Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins

Phil Kessel to the Leafs trade is finally complete

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It only took twenty-one months, but the deal that sent Phil Kessel from Boston to Toronto is finally complete. It was a different climate when the deal went down—the Bruins were looking to trade the disgruntled sniper, due in part to difficult contract negotiations. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs were coming off of an offseason where they thought they had put together a team that would be able to complete in the postseason. By adding an offensive player of Kessel’s caliber, Brian Burke and Co. thought they’d be able to do damage in the playoffs.

Things didn’t exactly work out that way.

The king’s ransom the Maple Leafs traded was a potpourri of future assets that had the potential to help the Bruins for years to come. When the Leafs plummeted in the standings, the trade almost looked comical by draft day. Not only did Toronto struggle with Kessel on their team, but the freefall in the standings meant the #2 overall pick would be headed to Boston—not Toronto. For their efforts, the Bruins happily picked up the leftovers from the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin debate. Fans in Toronto were left to dream about Tyler Seguin in a Leafs jersey.

With the second pick of the second round, the Bruins picked up talented forward Jared Knight from London. The Bruins’ front office is pleased with his development thus far:

“There are some within the Bruins organization that get just as bright-eyed speaking about the offensive potential of Knight as they do about Seguin and his elite skating, shooting and playmaking package.

All that was left to complete the deal for the Bruins was Toronto’s first round pick in this year’s draft. After another struggle this season, the Maple Leafs first rounder was a lottery pick—this time 9th overall. It was the first time since 1983 that the defending Stanley Cup champions were able to select in the top 10 of the next draft. The Islanders were able to pick up Pat LaFontaine with their pick; it almost seems unfair in retrospect.

As the beginning of the draft unfolded, a 6’5” talented defenseman with a booming shot fell to the eagerly awaiting Bruins. Most scouts pegged Dougie Hamilton as the best North American defenseman in the draft (and second best blueliner overall). He can score from the point with his gigantic shot and can punish opponents with devastating physically play. Fans in Toronto had to watch in horror as the highly touted defenseman slipped to the defending Stanley Cup champs.

He threw out some decent names when asked who he compares himself to:

“When asked to name the NHL players he most models his game after, Hamilton quickly spit out Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Burns and Rob Blake among others – a pair of physically bigger defenseman with some offensive upside.”

The good news for the Maple Leafs is that the trade is finally complete. Even if they struggle next season, the Bruins won’t be selecting for them in the 2012 Draft. To recap: the Bruins were able to pick the highest rated center in the 2010 draft and the highest rated North American defenseman in the 2011 draft—both courtesy of Brian Burke. All that is left is the pain of watching Seguin, Knight, and Hamilton develop into NHL players while critics constantly compare the trio to Kessel. If all three players reach their potential, it could be one of the most lopsided trades of the last 10 years.

It’s important to remember that when Burke made the trade, he thought his team was going to make the playoffs in both 2010 and 2011. He was building for the present with high priced newcomers like Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin. But instead of thriving in Toronto, the team has struggled and temporarily shifted into a slight rebuilding mode. They were able to get back into this year’s first round by trading both Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they were unable to re-acquire their own first rounder from Boston.

There is some good news at the end of all of this for the Maple Leafs though. At least this trade helps fans forget about the Andrew Raycroft for Tuukka Rask trade.

Phil Kessel, Corey Crawford, and Matt Calvert named NHL three stars of the week

Phil Kessel

Toronto’s Phil Kessel gets a lot of grief around the NHL. After all he was the last guy picked at the All-Star Game and he’s hated in Boston. This past week, however, he’s been nothing but clutch in Toronto and his four goals and four assists were good enough to lead the league in points for the week and earned him the NHL’s number one star for the week.

Kessel’s output was good enough to lead the Leafs to a 2-0-2 record last week and helped get the Leafs back into the talk as a potential playoff team in the East. Kessel’s been the man for Toronto all year this year leading the team in goals and trailing only Clarke MacArthur in points.

Chicago’s Corey Crawford is continuing to have a huge rookie season and his 3-0-0 record last week with a 1.95 goals against average and .936 save percentage with one shutout were good enough to get him the second star of the week. Crawford’s efforts this year have been huge with Marty Turco not playing well and now he’s been able to get Chicago back into the mix heavily for the playoffs. If he can keep up the stellar play, he might even be able to earn himself a Calder Trophy on top of it all.

Columbus’ Matt Calvert had a breakout week. The Blue Jackets rookie was the NHL’s top goal scorer last week scoring five goals including a hat trick against Phoenix in a 5-2 win. Calvert’s been a pleasant surprise this year for the Jackets and his production is helping them stay close in the playoff race out West.

Goal of the Night – Phil Kessel (February 27)

Toronto Maple Leafs v Atlanta Thrashers

Aside from the occasional night off – or the even less common instance when a save or goal isn’t deemed worthy – the gang at PHT will decide which tally or stop is the best of any given night. Once those two winners are determined, we’ll share our reasoning (and most importantly, the video clip for each) in posts for your viewing pleasure.

People love to beat up on Phil Kessel, as he’s taken the torch from Dustin Penner as the go-to guy for restricted free agent negotiations gone wrong (in the form of lost draft picks). It doesn’t help that he’s reluctant to play defense, either.

But let’s not forget the fact that he’s a legitimate goal scoring talent, though. He showed that on this play, as he took an ill-fated Evander Kane drop pass all the way down the ice, lobotomized the Atlanta Thrashers defense and then scored on his own rebound for the February 27th Goal of the Night.

Phil Kessel sounds off on Leafs coach Ron Wilson

Honda NHL SuperSkills

With how the Toronto Maple Leafs season has gone, you’d think a backlash of opinion from the players would’ve started a lot sooner than today. Instead, Leafs All-Star forward Phil Kessel is sounding off after being fed up with how things are going with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kessel sounded off to the media as the Leafs continue to struggle in the Northeast Division and his opinions on coach Ron Wilson, and Wilson’s on Kessel, were not very pleasant as Globe & Mail reporter James Mirtle shared today.

Asked Sunday whether Wilson has offered any advice given his struggles, Kessel offered some troubling insight into how the dynamic with his coach works.

“No, me and Ron don’t really talk,” Kessel told a group of reporters after practice. “So that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Wilson was only slightly more enlightening on the subject.

“Phil doesn’t really want to talk much about goal scoring or even work on it that much in practice,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of a ‘touch’ thing. So he comes and goes into these hot streaks, cold streaks.”

Having frustrating words coming out of a star player on a bad team is nothing new, but when it happens in Toronto it is a big deal and for Kessel to sound off makes matters a bit worse. Is it a coaches quarrel gone wrong or a player just sounding off on how bad the team has been all season long? Your guess is as good as ours in respect to that but with how the Leafs season has gone and how Kessel has struggled to get goals, the likely choice is “all of the above.”

Kessel has 19 goals and 15 assists this season and a -22 rating. For all the good he’s been able to do for the Leafs it’s been compounded by the amount of goals scored against the team when Kessel is out there. It’s just a factor of how things have gone in Toronto this season and a sign that things could be ready to bubble over there this year. With trade rumors swirling around the rest of the team, Kessel isn’t going anywhere as his trade from Boston created a huge price to pay for the Leafs. Still, it’s a bad sign for a Toronto team that’s lingering on to hope that they can rally at all to sneak into the playoffs.

Save of the night: Scott Clemmensen stuns Phil Kessel in overtime

Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs

Aside from the occasional night off – or the even less common instance when a save or goal isn’t deemed worthy – the gang at PHT will decide which tally or stop is the best of any given night. Once those two winners are determined, we’ll share our reasoning (and most importantly, the video clip for each) in posts for your viewing pleasure.

Phil Kessel was coming off one of the more bummed out All-Star weekends a guy can have. He was the last pick in the All-Star Fantasy Draft, he wasn’t able to dazzle us with anything in the skills competition, and he was the only forward to not end up with a point in the game itself. Getting back to normal life in the regular season seemed like a good idea.

Scott Clemmensen decided to make life a little harder for a moment on Kessel with his tremendous stop on Kessel as he broke in on him  in overtime. Kessel made a beautiful move to slip past the defense but Clemmensen robbed him with a huge pad save. Clemmensen’s save was able to help the game move on to the shootout where the Leafs snatched victory away after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period.