Phil Kessel has always put up solid numbers in his NHL career, but that hasn’t necessarily endeared him to the fans of the teams he’s played for.
In Toronto, Kessel found the back of the net 30, 32, 37, 20 (lockout year), 37 and 25 times in six seasons. You’d think that those numbers would be good enough to keep fans and the media off his back. But it didn’t.
“For some reason, lots of people don’t like Phil Kessel,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said, per USA Today. “He was the best player Toronto had for eight years. Year in and year out and he got the blame for everything, which was unfair. He’s a very talented player. We all know he can score. But he’s a playmaker as well. He can pass the puck as well as just about anybody in this league.”
Last summer, the Leafs and Kessel finally parted ways, as Toronto sent him packing for Pittsburgh. The 28-year-old didn’t post career numbers in 2015-16, but something seems to have clicked in the playoffs. Now that Kessel isn’t the number one offensive threat on his team anymore, he’s been able to avoid the more difficult matchups in the postseason and it’s led to better production.
The Pens winger has seven goals and 16 points in 14 games in the 2016 playoffs. No player on the Penguins roster has more goals or points than Kessel so far this spring.