Phil Kessel had a very impressive post-season, scoring 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games, moving him into the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and Kessel was a large part of their success playing on that vaunted HBK Line.
It’s been less than a month since the Penguins hoisted hockey’s silver chalice, but there was some summer news about Kessel on Friday.
This is interesting on a couple of fronts.
Kessel was originally left off the Team USA roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but there had been talk that hip surgery for Ryan Callahan — and apparently five months recovery — could open the door for Kessel, especially given his work in the playoffs.
Now, will this reported hand surgery impact his chances of being named to the roster as a replacement after all? There has yet to be a timeline established for recovery, but the tournament begins in September.
Well, Kessel’s character has often been questioned and criticized, particularly when he was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh last summer. Just typing ‘Phil Kessel’ and ‘character’ together into Google can be fascinating.
You, by now, know of this column in the Toronto Sun. Here’s a passage:
Sick of his act. Tired of his lack of responsibility. Unwilling to begin any reset or rebuild with their highest-paid, most talented, least-dedicated player. He didn’t eat right, train right, play right. This had to happen for Brendan Shanahan to begin his rebuilding of the Leafs. Separation between the Leafs and Kessel became necessary when it grew more and more apparent with time that everything Shanahan values was upended by Kessel’s singular, laissez-faire, flippant, mostly uncoachable ways.
So, based on the report above, Kessel was playing through an injury for the final three rounds of the playoffs. He was not only able to play, but he was highly productive.
Kessel’s ‘years in this league haven’t been easy, but now he’s got his name on the Cup’
Cooper: Kessel ‘probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves’