Takin' a T/O With BT—Phil Kessel Isn't the Leafs' Solution to Everything

xx yySenior Writer IOctober 19, 2009

BOSTON - MAY 10: Phil Kessel #81of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 10, 2009 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Whenever a team stumbles out of the gate, the popular thing to do is to pick on them.

Granted, there have been a lot of people poking fun at the Leafs, including their own fans , but it's hard not to do when you're looking at the last-place team in the NHL.

Besides, after years of giving it out, we here in Leafs Nation had to be prepared for a taste of it eventually. I mean, you can only buy playoff berths for so long and the salary cap saw an effective end to that strategy.

Then again, I think two books talking about the same things may be overdoing it a tad, but to each his own.

So right now, as the Leafs sit with just one point in the basement of the NHL standings, everyone has a theory about what's going wrong and what can fix it.

For a lot of people, that theory starts with Phil Kessel.

The Leafs' prized off-season acquisition has begun skating and practicing with the team in hopes of returning at full-strength from off-season shoulder surgery. The Blue and White can't stop wringing their hands at the prospect of his return.

One of eight teams without a four-goal scorer and one of just three without a five-point player, the Leafs need that offensive strength—whether Kessel's going to be a 25-goal scorer or a 40-goal scorer.

But for everyone saying that Kessel's going to be the savior of this 0-6-1 team, it's not likely to happen in one simple return.

Because of the Leafs' slow start, the fashionable thing is to continually re-open the Kessel trade. Due to the fact that they're last, the "Haul for Hall" is full-on, with the Leafs entirely out of the running (although their play will determine the seedings) as Boston owns their entrant.

Talking about it more won't change the trade or the season results so far. It also won't make him the be-all, end-all solution.

Phil Kessel won't solve the injury problems in the crease, nor will he help anyone back there play with more consistency. Good luck getting him to help out the defense. And the likelihood that he's going to bump up the penalty kill?

It's not very high. After all, it took the Leafs until Saturday night, seven games into the season, to get above the 50-percent mark.

What Kessel will solve is the 29th-ranked 2.00 goals-per-game average. While the shots-on-goal mark isn't anemic (31.3 per game), he'll help to increase that (which will help that 29th-ranked stat) and the 16th-ranked power play. (At 20 percent, it's not terrible, but he'll help it).

He may also help out the small fact that the Leafs have yet to score first in a game. Though they'll have probably scored first in a game by the time Kessel gets back in the lineup, with him in it may happen more than once or twice in...an eternity.

Brian Burke didn't acquire Phil Kessel to be the final piece of the puzzle—he is simply a piece. A piece that won't solve every problem, but he'll help dig the team out of a few of their early holes.

He'll do his job, but don't distort hope. Kessel or no Kessel, the Leafs need more than one more piece.


Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can contact him through his profile or email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. Also, be sure to check out all of his previous work in his archives .