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.