Toronto Maple Leafs: The Phil Kessel Trade is Paying Dividends

Brian LangenContributor IMarch 3, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 13:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on January 13, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images


Full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing.

I’m not sure who decided to tell Phil Kessel that he’s an elite hockey player, but regardless of who it was, he’s definitely starting to believe it. Kessel has been on fire as of late, tallying 10 points (five goals) in his past five games. 

He’s driving hard to the net, he’s getting to the scoring areas, and in turn, he’s making everyone around him better. This is the Phil Kessel that Brian Burke envisioned when he traded for him. 

Now to address the article title; yes, there’s a bit of a “shock” factor involved, but I think a slight case can be made arguing that it's not as bad of a trade as everyone thinks. So hear me out.

Despite taking a lot of criticism from Leafs Nation, Kessel has quietly put together a pretty solid season. He is currently 14th in the league in goals with 27, and is only five back of Ryan Kesler and Patrick Sharp in the race for second place (After the injury to Crosby, Stamkos is just running away with this one). Kessel is also third in the league in shots on goal, behind Ovechkin and Byfuglien. 

While shots on goal isn’t the most impressive statistic, it means that Kessel is getting involved in the offense, creating chances for his teammates through rebounds and forcing the opposing goalies to make quality saves. If Kessel can keep his confidence, there is no doubt that he can be an elite player in the NHL for years to come.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if Kessel is an elite player in the league, isn’t Tyler Seguin (first-round pick, 2010), Jared Knight (second-round pick, 2010) and another first-round pick an insane price to pay? Probably, but it may not be as insane as one would think. 

If the Leafs can continue their strong play down the stretch and sneak into a playoff spot, they would be giving up a pick somewhere between 15th and 20th. There have definitely been some good players taken with these picks in the past, but there have also been some busts. You just never know.

As for Seguin, there is no doubt that he is a talented hockey player, but my main concern is that he won’t develop to his full potential in Boston. With the exception of Shawn Thornton, Seguin is averaging the least amount of ice time (12:06) out of Boston’s regular line-up. In a recent game against Vancouver, Seguin played 6:16, and even against the last-place Oilers, Seguin only played 9:32. 

Comparatively, Taylor Hall played 19:52 in that same game, while averaging 18:20 of ice over the season. Playing less than 10 minutes a game in a fourth line role will definitely hinder Seguin’s development. 

And considering the depth that the Bruins have at centre ice (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Marc Savard), who knows when Seguin will be able to move up the depth chart.

Now I’m not saying that Seguin won’t become an effective or even elite NHL player. All I’m saying is that by getting minimal ice time during his first few years, he is missing out on some key learning experiences.

Either way, I’d just like to ask all Leafs fans one thing: please tell Kessel that he is worth the trade, and that he’s an elite player in the league.  Even if you don’t truly believe it, just say it. Because as we’ve seen this year, a confident Phil Kessel is a scary Phil Kessel. And a scary Phil Kessel is the “game-breaking” player that the Leafs haven’t had since the departure of Mats Sundin. 

No, I’m not comparing Kessel to one of the greatest Leafs of all time, I’m just saying that he has the ability to change the flow of the game with one shot, one deke, or one pass.  So for the sake of the Toronto Maple Leafs, let’s do everything we can to keep Kessel’s confidence high.