Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Phil Kessel Must Go

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He’s 27 years old and not a kid anymore but we’ve seen some temper tantrums from him recently. The reaction in the video above happened after the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk asked him if he was “uncoachable.” Kessel responded by lashing out at the reporter in a way that wouldn’t look out of place in a high school locker room.

Later in the season, Kessel struck again when he told the media that they “should be ashamed of themselves” for their treatment of Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. The latter was a headscratcher as he chose an odd time to confront the issue. (after a local tv station had allowed a tasteless tweet from a fan to go to air on trade deadline day) He also seemed to take shots at Leaf management asking “Did he (Dion) build this team?”

Less than three weeks later, Kessel erupted again. After Interim head coach Peter Horacek called the team out for their “lack of effort,” Phil was asked if the players were giving “all that they could give.” Kessel was visibly upset and answered each question like a young boy who was about to be sent to is room without dinner.

Perhaps the most questionable incident that happened has now become known as the infamous “stickgate.” After defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2, the Leafs decided to abandon their traditional salute to the fans in which they raise their sticks to the sky in appreciation. This decision was seemingly a response to the fans’ disapproval in the previous game, an embarrassing 9-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, which included booing and jerseys being thrown on the ice.

Even worse, it was quite evident to anyone watching that the designer of the plan was Phil Kessel himself as he was clearly seen skating over to captain Dion Phaneuf and saying something to the Leaf captain. Immediately afterwards, they collected Cody Franson, who had already began skating to centre ice where the salute usually happened, and the team left the ice.

Much was made in the media about the team’s perceived mutiny and the Leafs shrugged it off one by one saying that they were just trying to “change it up a bit.” However, after continuous pressure from the media, the salute returned two nights later, after a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

As Don Cherry said on Coach’s Corner, this whole episode should have never happened regardless of their reasoning. Unfortunately, it did and the Leafs on that one particular night left the ice looking like a spoiled Minor Bantam team. Unfortunately, the orchestrator was number 81 himself calling his character and maturity into question.

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