Phil Kessel's Combines; "It wasn't pretty."
I wanted to dust this blog post off so other could read it. From time to time this article is linked on various fan message boards and web pages. This article was posted on USHCO.COM Kessel Discussion I find it kind of interesting.
"This weeks ESPN Magazine written by Gare Joyce, has a very interesting article where ESPN followed around Columbus Blue Jacket player personnel director Don Boyd and GM Doug MacLean as the NHL conducted fitness testing and interviews with the top prospects for the NHL draft. Phil Kessel has quite a bit spoken about him, most of it very unfavorable."
What follows are some excerpts from the famous article in question...Goon's Perspective on the Matter
May 29th Toronto
Kessel- At 17, the forward starred for the US team at the 2005 world juniors. He would have gone No. 2 behind Sidney Crosby in last year's draft if he'd been eligible, but his stock has since plunged. He spent last season on the U of Minnesota's third line.
"Strenght?" Boyd asks.
"Speed" and "scoring" go up on the board.
Then the minuses pour out. Says Brian Bates, the Minneapolis scout who saw him the most: "I wonder about his game awareness sometimes."
"There might be some selfish play there sometimes," Boyd adds.
June 2nd Toronto
Kessel walks into the room. The Blue Jackets are the first of 20 interviews on his schedule. He is barely in his seat before Boyd says, "Teammates."
"Do you know what I'm talking about?"
"No," Kessel says.
He most certainly does. Kessel has a reputation for being disliked by teammates wherever he's played. Jack Johnson, 2nd overall in last year's draft, called him "a dirtbag" during one of his combine interviews.
"I don't have a problem with my teammates."
"I don't have a problem with Jack Johnson."
"I had lunch with him practically every day."
What about the TV report about that bar serving underage Gophers?
"Happens everywhere," Kessel says.
Only 18 goals last season when you were compared to Sidney Crosby the year before?
"I was on the third line...we rolled four lines."
Kessel's time is up. He leaves, seemingly aware that his was a less-than-stellar performance.
June 2nd Toronto- Physicals and Fitness testing
"What you get a look at here," Boyd says, "is just how willing the kids are to work on their own and what their work ethic is like."
As if on cue, Kessel comes in. He looks around nervously. A few minutes later, Kessel looks gassed on the bike, stopping at seven minutes.
June 23rd Vancouver
Kessel walks in holding an empty water bottle. He shakes hands, sits on the couch and starts tapping the bottle against his palm, a drum beat...
Boyd jumps in. "Phil, I watched you test at the combine. How do you think you did?"
I think I did pretty well. It was tough. I just came back from the world championships. Didn't have that much chance to prepare for it."
"You walked around that room," Boyd says. "You saw the conditioning level of other guys. Where do you think your conditioning is? A lot of guys look like they've been in the gym longer than you. I'm not talking about the past few weeks. I'm talking about the past year, year and a half."
"I doubt that."
"You train pretty hard?" Boyd says.
"Yeah. I mean, I didn't have a chance to work out for practically a month and a half."
There are other questions. About his relationships with teammates. About his rep as a party guy. Then Boyd goes directly to the scouting report. "How would you respond to this: 'A little bit immature, needs to work a little harder in the gym, practice a little harder, needs to learn some social skills, people skills.' We'll leave it at that."
Kessel's voice falls to a whisper. "I'd say, okay...yeah a little bit...some of that stuff...it's a little hard...work on some of that stuff, I guess."
It's over soon after that. Kessel looks disheartened as he leaves. MacLean looks sad. "If what they're saying about this kid isn't true, it's criminal. Because I don't know if I ever heard the negative stuff like I have with this kid."
I think that Gare Joyce's article is a good illustration of one side of the Phil Kessel's story. Nothing more. Some people have said that Phil Kessel is a prima donna, others have said that he's self focused. He's also shy.
Online, people say many things when they hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Most times, without the fear of retribution. That's life. But when an athlete says something about another athlete that's different. Right?
Let's try looking at it from this angle. Maybe, some of this stuff is actually true? It's possible, right? Yep, it is. Why would people make it up? If not, it's blatant character defamation.
Read the comment below. Are we to believe also that Jack Johnson is an pompous, self serving ass, and just making stuff up about Kessel?
Kessel walks into the room. The Blue Jackets are the first of 20 interviews on his schedule. He is barely in his seat before Boyd says, "Teammates."There has been a lot of discussion ad nauseam about Phil Kessel's attitude and whether he's is a cancer in the locker room. There is also the much discussed childhood tiff between Kessel and Jack Skille, when they played youth hockey together in Wisconsin.
"Do you know what I'm talking about?"
"No," Kessel says.
He most certainly does. Kessel has a reputation for being disliked by teammates wherever he's played. Jack Johnson, 2nd overall in last year's draft, called him "a dirt bag" during one of his combine interviews.
Jack Johnson's Character
Johnson is hardly a hack. He's an upcoming star in USA hockey and the NHL. If Johnson is flawed, why does the Carolina Hurricanes want him to leave the University of Michigan and sign a professional contract? The Hurricanes must have seen something in Jack Johnson that they like.
So what, right? I guess we are all entitled to our own opinions, however, I am still going to take two professional athletes Jack Johnson's and Jack Skille's word over some random anonymous fan from a message board.
I have nothing against Phil Kessel. I think he has amazing offensive talent and has a very big upside. In the NHL team goals are always going to come first, before individual goals. Its about working as a team and buying into a system, personal stats come second.