The Phil Kessel trade to the Maple Leafs from Boston has been a heated topic of debate for both teams all season long. You’ve got Bruins fans insisting they didn’t need Kessel to win games ranging to Leafs fans saying they don’t care about the first round pick the team gave up to get him. As the teams square off tonight for the final time this season, it stands to reason that both teams could end up being big winners and losers in the end.
For Boston, it’s clear that they miss Kessel’s offensive ability more than anything. Patrice Bergeron is the team’s leading scorer with 50 points, meanwhile Kessel is the Leafs top man with 55 points including 30 goals. The Bruins may not know that Kessel has been that good for the Leafs this year because in their five games head-to-head Kessel has been held to just one assist.
As for the first round pick, many Bruins fans have visions of a top three pick but with Toronto firmly in the role of spoiler, the Leafs have played better of late winning six of their last nine. While their final four games come against Eastern teams looking to get in the playoffs, the Leafs are in a spot where closing out the season in a big way could conceivably put them closer to 10th in the draft rather than 2nd overall and thus making Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli a bit less excited.
Do the Bruins miss Kessel’s offense? In a huge way, yes. While Patrice Bergeron has had a bit of a resurgence this year, I’d bet the Bruins would love to have a 30 goal scorer right about now as they try to secure a spot in the playoffs. While the playoffs is the goal for the Bruins, it would look pretty awful if they missed out because they just didn’t have enough offense to get there and their top goal scorer from a year ago is playing for someone else because the team opted to not pay him while wasting money on other failed projects (hello Derek Morris).
The other side of this though is how ugly would things look in Toronto without Phil Kessel? Kessel has been their lone offensive go-to guy and one check at their current roster’s stats says that the Leafs would be Edmonton Oilers kind of bad if they didn’t get Kessel.
Former Toronto coach Ron Wilson went on TSN 1050 radio today and, boy, did he have some some stuff to say about the firing of his successor, Randy Carlyle.
Specifically, he took aim at the players.
“I’m gonna have to say you have to change some of the players,” said Wilson. “Eventually they will. I don’t think they will right now, because I don’t think there are a lot of trading partners for a lot of these players. But they’re going to come to that sooner or later.
“These guys, some of the core players, have failed under two or three different coaches, so it’s gotta be the players’ fault.”
On winger Phil Kessel, a player with whom he did not enjoy the closest relationship, Wilson relayed a mixed opinion.
“I think you can win with Phil Kessel,” he said. “He shows obvious signs of brilliance throughout the year. But Phil’s problem, and I think it’s pretty much the way Phil’s been his whole career, he’s two weeks on and two weeks off. … You can’t rely on Phil. It’s just the way it is.
“He comes and goes, and he gets emotional, and he lets that affect his game and his relationship with other players. But that’s just the nature of the beast. That’s what you have to coach. You have to know that Phil’s gonna give you everything he’s got for two or three weeks, and then for the next two or three weeks, everything seems to go wrong for Phil. That’s just the way it is.”
Related: Leafs are ‘capable,’ but also ‘movable’
Phil Kessel made his long-awaited return to Toronto on Saturday, but his impact on the game was minimal.
The 28-year-old had no points and just one shot on goal in Pittsburgh’s 4-0 win over Toronto.
He was booed when he touched the puck for the first time.
Pittsburgh didn’t get much production from their top guns, as Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for zero points and two shots in the win.
They got goals from Chris Kunitz, Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist.
Despite keeping the Penguins’ stars off the scoreboard, the Leafs didn’t do many other positive things.
It was a smooth night for Marc-Andre Fleury, who faced just 21 shots in the contest.
The same can’t be said for Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs goaltender has been prone to giving up soft goals all season, and that continued on Saturday night.
The Leafs fell to 1-7-2 this season, while the Penguins improve to 7-4-0.