Friday, August 10, 2012

Is Kessel a polarizing figure?

Apparently, former Minnesota Golden Gopher and former Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel is feeling the pressure in Toronto. Some of the pundits are beginning to wonder if the Leafs need to trade Kessel while he is still on top of his game.

Meanwhile, Boston Bruins fans are saying thank you Kessel and are happy to have Tyler Seguin on their team as the result of the 2010 offer sheet by Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke. If you asked Boston Bruins fans if they would take Kessel back, they would probably say hell no. Also, after reading the comments of some of the Bruins players it sounds like many of them didn’t want him back either. Bruins forward, and tough guy Shawn Thornton admitted to not liking the former Bruin on a Boston talk show back in December of 2009.
Mark Ritter, The Slapshot Blog -- Since arriving in Toronto Kessel has been under a tremendous amount of scrutiny from both the media and fans. A quiet, unassuming player, Kessel has tried to remain in the shadows, but in the media frenzy that is Toronto it has been tough for him to remain anonymous. As tough as it has been for Kessel to avoid the media attention he receives, it has been even tougher for him to live up to expectations.

While the pressure to perform is with every NHL player, Kessel (fairly or unfairly) will forever be judged against the performances of Seguin (who is well on his way to becoming a star) and Hamilton (who is regarded as an exceptional defensive prospect) and to a lesser extent Knight (who is a project). While the comparisons are unfair, Kessel seems unaffected by all the attention, as witnessed by the numbers he has put up over the past three seasons.
For whatever reason, fair or unfair, Phil Kessel always seems to be under a lot of scrutiny.  After failing to agree to a restricted free agent contract with the Boston Bruins,  Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke traded for Kessel and he's now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I think all of us know the rest of the story. In 2011, the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years and to this day, the Toronto Maple Leafs continued to be mired in mediocrity. The former Bruin Kessel is heckled in Boston every time he touches the puck and now after last season the Bruins fans also chant thank you Kessel. Because of the Leafs offer sheet, the Bruins ended up with two first round picks and a second round pick. One of the Bruins first round draft picks was fan favorite Tyler Segiun, who helped the Boston Bruins win the cup. Also in just his second season with the Bruins, he was their leading scorer last season.

According to Michael Traikos from the National Post, one unnamed Toronto beat writer suggested that the Maple Leafs trade the young Kessel after leading the Leafs in scoring “while he still has any value.” 

I think it’s premature to throw Kessel under the bus. Last season he didn’t have much of a supporting cast but the Leafs have a stable full of young talent that is starting to mature and that could just take the heat of Kessel. One thing the Leafs need is a setup man that could pass Kessel the puck – in Boston it was Marc Savard – Toronto it’s to be determined.