After seeing the Maple Leafs lose on home ice to the Islanders and hearing fans calling for Brian Burke to be fired during the game, you know that things are ugly in Toronto. After coming apart at the seams in the second half, the fans are out for blood after another playoff-free season.
As these situations tend to go, the best player takes most of the heat and Phil Kessel is not exempt from scrutiny. Jeff Blair of The Globe And Mail hammers on Kessel for not being a bigger figure with the media and seizing the spotlight.
He has no goaltender, his leading scorer is a milquetoast, Tom Thumb guy who shrinks even further in front of the cameras and nobody knows for certain whether his team captain has credibility in the dressing room.
Just a reminder here, Kessel has 36 goals and 40 assists on a team that’s now destined for the NHL draft lottery. That kind of production on a bad team should give you leeway to be Silent Bob if you want to be.
Meanwhile, Mike Brophy of Sportsnet wonders aloud if now is the time for the Leafs to trade Kessel.
Never mind what anybody tells you about Kessel having developed greater attention to his defensive play this season; that simply is not the case. He is still a floater who, more often than not comes back slowly looking for the first opportunity to make a quick pivot and head back up ice. In terms of work ethic, he will never be mistaken for Sidney Crosby.
Considering the lack of offensive weapons on the Leafs roster, asking Kessel to be yet another backchecking wizard seems counterproductive. This debate is eerily reminiscent of how Kessel and Claude Julien fell on hard times in Boston and that’s what helped spin Kessel into this quagmire of nonsense in Toronto.
Instead of worrying about what’s wrong with Phil Kessel, the Leafs should worry about how to surround him with better players to win games.