The Leafs have won two of their first three exhibition games, and we've seen (if we believe pre-season can tell us anything) some good signs- The Monster having his moments, Bozak with two goals a couple of nights ago, Frattin with two Wednesday night, Gardiner picking up points on the power play, guys blocking shots and trying to impress one way or another...). So people should be in good spirits for a fun debate.
Let me start today by acknowledging that many Leaf fans don’t ever want to hear anything more about the “Kessel debate”. That is, they feel Leaf fans should "get over it". But I believe it is still worth discussing the pros and cons of the much-talked about deal that saw Brian Burke grab Kessel just over two years ago for two first-round draft choices and a number two.
I mean, if fans can't debate player moves, draft choices, roster decisions, etc. what do we do except cheerlead?
Understanding that some fans don’t want to have the discussion, let me at least put forward the question. Now that we all know the principals involved in the deal (Seguin, Doug Hamilton and Jared Knight) and you can sit back and make a calm assessment, how do you feel about it?
Kessel is a Leaf. He’s not going anywhere. We know after two seasons what he is. He may get better, may be more productive with different linemates, and become even better as he matures and grows his game. But we pretty much know what we have.
We’re not sure about Seguin, Hamilton and Knight just yet (though Seguin looked pretty smooth to me in his brief playoff opportunities this past spring) , and of course people will be monitoring the progress of all those players in the years ahead to determine who got “the best” of that huge trade. (As I posted some weeks ago, even if the Leafs win a Cup some day with Kessel, they’ll still just be even with the Bruins, but that’s not part of the debate for me today…)
In asking this I realize, of course, that the Leaf brass probably did not anticipate where they would finish the last two seasons, though Burke has claimed they had that exact conversation- and were still prepared to make the trade. (I just don’t think they ever believed they would finish almost last overall.)
But they did and as a result, gave up a 2nd overall and 9th overall pick.
Now that we know what the “cost” was to the Leafs to get the bona fide first-line sniper they desperately wanted two years ago, if you were the GM, would you make the trade again, knowing what you know now?
I think it’s a reasonable time to pose the question now, because it’s pre-season. Phil is not in the midst of a ten-game scoreless streak, nor is he on a roll where he has just scored half a dozen goals over the past three games. Fans aren't angry at him, nor are they feeling heady that he’s on the way to a 60-goal season.
So you can sit back and decide. Would you keep the young, proven 30+ goal guy, or would you rather have the even younger but un-proven Seguin, a young defenseman in Hamilton and a future role-player in Knight?