February 27 2014 08:38PM
I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here.
It wasn’t too long ago (this morning) that people were complaining about Phil Kessel. The Toronto Star published an article (yesterday) saying Kessel looked sluggish during practice Wednesday morning, often dropping to one knee and he was the first one to leave the ice, which is totally fine. Then people all around decided to go after Phil Kessel, saying his season was over. One sluggish practice, and he’s left out for dead.
And then, Kessel scored a goal and an assist against the New York Islanders tonight, squashing any thought of his season being “over.”
If anyone bought into this idea of Kessel’s season being over, please change your ways and don’t be so quick to criticize. This is the same Phil Kessel who now sits tied for second in the league in scoring with 67 points – ahead of everyone not named Sidney Crosby or Ryan Getzlaf – and second in the league in goals with 32. The same Phil Kessel who just won the award for best forward in the Olympics after scoring five goals and eight points in six games.
This is also the same Phil Kessel who is constantly criticized by a lot of people in Toronto. He’s too shy in front of the cameras. He’s lazy. He slouches when he skates. He doesn’t lead the team in practice. He doesn’t shave his damn beard. For some reason, a certain faction of Leafs fans and journalists think Kessel is the problem. “Trade the bum” and “Kessel sucks” are comments that can be seen on probably every single Leafs fan page on Facebook.
People aren’t satisfied with two straight point-per-game seasons. People aren’t satisfied with second in the league in scoring. And it’s nearly impossible to see why. Is it because Brian Burke traded two first round picks to get him? Because if you ask me, the winner of a trade is whoever got the best player, and the Leafs sure as hell got the best player in that trade. Boston has Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson to show for it.
But even after all Kessel has done for the Leafs, you still get people saying his season was derailed by the Olympics after one practice. All that stuff I said above doesn’t matter because he was the first one off the ice. Patrick Kane – who by the way plays with Jonathan freaking Toews – calling Phil Kessel the best player he’s ever played with apparently holds no credence.
People for some reason don’t think playing eight games in Russia on a nine-hour time difference can have a player feeling a little sluggish. Tuukka Rask didn’t play in Boston’s first game back but nobody jumped on his back. Matt Duchene said he felt terrible all day leading up to his game yesterday, but nobody in Colorado said his season was over.
It’s time people start revelling at what Phil Kessel has become. He’s transformed from a one-dimensional sniper when he arrived in Toronto to a bonafide superstar who can dominate a game single-handedly. He’s the best player to don a Leafs uniform since Mats Sundin, and is well on his way to becoming one of the best players to ever wear the Blue and White Maple Leaf on his chest.
I’ll admit, I was part of a faction of people a few years ago that didn’t believe you could build a team around Phil Kessel. I thought he was a great complimentary player, but I thought a player like Dustin Brown was a better component to a team vying for the Stanley Cup. Boy, was I proven wrong.
Watching Phil Kessel play hockey is like watching a painter paint a masterpiece. He’s become so good at what he does, it’s a surprise when he doesn’t score. I can argue that Kessel could be the best player in the league aside from Sidney Crosby right now, and I’d have a pretty good argument. Better than Alex Ovechkin. Better than Evgeni Malkin. Better than Patrick Kane. He may not be a completely better player than those guys, but he sure is playing better than them right now. He should garner MVP consideration for what he’s done, not criticism for something he hasn’t done.
Let’s stop criticizing Kessel for every single thing he does and let’s wait until he actually does something worthy of criticizing.
Kessel is a superstar. Love him. Hate him. But either way, deal with it.
Allen Iverson said it best: