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.
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
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?
Today marks fifth anniversary of Phil Kessel beating cancer
For whatever reason, Phil Kessel has been a divisive figure in the NHL when he should instead be a source of inspiration.
Just look at his rookie year: character issues were sited as he dropped a bit in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, but that hurdle didn’t compare to what happened about a month into that 2006-07 season. Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2006, yet he only took about two weeks to return from the surgery that resulted.
Kessel already has an assist on a Joffrey Lupul goal, pushing his points total to an astounding 37. Obviously, that battle with a scary disease is far behind him, but it makes his amazing season that much more impressive.
Pass Phil Kessel in the points race at your own peril
Claude Giroux passed Kessel in points and eight days later was knocked out indefinitely with a concussion. Milan Michalek passed Kessel in the goal scoring race with his 19th goal of the year and was later knocked out in that game with a concussion. Even Daniel Sedin wasn’t spared as he tied Kessel in points before coming up with back spasms.
Even Sidney Crosby wasn’t spared after the hot start he had in his comeback. Et tu, Phil?
If you’ve got any good “NHL-loves-Toronto” theories, now is the time to throw on the tinfoil hat and run with them because this Kessel plague cannot be stopped. Someone had better get James Neal, Jonathan Toews, and Steve Stamkos to a safe house, pronto.