Much speculation has arisen over the past few weeks regarding the future of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, but if GM Brian Burke is even contemplating trading his sniper, he should think again.
The Star's Damien Cox was amongst the first of Toronto's sports media members to raise the subject. In an interesting column released nearly two weeks ago, Cox absolutely ransacked the "Pope"—he was, of course, referring back to Burke's introductory press conference in 2008, when the newly crowed GM of the Leafs dubbed Toronto the "Vatican" of the hockey world.
For his part, Cox argued that the Leafs should trade Kessel. He was adamant in suggesting that Kessel is neither an adequate leader nor a Carlyle-type player.
Granted, both arguments hold water, and a lot of it. But Kessel was brought in by Burke to score goals, not wear the "C" or hammer opponents through the boards.
And since when is Carlyle opposed to scoring goals?
It is simply too early to suggest that Kessel does not have a role in Toronto with Carlyle behind the bench.
That said, read Cox's article if you haven't yet. When it comes to blasting Burke, it's nearly the literary equivalent of Don Cherry's recent rant on his Coach's Corner segment on CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" broadcast—both are thoroughly entertaining, to say the least.
In the debate over Kessel's future, I am inclined to side more with Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, who makes a few good arguments in his column for keeping the sniper around.
Koshan points out that Kessel has been able to produce since arriving in Toronto, despite of having No. 1 center to play alongside. He is absolutely right.
With all due respect to Tyler Bozak, who has been playing above his capability, you would be hard-pressed to name another 24-year-old forward in the NHL who nets higher than 35 goals per season without adequate help like Kessel does.
Koshan also argues that Burke will not be able to garner the same return for Kessel—two first-round picks and a second-round pick—that he gave up to acquire the young star from the Boston Bruins.
This point is debatable, but it is highly likely that Koshan is bang on. Unless packaged in with other players or prospects, Kessel will not bring back a similar return.
But does this debate matter anyway?
Burke will not trade Kessel for the same reason that he would not trade Dion Phaneuf. For a GM in his position to trade away players that he brought in to be cornerstone pieces would mean to admit that he was wrong.
Is Burke ready to wave a white flag? No, of course not.
Whether Leafs fans like it or not, Burke is going to make all of his offseason decisions with his own job security in mind.
He won't trade Kessel for the same reason that he chose to retain Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski at the trade deadline—offense.
Will Burke make a mistake this offseason?
Regardless of whether or not you think Burke is doing a good job as the Leafs' GM, he is up next on the chopping block. Even if it's in the best interest of Toronto's future, he won't trade away offense when his neck is on the line.
My advice to fans of the blue and white is to prepare for another offseason of rash decisions.
That's my opinion, but what's yours?
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