the Leafs have between victories and defeats, between streaks in either direction, centre so much around the best players on their roster, beginning with the leading scorer and highest paid player, Kessel.
His singular impact with the Leafs, both positively and negatively, demonstrates how much the club depends on him and how the defensive play of he and his linemates must become more diligent for the Leafs to become any factor at all.
Simmons continues, discussing the cost of World Junior hockey, the Florida Panthers, the aforementioned Maple Leafs and other sports topics...
In cased you missed the hit.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at Yahoo,
Centre Peter Holland asked goaltender James Reimer last week why Kessel's shot is so difficult to stop.
"It's just I guess the way the puck comes off the blade," Holland recalled. "It's tough for the goalies to read where it's going, whether it's going to be low, high, right corner, left corner."
Reimer, who has been on the receiving end of Kessel's shots in practice for four-plus seasons, said only Kessel and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals can get the puck off that quickly and with scarcely a hint of where it's going in the net.
Below, watch via Sportsnet YouTube channel,
Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel has one quick release and a mighty shot, which he displayed twice in a rout over the Bruins, so we thought we'd look back at a couple beauties from the past couple of years.
from Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star,
Phil Kessel might have done something more than score the winning goal for the Leafs in the club’s overtime win against Colorado Tuesday night.
He might have just helped make his case for being the best player on a Canadian-based NHL team.
Kessel, ever since he came to Toronto five years ago an in much debated trade with Boston, has arguably not been portrayed as an “elite” level player, parallel with the likes of the Sedins, Erik Karlsson, Evander Kane, and P.K. Subban, who are superstars with other Canadian teams in the NHL.
continued and according to Toronto Star readers, Kessel is by far the best...
My thumb is down to Phil Kessel, and I know—that means I have to stand in line. But really, shouldn’t Kessel think for half a second and realize that his best reaction to his part in Toronto’s season-opening loss against Montreal was not “you guys need to relax”? Nobody’s relaxing, Phil, except, perhaps, you in the Leafs’ Saturday night clunker against Pittsburgh. It doesn’t match Kessel’s chart-topping tweet from April that declared “Night fishing with friends—doesn’t get much better”. The sting of missing the playoffs had worn off, apparently. What Toronto fans need to hear from Kessel is that losses bother him. Even if they don’t.
-Dave Hodge of TSN.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
The Maple Leafs will add two more player statues to Legends Row on Saturday, working towards a total of nine to mark the club’s centennial in 2017.
One more space on the granite players bench will be kept open, in the hope someone emerges from the 21st century to warrant selection. The only possible candidate on the horizon has not yet seen the new monument, but if he keeps scoring at his current pace, Phil Kessel might one day make the sculptor’s cut.
With 156 goals in 41/2 years, he’s more than halfway to breaking into the top five in club history. And he’s just 26, with an eight-year contract still in its infancy.
from Ryan Dixon of Sportsnet,
Kessel will turn 27 in October, while Kane hits 26 in November. Which player would you consider a bigger gift to your team?
The case for Kane: In addition to his sublime skills, Kane loves the spotlight. The guy is a star, pure and simple, a fact exemplified by his Cup-winning goal in 2010 and his Conn Smythe performance in 2013. On the ice, his playmaking and vision are what really set Kane apart. Just seven NHLers have registered more total assists than Kane since he entered the league in 2007–08 and only three of those players—Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marty St. Louis—also have more goals. The Buffalo native may possess the softest hands on earth and when you combine that with the audacity to attempt ridiculous plays, you get things like his shootout winner against poor Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild. A born showman with talent to match; sometimes Kane makes it seem like things just aren’t fair.
The case for Kessel: It really starts during the 2011–12 campaign, when Kessel became the point-per-game player he’s been for the past three seasons. He also hasn’t missed a game since the beginning of the 2009–10 season, his first year with Toronto. That ability to avoid injury contributes to Kessel’s standing as one of the surest things in the league. With the Leafs the past few years, you’ve really never known what might happen from one moment to the next. But the one thing you could count on was Kessel showing up to the rink, skating really fast down the right side of the ice and firing deadly wrist shots to all parts of the net. In the past three seasons, the list of guys who’ve scored more total goals than “Phil the Thrill” is limited to Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry....
The Score's Katie Flynn reports that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke held a press conference regarding MLSE's sporting plans, and the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger caught some...outspoken...comments from Leiweke:
Leiweke says Shanahan will be patient, won't buckle to public pressure to make changes.
Leiweke says Kessel one of 10 best players in #NHL. "We've only seen a (bit) of how good he can be .. We need 2 build infastructure ard him"
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons always offers up a juicy Sunday notebook, but sometimes the best parts are one-liners. The thrusts of today's column involve the tiff between Jake Gardner and Randy Carlyle, Steve Yzerman's take on fighting and the Toronto Raptors' wooing of the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, but these quips piqued my interest:
Welcome to the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Eakins. That 4-2 lead ended up as a 5-4 defeat on opening night. Old Oilers habits don’t die easily ... There is a tension around the Philadelphia Flyers that belies the early schedule. When they lost their home opener to the Leafs in a game they had no business losing, there was a sense around their dressing room and management staff that there is already deep concern about this group.
The $10 million Phil Kessel will be paid next season is the highest single-season salary in Leafs history. The previous high: Mats Sundin at $9 million. Kessel’s salary-cap hit comes in at $8 million beginning next season ... For those who keep track of such important matters, Kessel will be paid $40,650 per period next season. If he plays all 82 games, that is ... The day after the frightening George Parros incident in Montreal, the NHL sent out a memo to teams asking them to de-emphasize fighting on their arena scoreboards. The tone of the memo: Let’s try and tone things down, people
The 'Battle of Ontario' was rejoined tonight as the Maple Leafs played their home opener against the Ottawa Senators. As they have since 1931, the 48th Highlanders opened the season for the Leafs - but the team chose to come out to the stylings of Metallica, instead:
While some things may stay the same, at least one thing would change. For the first time in 18 years, the inter-Provincial rivalry will not include Daniel Alfredsson. It made for much less booing, but no less scoring.
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Tags: battle+of+ontario, cory+conacher, craig+anderson, daniel+alfredsson, dave+bolland, erik+karlsson, james+reimer, jamie+devane, jared+cowen, jason+spezza, joffrey+lupul, jonathan+bernier, kyle+turris, mason+raymond, morgan+reilly, nazem+kadri, patrick+wiercioch, phil+kessel, randy+carlyle
Welcome to the morning after! A recap of the games from the night before and quick hit hockey news.
In Case You Missed It
Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers
After defeating the Montreal Canadiens last night the Maple Leafs traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers.
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Tags: anaheim+ducks, buffalo+sabres, colorado+avalanche, detroit+red+wings, jokerit, patrick+roy, pavel+datsyuk, phil+kessel, philadelphia+flyers, tomas+vokoun, toronto+maples+leafs
Don Cherry's first Coach's Corner of the season focused upon:
1. John Scott's jumping of Phil Kessel;
And 2. Cherry's disdain for hybrid icing, suggesting that someone will get hurt come playoff time:
Cherry also weighed in on the Parros-Orr incident...
It looks like Phil Kessel's going to have a very good Tuesday or Wednesday, per TSN's Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger:
Brendan Shanahan explains the suspension.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel has a disciplinary hearing scheduled for 4pm et Tuesday. The hearing will concern Kessel's participation in a brawl that erupted between the two Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night.
Forward John Scott dropped his gloves and went after Kessel just seconds after a fight between Leafs forward Jamie Devane and the Sabres' Corey Tropp.
Kessel would not drop his gloves to fight Scott, but instead swung his stick twice at Scott. His actions resulted in both slashing and fighting penalties.
The 25-year-old Kessel received a match penalty for his retaliation on Scott, a ruling imposed for deliberate attempt to injure another player. The NHL Rulebook states that any player given a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition" until a ruling is handed down by the Commissioner.
added 9/24/13 at 8:40am,
Sorry for the misleading headline, the meeting is by phone.
The proprietor and I were sort of hoping for a nice, quiet Sunday night on KK, and that seemed to be the case until about 9:30, when the Maple Leafs and Bruins engaged in massive amounts of dumb and/or exciting fighting. Hockeyfights.com posted what may be the longest and most context-setting clip of the bouts (and you will all be shocked, of course, to find out that John Scott was chirping at the Leafs' bench before he tried to fight Phil Kessel, David Clarkson hopped off the bench and five minutes of adventures in knuckle-punching took place)...
And while the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby and Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk did a fine job of capturing the Leafs' post-game reaction, and the Olean Times-Herald's Bill Hoppe told the Sabres' side of the story (not-so-shockingly, neither team chose to make the principals in instigation and jumping off the bench, respectively, available to the media), Sportsnet's Chris Johnston noted that the incredibly high likelihood that prized free agent signing David Clarkson will be suspended for ten games makes the Leafs' cheek-to-cheek dance with the salary cap quite complicated:
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
- If Phil Kessel wants to continue playing with the Leafs — and all indications are he does — it shouldn’t be all that complicated getting him signed. Assuming he plays at his usual close to point-a-game level, Kessel will fall in somewhere below Corey Perry’s $8.6 million a year and probably close to the $8.2 million Ryan Getzlaf is earning with the Anaheim Ducks
- Six teams have started training camp over the salary cap: Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. All will have to be at cap or below when the season begins.
- It’s amazing, really. If you’re following training camps around the NHL, everybody is having a good camp, every team looks great and every player will bounce back from their off-season of a year ago.
more hockey talk...
from Damien Cox of The Spin,
It's fair to say the conversation around Phil Kessel changed somewhat with his performance during last spring's memorable playoff clash with Boston, and with Kessel apparently in improved physical shape this summer heading into a contract year, there's every chance he may finally become the consistently explosive player the Leafs (and Brian Burke) believed they were getting in 2009.
If that happens, or even if it doesn't, an eight-year deal in the $70 million range is in the offing, and all indications are that Kessel wants to stay in Toronto and that the Leafs are determined to keep him and pay him the huge money.
If that's the case, the Leafs need get this matter wrapped up before Christmas, rather than have it linger into next winter and close to the trade deadline.
Beyond that, Kessel's image in the city will be intriguing to watch, particularly with teammates like Joffrey Lupul and newly arrived David Clarkson focussed on making significant impacts on the local community.
more plus some non-NHL topics...
from Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe,
Phil Kessel is a man of few words and, when it comes to facing his former team, a man of even fewer goals.
Give Kessel credit. The former Bruin spoke postgame on a night when his silence on the ice spoke volumes about his reputation as a faux franchise forward. Turned into white noise on skates, Kessel could only watch as the Bruins roared to a 4-1 victory over his Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at TD Garden Wednesday night.
The Bruins don’t want to say it. They don’t have to. You can see it. They’re in Phil the Thrill’s head. It’s like when they sent him to Toronto in 2009 they put a hockey hex on him. He sees the Spoked-B sweaters and becomes an Empty Kessel.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Phil Kessel has managed the impossible — he’s pulled a disappearing act before the playoff series begins against the Boston Bruins.
And in doing so, refusing to fulfil his contractual obligations and meet with the media, he wound up embarrassing team management in the process.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said general manager Dave Nonis, when apparently informed of Kessel’s unwillingness to play meet the press on Monday afternoon and doing his best to explain why. Nonis was clearly unimpressed with Kessel’s silence.
“We’ll deal with it internally,” said Nonis, who added. “Our players will be available on a going forward basis.”
Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean of Sportsnet discuss the Leafs trading Kessel. Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Vancouver are listed as possible cities Kessel could land.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
In 239 games with the Leafs, Kessel has potted 99 goals. Basically, that averages out to 33 goals per season, a number only 18 NHL players (2 per cent) hit last season and only 13 (1.4 per cent) did the season before that.
Kessel does well what very few NHLers do well. So, even with warts, he has great value, particularly to a team strong enough that he can play in a supporting role, as a secondary scoring threat.
Nonis, if he is to succeed, must put his stamp on this team in relatively short order, and must articulate a new direction fans can readily understand and embrace.
He has the patience and foresight to do that. Whether the new GM has the support of the new ownership, well, nobody knows.
But trading Kessel is the likeliest first step to the needed reset.
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
If Phil Kessel were to reach the 40-goal mark in a year in which the Toronto Maple Leafs missed the playoffs, what would be the reaction?
Would you cheer? Would you boo? Would you even care?
It might be a tree-falls-in-the-forest type of question. Kessel, who set a career high by scoring his 37th goal in a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, has been one of the NHL’s top offensive players this season. And yet it is difficult to celebrate his breakout year when you try and digest all that has gone wrong with the 14th-place team in the last two months.
Had Toronto made the playoffs — had they played their way to home-ice advantage, something that was not unthinkable not that long ago — Kessel might have received Hart Trophy consideration.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Well, with the club having fallen into a deep crevice that already threatens to affect next year, as new coach Randy Carlyle is already finding his record stained by this troop of players, Burke has now fallen upon decision time for his signature player.
Fish or cut bait time. And cutting bait makes the most sense.
For starters, Kessel isn’t a Carlyle player and he’s not going to be. In this spectacular 18-game crash that began after that impressive Saturday night victory in Ottawa, Kessel has continued to produce numbers — seven goals and 11 assists — but hasn’t asserted himself in any way as a player who can carry or lead a struggling team.
He’s not to blame for the shocking state of this hockey club. No single player is. If there weren’t terms on contracts and a salary cap in place, the Leafs could just carry on with him indefinitely.
But the money matters complicate things. Kessel has two more seasons left on his current contract, after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. So the clock is already ticking on the next commitment that will have to be made to him if he’s to remain a Leaf beyond his 26th birthday.