Phil Kessel sounds off on Leafs coach Ron Wilson

With how the Toronto Maple Leafs season has gone, you’d think a backlash of opinion from the players would’ve started a lot sooner than today. Instead, Leafs All-Star forward Phil Kessel is sounding off after being fed up with how things are going with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kessel sounded off to the media as the Leafs continue to struggle in the Northeast Division and his opinions on coach Ron Wilson, and Wilson’s on Kessel, were not very pleasant as Globe & Mail reporter James Mirtle shared today.

Asked Sunday whether Wilson has offered any advice given his struggles, Kessel offered some troubling insight into how the dynamic with his coach works.

“No, me and Ron don’t really talk,” Kessel told a group of reporters after practice. “So that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Wilson was only slightly more enlightening on the subject.

“Phil doesn’t really want to talk much about goal scoring or even work on it that much in practice,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of a ‘touch’ thing. So he comes and goes into these hot streaks, cold streaks.”

Having frustrating words coming out of a star player on a bad team is nothing new, but when it happens in Toronto it is a big deal and for Kessel to sound off makes matters a bit worse. Is it a coaches quarrel gone wrong or a player just sounding off on how bad the team has been all season long? Your guess is as good as ours in respect to that but with how the Leafs season has gone and how Kessel has struggled to get goals, the likely choice is “all of the above.”

Kessel has 19 goals and 15 assists this season and a -22 rating. For all the good he’s been able to do for the Leafs it’s been compounded by the amount of goals scored against the team when Kessel is out there. It’s just a factor of how things have gone in Toronto this season and a sign that things could be ready to bubble over there this year. With trade rumors swirling around the rest of the team, Kessel isn’t going anywhere as his trade from Boston created a huge price to pay for the Leafs. Still, it’s a bad sign for a Toronto team that’s lingering on to hope that they can rally at all to sneak into the playoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.