Was Phil Kessel the problem all along? #MyColumn

You can say what you want about analytics, but the Leafs are 2-0 in the post-Kessel era. That’s the only stat I need to say this: Phil Kessel was the problem all along.

This is a new era of the Toronto Maple Leafs. An era that includes pride, hard work, and talking to the media and fans. All things that Phil never did once while he was a Leaf. And the team is closer than ever as a result – even Lou Lamoriello has noticed players going out for dinner and interacting cordially. The last time the team was this close was Halloween, and that didn’t end well.

Even the guys that came over in the Phil trade have been bad. It’s like being associated with Phil in any way is a curse. Scott Harrington got into a fight with the very handsome Joffrey Lupul. Why would you fight a man so beautiful and so brittle? What if he had injured Lupul in that scrum? 

Better question: how didn’t Harrington injure Lupul in that scrum? Is he weak? Probably a result of bad offseason habits and not working out enough. Who does that remind you of?
And Kasperi Kapanen…we should start calling him Casper because while he is Friendly, he was as invisible as a Ghost last night. Disappearing in big games…Who does that remind you of? I’m noticing a trend. 
The only guy that showed up was Nick Spaling, which isn’t surprising. He worked really hard last night – Phil’s kryptonite – and was rewarded with a goal. This guy epitomizes what the Leafs are going to be about from now on: hard work and bottom six players. 
While the curse has followed those involved in the Kessel trade, it has clearly left those who were burdened with him last year. With Kessel on the team, Lupul had 1 goal in his last 29 games last year. First game without Kessel? He has 2. He’s improved 5880%. Fit that onto a graph. Spoiler: you can’t. And James Van Riemsdyk – what a game he had last night. He backchecked and hit a guy. Did you ever see him do that when Phil was around not doing those things?
Chew on this for a second: if this is what the Leafs can do with their team split in two, imagine how good the team will be when the best players from both games are playing on the same team. Sky is the limit when you don’t have Phil Kessel weighing you down.  
A lot of people are calling this the Babcock era, but that isn’t accurate. This is the Post-Phil era, and it’s off to a really good start. 
  • Gary Empey

    I know you’re aiming at hyperbole here but Kessel hurt way more than he helped. He may have been great in the opponent’s end but he is a no factor anywhere else on the ice. His defensive game was horrible and the goal differential was less favourable with him on the ice than when he wasn’t. I don’t know if it was Carlyle’s systems or Phil’s lack of defensive effort, but the Leafs are MUCH better without him.

    I wish he never came in the first place. The Penguins will regret his signing for years to come.

  • silentbob

    Kessel was not a perfect player, and he was not a terrible out of shape anchor. He wasn’t “the problem” but he also wasnt suited for the position the leafs needed him to play (the franchise player).

    Fact is Shanahan DID decide to trade him and he is now a penguin, why is he still a subject in leaf nation? Timw to move on.

  • Gary Empey

    This article is a joke. This writer sucks and he should feel bad about himself.

    This is PRE SEASON!! These wins do not mean anything!! Do not look deep into these wins, they are playing split squads of other teams too!! These wins do not mean a thing. If Kessel was still here it would not change anything for now. This article is just awful.

    • silentbob

      I think you missed the point of the article.

      He knows its the pre-season, he knows the games are meaningless, but he is taking a ridiculous position he doesn’t actually support to make a point about how Kessel is a good player who made the Leafs a better team and how ridiculous he feels the common criticisms of Kessel are.