Phil Kessel has been one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs during his short tenure with the blue and white.Â Kessel will forever be linked with 2010 #2 overall selection Tyler Seguin and the jury might never come to a firm conclusion if that deal was in the best interest of the Leafs short or longer term.
Recently Kessel has come under heavy fire for his pointed comments regarding his lack of recent scoring and suggesting that maybe it â€œisnâ€™t working hereâ€.Â The Toronto media and fans of the team instantly took offense to this comment and basically hung him out to dry.Â Iâ€™ll admit it made me pause but this is Toronto, one of the largest media hubs in the world where even marginal players have microphones and cameras shoved in their grills, after a practise.Â
What Kessel said was pretty irresponsible knowing the sensitivity of the market he plays in but letâ€™s be honest what heÂ voiced toÂ the media was simply said out of frustration.Â If you are asked the same thing day in and day out for nearly a month you are bound to eventually say something controversial.Â I took it for what it is, the kid isÂ obviously completelyÂ dumbfounded with his lack of production.
The last time Kessel lit the lamp was January 11, 2011 in a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, almost a calendar month has passed since he last scored.Â Itâ€™s human nature to eventually reach a boiling point and when given ample opportunities to say something you might regret (even instantly) eventually you are likely to do just that.Â Several goal posts and missed opportunities will do that to the best of them.
What is worse that during this slump people have started to complain about Kesselâ€™s lack of defensive game or physical presence on a nightly basis. Umm, hello?Â Phil Kessel is purely a goal scorer, nothing more and nothing less and we have known exactly this since watching him with the Boston Bruins or at the very least after his first fullÂ season with Toronto.
Do I wish he had a more complete all-around game?Â Of course.Â Should he be bringing an element of hustle on a shift-to-shift basis?Â Obviously.Â Am I surprised he hasnâ€™t added much in the way of value outside occasional goal scoring?Â No, not really, this is what he is, for better or worse.
I might be in the minority but I donâ€™t feel he has played exceptionally poor (offensively) over much of â€œthe slumpâ€ and he has looked dangerous on more than a few occasions in most games.Â This is life for a streaky goal scorer like Phil Kessel; a few breaks here and there over the past month and we are likely talking about a potential 40-goal scorer and not this â€œheartless, defensively liable sucky-baby.”
Although it was clearly a stupid remark no matter the context, I am giving Kessel a pass this time.Â Given his line-mates most of the year, it’s probably the best pass he has seen all season.
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