Philip Kessel…the most elite scoring machine that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had in the last decade, maybe longer.
Kessel, to me, is a top 10 goal scorer in the NHL (and an underrated distributor of the puck). The Madison, Wisconsin native is going to turn 28 years old early in the 2015-2016 season, he is entering the PRIME of his career. The following will be my reasons why we should be trading this asset now as opposed to keeping the enigmatic talent.
Damien Cox recently argued that the Toronto Maple Leafs should keep Phil Kessel in order to restore his trade value. Drive up the asking price around the league for this elite sniper. Bring him back for one more season to see exactly how much we can get from teams who are requesting his services.
Spoiler: I disagree with Cox (and this should come as no surprise because I cannot particularly stand his brand of hockey commentary) and say trade Kessel now.
Lets start with why I might keep Phil. Two reasons: goals and speed. Kessel might be one of the worst shaped athletes that I have seen play hockey, but for some reason he skates like very few in the entire league and I cannot imagine how fast he would be (oh Healy must drool at the potential of using his radar gun on a lean Kessel) if he dropped 15 lbs of fat and turned it into muscle. His shot is one of the most deceiving lasers in the league. His over cooked spaghetti noodle of a hockey stick allows Phil to get a rocket shot off from any angle and while in stride. Comparatively, his one-timer is never going to be that great, based on the aforementioned flex of stick, however it too is solid enough when Bozak finally makes a solid pass.
By all accounts Kessel is an amusing and fun loving guy within the dressing room. Very outgoing with teammates, he wants ZERO to do with the Toronto media. Cannot say as I blame him, some of the media in Toronto want nothing more than to see hockey players fail in this market. Simply put, better stories and a chance to have that story fit their own brand or narrative.
Now as to why I would trade Phil Kessel. Its time to start fresh and the return would be a 1st, prospect and a roster player with significant salary coming back to Toronto.
The dressing room down at the ACC needs not just febreeze, but to get the bleach out in order to remove and disgusting mess that resides within those walls. Phil needs a change of scenery from media and fans. Maybe more importantly, Mike Babcock doesn’t need to come into a team that has this many outstanding issues. Why bring in a Coach with all of the positives and culture that Babcock brings only to have him facing the daunting task of trying to figure out Kessel and how to motivate him? Make zero sense. Sure, if you trade Phil now you will take a bit of a hit on his value but there are a few teams around the NHL who will JUMP at adding top 10 scoring talent because they are making a run at Lord Stanley. Heck, if we were in a similar position I would consider it as well but I digress.
I am willing to accept that small hit in value to show the team, the fan base, and Mike Babcock himself just how committed we are to moving this franchise forward in an appropriate manner. Lets remember we have Nylander, Leipsic and Connor Brown to potentially fill the void that is left by Kessel not to mention this year’s 1st pick plus the return in the trade. Life would initially be a bit tougher to deal with as we watch Kessel snipe 40 in another market but if the rebuild is going to be done correctly this to me is one of the biggest and most prudent steps to take.
As an aside, I would also love to see what James van Riemsyk would bring to the dance if Kessel were traded. The 26 year old big bodied forward should be able to thrive with Mike Babcock as his Head Coach. Tomas Holmstrom had a decent career playing under Babs in Detroit. He kept his game simple, planted his large frame in front of the opposition net and created havoc in doing so. I believe JVR can bring similar assets to our team with a greater level of skill than Holmstrom possessed. If the rebuild were to go at the pace most in hockey believe. JVR would be a 29-31 year old leader on that Playoffs team and his contract is exactly the type that is wanted in a Salary Cap world.
On top of all of these points, I was promised a “scorched earth” by the management team and board at MLS&E. This is the time to accomplish it, wow I just had deja vu as I suggested the same thing last year at this time, you know when we missed the playoffs again??
There is it folks, my monosyllabic rant on why I want to trade Phil Kessel. I hope that Shanahan, Babcock, and Hunter are all thinking the same thing. Onwards and upwards.
What say you fellow Leafs fans? Keep or trade?