Tyler Bozak; Phil Kesse

Columnist: Randy Carlyle should rip Phil Kessel for bad defense


While the Leafs lost a hard, physical game to the Bruins last night, there are some who feel that the scapegoat for their failings last night in the eyes of new Toronto coach Randy Carlyle will be easy to pick out.

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Buffery says that Phil Kessel is the guy who should be read the riot act from Carlyle about playing solid two-way hockey thanks to picking up a goal, an assist, and a minus-two rating on the night. After seeing Zdeno Chara stickhandle around Kessel, Carlyle wasn’t all that impressed and Buffery took his words as damning praise.

“His work ethic was strong,” said Carlyle. “But on the other side they can’t continually give up quality scoring chances. It was like a momentum swing for the one shift that they got scored on twice. And those are the things that we again have to correct as a group. But I thought (Kessel) was a dynamic individual in the other areas of the game. Every time he had the puck on the power play … he controlled the puck down the side and made things happen.”

That doesn’t sound like a coach who was driven nuts by weak defensive play, but Kessel isn’t a guy that’s going to be out there to lock down opponents anyway.

Yes, they’ll want Kessel to show a bit more effort there but doing so at the expense of the offense he’s supposed to bring would be counterproductive. Besides, if you can find me the person that will be able to body up on Zdeno Chara in the NHL, I’d like to meet them.

Phil Kessel says slump wasn’t Ron Wilson’s fault

Phil Kessel

Former Leafs coach Ron Wilson didn’t have a lot of supporters left by the time he was fired, but Phil Kessel was one of them. After Kessel’s first practice with new bench boss Randy Carlyle, Kessel took the time to publicly defend Wilson.

“It’s not his fault we were losing games,” Kessel said. “We just weren’t doing the little things to win games. When you’re down 2-0 to start games and you lose by one goal, and stuff like that, it’s not his fault. It’s not his fault we went on that skid. It’s the players. We play the game out there and we didn’t get it done.”

Kessel went onto speak about the support Wilson gave him and mentioned several times that he liked his former coach. It sounds like this transition might be rough for Kessel, especially seeing as Carlyle might be looking for the star forward to do more defensively, even if it negatively affects Kessel’s offensive production.

“I don’t know,” Kessel said about the possibility of Carlyle requiring him to make such an adjustment. “It’s (only) been one day (since Carlyle took over) so we’ll see how it goes for the last 17 games and we’ll figure it out.”

Carlyle thinks that it’s possible for someone to excel offensively in his system while still being responsible without the puck. Carlyle has coached plenty of star players during career years, including Corey Perry, who scored a league-leading 50 goals last season.

Phil Kessel is easily intimidated, concludes anonymous group of players with fewer goals than Kessel

Phil Kessel

Sports Illustrated released its latest incendiary player poll today. In January, SI asked for the most overrated player in the NHL and Dion Phaneuf’s name topped the list, subsequently infuriating Leafs GM Brian Burke. This time it’s the easiest all-star type to intimidate.

The results?

Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs RW 15%

The Sedin Twins, Canucks F’s 8%

Alexander Semin, Capitals LW 7%

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks C 3%

Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils LW 3%

In a related story, Burke just kicked another hole in the wall.

Anyway, the results are hardly surprising. And now we play the waiting game before finding out what the players, their teammates and coaches say about the poll.

It’s the circle of life.

Yup, Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel are going to be linemates

Tyler Seguin

Seeing Phil Kessel drafted on to Zdeno Chara’s team for the All-Star Game opened up the possibility of seeing a lot of fan-tweaking possibilities. After all, seeing Maple Leafs and Bruins teamed up together means rivals having to play nicely. In the case of Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel, the possibility of seeing them as linemates was sky high.

As it turns out, that’s just what we’re going to see because Claude Julien is a nice guy like that. Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com tells us about how the Phil Kessel trade gets to be in the spotlight for one more day and it’s all because Tyler Seguin was hoping it could happen.

So Claude Julien apparently heard Seguin’s request, liked it, and will go with the forward combination suggestion in Sunday’s game. After taking part in the shooting accuracy competition and shootout elimination on Saturday evening, Seguin confirmed he’ll be centering a line with Maple Leafs Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Seguin playing center to two Maple Leafs is a fun way for Julien to help troll the Leafs fan base at a game that’s as competitive as a coin flip. Julien says that the All-Star Game offers him the opportunity to take it easy as a coach and put guys together that wanted to play on the same line. That might not stop Bruins and Leafs fans from busting each other’s chops for a day though.

Best 10 NHL moments of the year: Phil Kessel, Mr. Irrelevant

phil kessel drafgt

Merry Christmas, everyone. Since we can’t buy all our readers an iPad2, we’ve put together a list of the best 10 NHL moments of the past year that we’ll be rolling out on the site all day long.

Phil Kessel, Mr. Irrelevant

In an effort to spice up the 2011 All-Star Game, the NHL opted for a “fantasy” draft — a fantasy that turned into Phil Kessel’s nightmare. There he sat, awkwardly, as 35 players were selected ahead of him.

So, why is this on our “best moments” list?

For one, Kessel handled the ignominy like a champ.

“I don’t care one bit at all,” he said after the draft. “When I was a kid, I would never have dreamed of being here. Hopefully the fans in Toronto are happy to see me in the game. I’ll play well in the game for them.”

Two, he’s been on fire ever since. Kessel scored 30 points in 33 games following last year’s ASG and this season, he’s the NHL’s second-leading scorer with 41 points through 35 games.

Not bad for Mr. Irrelevant, huh?