Carey Price, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban

Habs’ Subban stands up for Phil Kessel


The Canadiens and Maple Leafs are fierce rivals, but Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban put that aside to support Toronto forward Phil Kessel following the Habs’ 2-1 shootout victory over them tonight.

“I don’t think Phil (Kessel) gets enough credit for his personality,” Subban told Montreal Gazette writer Dave Stubbs. “He’s a personable guy if he knows you. If you put a microphone in (Kessel’s) face and ask him stupid questions, he’s not going to show that (personable) side of himself.

“I don’t think (Kessel) gets enough credit for showing his personality. He’s an outgoing guy and he’s really funny.”

Kessel has certainly taken quite a bit of heat this season. Some of that comes with the fact that he’s the best and highest paid player on a team that’s in a free fall, but that’s not the extent of it. For example, after Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was fired, another former Toronto bench boss, Ron Wilson, called Kessel unreliable, which led to a heated exchange between Kessel and Toronto Star reporter Dave Feschuk over his coachability.

At this point Kessel might feel resigned to the possibility that the Maple Leafs will trade him, which wouldn’t be an unreasonable thing for Toronto to do for reasons that aren’t at all related to his personality.

The hockey world’s been awfully hard on Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel

The 2015 All-Star Game’s fantasy draft almost felt like a greatest hits compilation for Phil Kessel mockery.

Jonathan Toews made a lighthearted reference to how “coach-able” Kessel may or may not be. Merely picking him first was a reference to Kessel being the original final selection of an All-Star Game fantasy draft. The ribbing only continued when he was once again “traded” for Tyler Seguin.

As amusing as some of this stuff is, perhaps it should also prompt a moratorium on Kessel mockery. Let’s face it, the 27-year-old’s been receiving a disproportionate amount of grief for basically his entire NHL career.

Exaggerated character concerns

In fact, the Kessel-bashing started even before he played his first game.

At some point, he was considered possibly the first pick of the 2006 NHL Draft, yet he left a bad impression. Brian Burke referred to a pre-draft interview as “pathetic” and Kessel slid modestly to the Boston Bruins with the fifth choice.

Despite generating a 36-goal season in his last campaign with Boston, it was a bumpy ride with the Bruins, especially when he was a healthy scratch during the 2008 playoffs. (It’s oddly fitting that a player whose “style doesn’t suit the postseason” currently has 21 points in 22 career postseason games …)

What Kessel can and cannot control

Anyway, his eventual departure from Boston – partially a money decision, partially because maybe he didn’t mesh well with head coach Claude Julien, among other potential factors – really escalated the mockery.

Even though he’s been the 15th most productive point producer in the NHL since joining the Maple Leafs, Kessel’s been a punching bag for most of that time, whether it’s people lambasting him for the (first) Seguin trade or scapegoating him for Toronto’s many problems.

Here’s the real question, though: how much of any of this is Kessel’s fault?

Whatever flaws he might exhibit, he’s generated 30+ goals in every full season (ignoring the 48-game campaign, when he was on his typically impressive pace) since his final year with the Bruins. He’s certainly had his moments with the media, but has he done so to such a degree to justify so much flack?

Much, if not all, of the grief he received this weekend was in good fun. Still, it seems odd how many people forget that Kessel deserves the respect of … you know, a perennial All-Star.

Don Cherry to Phil Kessel: ‘Forget about back-checking’

Don Cherry

Phil Kessel is in a funk – just two goals in his last 14 games. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a funk – shut out in two of their last three games prior to puck drop on Saturday.

But Don Cherry, during his Coach’s Corner segment, had some advice for Kessel, Toronto’s embattled star and the Leafs, too.

“Kessel, I would say, forget it coming back. Just score goals,” said Cherry. “He’s your magic guy with the hands. Let him go, forget about back-checking.”

Interesting strategy.

The last few weeks have been a tumultuous time for Kessel and the Leafs. They have only three wins since Dec. 16.

In addition to his slump, Kessel has been called out for being inconsistent and an alleged inability to be coached, called out again by Mike Milbury for being a “pain” in the, well, you-know-what, and involved in an awkward, heated exchange with a Toronto reporter following the firing of Randy Carlyle.

Video: Phil Kessel’s a ‘pain in the [blank],’ says Mike Milbury

HKN Kessel Brothers 20140928

Tell us how you really feel, Mike Milbury.

On Wednesday, during the broadcast of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Boston Bruins game on NBCSN, Milbury, a former player, coach and general manager in the National Hockey League, ripped into Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel, calling him a “pain” in the you-know-what.

This comes one day after the Leafs fired Randy Carlyle and Kessel later got into it with a reporter who asked if Toronto’s forward was difficult to coach, following the comments of another former Leafs coach, Ron Wilson.

PHT Morning Skate: Phil Kessel’s weird holiday outfit and Brent Burns’ love of pizza


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Mats Sundin as a member of the Vancouver Canucks and four other things that maybe shouldn’t have happened. (The Hockey News)

Before you get too excited about Martin Brodeur’s first win with the St. Louis Blues … (Sportsnet)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Here’s hoping Brent Burns begins a trend of people eating pizza while being interviewed. No, not just in hockey or sports … even in job interviews.

(The video itself is old, but his tendency to do so caused a stir. Really though, are you going to complain about seeing that?)

This goalie celebration is something else. (Puck Daddy)

Quite a throwback sight: Wayne Gretzky in a big fur coat. (Pucks, Guts & Glory)

There’s just … a lot to take in as far as Phil Kessel’s holiday-themed outfit goes, via Dion Phaneuf’s Instagram account. Is it more funny or disturbing?