OK, Phil Kessel – time to get your act together. Whether you like it or not, you are the Toronto Maple Leafs’ offence.
Right now, anyway.
You are the only player that is counted on to score on a regular basis. The coach looks to you. Your teammates look to you. And, of course, the fans look squarely to you. It’s time to deliver. You team is struggling right now in case you haven’t noticed.
NOW IS THE TIME
Over the first eight games of the season, you did everything anyone could ask. You scored seven times, fired 28 shots on goal and had a +2 rating. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to lead a team that everyone knows is short on firepower and score. That’s it. That’s all anyone asks.
So what the heck is going on?
Since the Leafs’ 3-1 win over Florida on October 26th, you’ve gone into the tank. We’ve watched you skate through five games of nothing.
Over 110 minutes of ice time.
Whether you like it or not, Phil, because of the way in which GM Brian Burke acquired you (selling off precious, golden first-round draft picks), you are the Leafs’ offensive kingpin. Head coach Ron Wilson tried to shake things up on Monday by shrouding you and your linemates in white, “second-line” jerseys in practice. Guess what, Phil? It’s not Ron Wilson’s job to shake you up. It’s your job.
I get that you are only just turned 23 years old. I get that there have been some health challenges along the way. But what I don’t get is you not doing your job. You’re making US$6M this year, Phil. That’s more than any other 23-year old I know. Time to earn it, big fella.
I understand that Bruins’ netminder Tim Thomas and Rangers’ stopper Henrik Lundqvist turned in career performances against you guys over your span of struggles. But no Leafs’ fan is interested in excuses. Maybe Brian Burke will get you some linemates who can score. Maybe he won’t. It doesn’t matter. Leafs’ fans expect you to deliver where it counts the most – on the scoresheet.
True 40-goal men do not struggle through five-game goalless droughts. They figure out how to get it done. Wayne Gretzky never needed much motivation from his coaches. Neither did Mark Messier or Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby or anyone else who was ever dealt for two firsts and a second. You were chosen fifth overall in the NHL Entry Draft, Phil.
Time to show Leafs’ fans why that was.