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.