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.