Phil Kessel; Mike Komisarek

Channeling Costanza: Should Toronto trade Phil Kessel?

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Two fascinating bits of Canadian commentary converged to formulate a wacky thought. Should Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke channel the contrary streak that George Costanza once rode by trading Phil Kessel?

Before I delve deeper, here’s the video behind the reference:

Now, the National Post’s Bruce Arthur compared the Maple Leafs to that classic Costanza bit because they won right when it seemed best to lose. (Toronto might be at the point that they should concede its playoff run and tank for a better draft pick.)

source:

… Yet, when you think about it, the comparison actually might extend to Damien Cox’s rabble rousing claim that the Maple Leafs should trade their high-scoring winger Phil Kessel.

To Cox’s credit, he does describe his suggestion as a “terrible choice” that Burke should make. The logic is simple: as good as Kessel is, he’s not the “leader” that the Maple Leafs need – he’s not “a Carlyle player” – so why not “cut bait” now?

Moving Kessel wouldn’t signify “blowing up” the blueprint. It would simply be an acknowledgment this player doesn’t embody what the club requires at this stage. All the other young assets acquired in recent years can be retained and prospects and/or picks secured in a Kessel trade would be valuable pieces.

Burke can’t afford to insist that Kessel is a foundation player when he obviously is not, at least not for these Leafs, and he certainly can’t afford to make another huge financial commitment to him.

Another terrible choice is upon the Leaf hockey boss. He waited too long to make the first one and it cost him. He can’t make that mistake again.

It’s an interesting perspective, but I’m not sure if the Richards/Carter parallel makes sense. The Flyers had Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere and other quality forwards to fill the void; is there any one on Kessel’s level in Toronto? The best immediate answer would probably be Joffrey Lupul, whose renaissance has a lot to do with his chemistry alongside Kessel.

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Still, there’s no doubt that if the Buds did want to sell high on Kessel, now would be the best time to do so. With all that in mind, what do you think? Should Toronto stick with him or provide an ode to Costanza’s bizarro strategy and trade him away?

PHT Morning Skate: Where Phil Kessel is steaming mad at failure

Phil Kessel
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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.

Of all the players in Toronto you’d expect to be fuming over how bad the Leafs have played in the second half, how many of you picked Phil Kessel to be vocal about it? (TSN)

It’s probably time to pack it in for the Ducks. Corey Perry is out with a shoulder problem. (OC Register)

Who was the guy that lit a fire under the Sabres to win in overtime last night? None other than Ryan Miller. (Buffalo News)

The Lightning know that they’ve got the odds stacked against them in their run at making the postseason. (Tampa Tribune)

Adam Larsson would like to be a lot better after being benched on Sunday against Philadelphia. (Fire & Ice)

Krys Barch of the Panthers says that if soldiers can lay their lives on the line in Afghanistan, then he and other pros can risk getting concussions playing hockey. (Sun-Sentinel)

2012 top draft prospect Nail Yakupov is done for the season with an upper-body injury. Don’t get carried away though, the OHL season ends in another week or so. (Sportsnet)

Dustin Byfuglien is becoming a phenom in Winnipeg much like Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, and Teemu Selanne before him. (Winnipeg Sun)

John MacKinnon of the Edmonton Journal says the Oilers have to play more urgent and soon. I think the time for that expired months ago. (Edmonton Journal)

Finally, check out the goal-scorer’s goal that Taylor Hall scored against the Sharks that all started with a blocked shot. (NHL)

Columnist: Randy Carlyle should rip Phil Kessel for bad defense

Tyler Bozak; Phil Kesse
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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
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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.