The minute Phil Kessel was acquired by the Leafs two summers ago, a giant blue spotlight was placed directly on the young American’s shoulders. In a sports theater where expectations are already unseasonably high, the colossal price paid for the young sniper made the spotlight burn that much brighter on him.
On pace for his 3rd consecutive 30-goal season at the ripe old age of 23, Kessel certainly looks to have a bright future in the league, yet there have been incessant cries that he is a streaky shooter, and that his cold streaks are a serious detriment to the team. While that argument may indeed be valid – the Leafs are 11-4-1 this year when Phil lights the lamp, and 10-22-4 when he’s held scoreless – the blame for his shooting woes cannot simply be placed entirely on him. Tyler Bozak has been a far cry from the top line-caliber playmaker that other talented goal scorers are usually accompanied with, and Joey Crabb doesn’t do much in the way of causing other teams to shift their focus off Kessel when he’s on the ice.
Kessel’s current goal drought sits at ten games, in which the Leafs have gone 3-6-1. Sandwiched in the middle of that drought was an All-Star weekend which left Kessel as the last pick of the Fantasy Draft, and saw him go pointless in a scoring-filled All-Star Game. Certainly frustrating times for the kid, and that frustration seems to have come to a head yesterday in comments made after the Leafs’ practice.
Discussing his recent movement to the third line with grinders Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb, “I don’t know,” Kessel said. “We’ve got to change something, so I’m not sure if that’s it, but maybe. I don’t know.
“I don’t really know what to say about [the scoring slump] any more. I’m trying. Obviously it’s not going right. Like I said, might not be working out here. What are you going to do?”
Clearly, the comment that got most people talking was that “it might not be working out here,” which have already set off a torrent of tweets, posts and even the occasional trade speculation across the blogosphere. While I don’t see Kessel being traded, and I do understand his frustration, perhaps his words could have been chosen a bit more carefully.
Some other comments he made spoke to the poor relationship he apparently has with coach Ron Wilson. “No, me and Ron don’t really talk. So that’s all I have to say about that.”
Wilson wasn’t much more revealing himself – ““Phil doesn’t really want to talk much about goal scoring or even work on it that much in practice. It’s kind of a ‘touch’ thing. So he comes and goes into these hot streaks, cold streaks.”
All in all, it should make for an interesting next couple of weeks. Hopefully for Phil’s sake, he can pot a goal or two tonight and tomorrow, as the Leafs take on the Thrashers tonight and the lowly Islanders tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, Go Leafs!