After seeing the Maple Leafs lose on home ice to the Islanders and hearing fans calling for Brian Burke to be fired during the game, you know that things are ugly in Toronto. After coming apart at the seams in the second half, the fans are out for blood after another playoff-free season.
As these situations tend to go, the best player takes most of the heat and Phil Kessel is not exempt from scrutiny. Jeff Blair of The Globe And Mail hammers on Kessel for not being a bigger figure with the media and seizing the spotlight.
He has no goaltender, his leading scorer is a milquetoast, Tom Thumb guy who shrinks even further in front of the cameras and nobody knows for certain whether his team captain has credibility in the dressing room.
Just a reminder here, Kessel has 36 goals and 40 assists on a team that’s now destined for the NHL draft lottery. That kind of production on a bad team should give you leeway to be Silent Bob if you want to be.
Meanwhile, Mike Brophy of Sportsnet wonders aloud if now is the time for the Leafs to trade Kessel.
Never mind what anybody tells you about Kessel having developed greater attention to his defensive play this season; that simply is not the case. He is still a floater who, more often than not comes back slowly looking for the first opportunity to make a quick pivot and head back up ice. In terms of work ethic, he will never be mistaken for Sidney Crosby.
Considering the lack of offensive weapons on the Leafs roster, asking Kessel to be yet another backchecking wizard seems counterproductive. This debate is eerily reminiscent of how Kessel and Claude Julien fell on hard times in Boston and that’s what helped spin Kessel into this quagmire of nonsense in Toronto.
Instead of worrying about what’s wrong with Phil Kessel, the Leafs should worry about how to surround him with better players to win games.
Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers almost seemed destined to be a wild affair, and so far, the two teams aren’t disappointing.
For one thing, Chris Kreider and the Rangers were open about “not forgetting” Cody Eakin‘s hit on Henrik Lundqvist, something Eakin realized heading in. The Stars had their own irritations coming into this game, as they clearly weren’t happy with their loss to the Buffalo Sabres and their shaky play overall.
So, yeah, plenty of reason for this to be a rowdy affair.
Kreider is delivering in particular, with the most memorable moment being his strange fight with Eakin, which you can see above. SBNation’s Pat Iversen points out that Kreider probably should have been ejected for hitting Eakin with a piece of his equipment, a violation of Rule 53.
As many know, Kreider has even more of a reputation for “interacting” with goalies, as he did once again with Antti Niemi:
The Stars currently lead the game 5-3, so it’s been a busy one on the scoreboard, too.
Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a shaky start on Tuesday. Still, their concerns likely revolve the most around the health of defenseman Morgan Rielly.
As you can see from the video above, the young Buds blueliner was shaken up by an awkward spill into the boards.
It’s too early to know if he avoided injury or might miss some time, but there’s at least some concern that he might have aggravated an issue from before his NHL days:
We’ll need to wait and see, but with his offensive skills and overall importance in mind (average just under 23 minutes a game this season, more or less in line with his breakthrough year in 2015-16), the Maple Leafs are crossing their fingers that this isn’t anything major.
The Chicago Blackhawks need to put a tough weekend behind them; maybe the Colorado Avalanche are just what the doctor ordered.
Colorado is clearly ranked last in the league, whether they believe they have some assets in the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog or not. Perhaps there will be a few scouts on hand to see how such potential Avs trade targets perform against a contending team?
It’s rarely a dull night when the Blackhawks roll out talented players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews – among others – so it should be a good time on NBCSN on Tuesday.
You can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.
Tyler Ennis‘ return to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on Monday after a 30-game absence seemed like a breath of fresh air. Tuesday, then, represents letting the air out of the balloon.
The Sabres announced that Ennis wasn’t out for warm-ups heading into tonight’s Sabres – Toronto Maple Leafs game. It certainly gives the impression that his groin injury isn’t fully healed.
Ennis contributed a goal to Buffalo’s 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday and nearly scored another in “lacrosse” style:
When healthy, he’s been a 20-goal, 40+ point player for Buffalo lately, so he was missed. The team tweeted out Ryan O'Reilly‘s comments about Ennis’ return mere hours ago, so you get the impression that it was a surprise for many:
Maybe it’s just a minor setback?
Update: The Sabres deem it a “precautionary scratch,” according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News. So maybe file this under minor setback. We’ll see.