Toronto Maple Leafs

Are we seeing the last of Kessel in Toronto?


A lot of negative things get written and said about Phil Kessel.

He’s lazy. He’s soft. He doesn’t play defense. He doesn’t practice hard enough. He’s not a leader. He’s not good with the media. He’s inconsistent. He’s uncoachable. He’s unreliable. He’s weird.

None of those are good reasons to trade one of the best goal-scorers in the game.

The reasons to trade Kessel are he’s 27 years old and the Toronto Maple Leafs are nowhere close to being Stanley Cup contenders.

And it sounds like they finally recognize the second part.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail, club president Brendan Shanahan “and his lieutenants have now finally received a broad mandate from ownership to scorch as much earth as they see fit in order to return the Leafs to contention, according to two sources familiar with that meeting. It will mean a new philosophy on building slowly through the draft and long-term projects, rather than quick fixes via trades for established players. It will mean at least three more years of pain for fans, and as many as five.”

If true, it begs the questions — where will Kessel’s game be in five years?

Nobody can say for sure, but there’s a significant risk he won’t be anywhere near as productive as he is today. Scoring goals in the NHL is largely a 30-and-under game. Click here for proof. Then see how that list compares to five years ago. And if you’re still not convinced, see how Dany Heatley’s doing at 34.

Kessel should be traded to a team that’s contending now, for picks and prospects in return. Yes, he’s got a big cap hit, so if need be, take back a bad contract or two. What’s another one or two to go with the others?

The point shouldn’t be to win these next few years anyway. It should be to help Morgan Rielly develop into a Norris Trophy candidate, of which he’s got the potential, and to bring William Nylander into the fold.

Look, the Toronto Maple Leafs — the richest team in the NHL, for God’s sake — have only been to the playoffs once since 2004. They never undertook a proper rebuild when Brian Burke was hired to run things all the way back in 2008. They haven’t drafted well. They haven’t developed well.

It’s 2015 now, and it’s time to start over.

And this time, do it the right way.

Report: Clarkson to return to the Leafs’ lineup vs. Islanders


After sitting out two games as a healthy scratch, David Clarkson is expected to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup on Thursday night.

The Leafs, who are 4-19-1 since Dec. 18 and have just one win in their last 13, visit the Islanders.

Clarkson has 10 goals and 15 points in 53 games this season to go along with a minus-11 rating.

The 30-year-old Ontario native is in the second season of a seven-year, $36.75 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.25 million,

Hockey insider Darren Dreger also reports defenseman Cody Franson missed Wednesday’s Leafs practice with a hip issue.

Franson also missed Leafs’ practice on Saturday, which forced the club to use an emergency recall on Petter Granberg.

The 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agent has been the subject of trade rumors as the Leafs believe they won’t be able to meet his contract demands.

Franson has six goals and 32 points in 53 games this season.

‘Give-a-(expletive) meter has to be higher,’ says Leafs coach Horachek


The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost 12 of their last 13 games, and their latest result had head coach Peter Horachek — how should we put this? — unhappy with his team’s effort.

The Leafs, finally victorious Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, lost by a final score of 5-4 to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

“It starts with the whole give-a-(expletive) meter has to be higher. Can I say that here? I just did, right? Yeah,” said Horachek, as per Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press.

Phil Kessel was a minus-four in this game and played only five shifts in the second period.

What does this mean for Toronto’s lineup going forward?

Does someone else get relegated to a seat in the press box? Will David Clarkson, who had a well-documented animated discussion with Horachek, get back into the lineup?

The Leafs are on the road Thursday. They’ll play the New York Islanders. We’ll find out soon enough.

The David Clarkson situation is getting uncomfortable


David Clarkson is once again expected to be a healthy scratch when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Rangers tonight, and the veteran forward is none too pleased about it.

Clarkson’s frustration was evident for everyone this morning during what was described as an “animated” on-ice discussion with coach Peter Horachek.

Following the skate, Clarkson suggested that his scratching was a message, not just for him, but for everyone on the team:

Whatever the reason (could it, in fact, be that Clarkson has scored just once since Christmas?), the Leafs are in a tough spot with the 30-year-old winger, who let’s not forget still has five years remaining on his big contract.

Oh, just buy him out, you say?

From Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

Because the deal is bonus-laden it would carry a particularly penal buyout schedule if the team chose to go in that direction this summer — the Leafs would carry between $3.7-million and $4.7-million in dead money the next five years and then $466,667 for each of the five seasons beyond that.

Related: Horachek knows ‘political ramifications’ of Clarkson healthy scratch

Horachek knows ‘political ramifications’ of Clarkson healthy scratch


Toronto Maple Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek made waves on Saturday, making David Clarkson a healthy scratch for his team’s 5-1 win over Edmonton.

On Monday, Horachek hinted that Clarkson would be out again for tomorrow’s game against the Rangers, adding that Clarkson’s hefty salary wasn’t taken into consideration.

“I don’t really look at the contract,” Horachek said, per the National Post. “I know the political ramifications, but make the decision as a coach.”

The ‘political ramifications’ are, of course, Clarkson’s gargantuan contract — a seven-year, $36.75 million deal that carries a $5.25M annual cap hit. Clarkson’s in the second year of the deal and up to this point, has been a massive disappointment; he’s scored just 15 goals in 113 games, the same number he scored in 48 games for New Jersey during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign.

Horachek’s in a unique position. The team has been awful under his leadership (the win over Edmonton snapped an 11-game losing skid), and some subscribe to the theory the Leafs are in substitute teacher mode — just doing whatever they please until management hires a new coach this offseason. Because of that, Horachek is, in a weird way, freer to do what he pleases. If the players are going to play like he’s done at the end of the year, why not coach the same way?

Under different circumstances, scratching Clarkson would’ve been viewed as showing up GM Dave Nonis, who gave the now-30-year-old winger a massive deal because he felt Clarkson “had a lot of good years left in him.” In many ways, Horachek could’ve self preserved and retained some sense of job security by not putting the spotlight on Nonis’ biggest albatross; instead, he’s doing what he feels gives him the best chance to win — regardless of the politics.