Toronto Maple Leafs: The NHL’s Most Unexpected Iron Man

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Ex Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Phli Kessel just moved into 3rd place all time in the NHL for most consecutive games played.

When Phil Kessel was with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was often noted for his physique that did not resemble that of a normal professional athlete, and of course, who can forget his infamous – possibly fictional – love of hotdogs?

The last thing I expected of Phil Kessel – especially since he started his Leafs career on the I.R with a knee injury – was to become the NHL’s version of Cal Ripkin Jr.

But after recently passing Patrick Marleau and Gary Unger, Kessel has now played in 915 straight NHL games, just 49 short of the record, which he could possibly achieve this year.

If Marvel had cast  Ross from Friends to play Iron Man in the movies, Phil Kessel would still be the most shocking Iron Man in history.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel was famously acquired in one of the supposedly worst trades in Toronto Maple Leafs history.  A trade I stuck up for, and defended, for years, and which I still believe was the right move due to the fact that it’s always viewed as if Burke would actually have drafted Seguin and Hamilton, but there is no way he actually would have.

Brian Burke, refusing to patiently draft a winning team, attempted a short-cut with the least Burke-like player possible in Phil Kessel.  As we all constantly assume, this cost the Leafs both Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, and was a total disaster.

Expect, Brian Burke would never have drafted Tyler Seguin – they would have left him on the board and drafted the huge (and absolutely terrible) Eric Gudbranson who Florida took directly after Seguin in 2010.

As for Dougie Hamilton in 2011, Burke would have had to pass on Jamie Oleksiak, J.T Miller, Connor Murphy and Tyler Biggs (who the Leafs drafted at 22) in order to get him. Fat chance of that.

So in reality, It wasn’t Kessel for Hamilton and Seguin;  Based on the rest of Burke’s (horrible) term as Leafs GM, there is no  reason to suspect he would have picked the two correct players if he’d kept his picks.

Not only that, but the entire Kessel trade and subsequent failure led directly to the Toronto Maple Leafs getting Auston Matthews, so it worked out for the best in the end. I would bet a significant amount of money that if Burke kept those picks, the Leafs would have had Gudbranson and Biggs and the only difference is that Burke would have gotten fired sooner.

Kessel spent six years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s one of the best players to ever wear the uniform.  His 37 goals, in a low scoring era, with Tyler Bozak as his centre, and no depth scoring, could easily have been 50 on a better team.

Kessels 181 goals rank him 19th all-time on the Leafs. His 394 points rank him 20th.  Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews will pass him this year, in many games less.

It is my belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs should somehow find the cap space to bring Kessel back as a depth scoring weapon to finish out his current contract back where he signed it, in Toronto.  The Leafs don’t have much cap space, but by the end of the season, should AZ retain half of it, it might be doable.

Next. This Old Trade Rumour Was a Bullet Dodged. dark

Regardless, Phil Kessel: NHL Iron Man is the most shocking thing I have learned since I found out that duck-billed platypuses are real, back in the late 80s.   I guess you never know.