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With the Bruins on tap, why not discuss Kessel-Seguin?

There seems to be a propensity in Leaf circles sometimes to say we shouldn’t talk about the "Kessel trade", because it’s over and done with.  Now, that's not everyone's view, just an opinion I have seen floated about a fair bit.  (Maybe it was more reflective of when the Leafs were struggling and Kessel was still widely seen as a talented but strictly hot and cold offensive player.)

Just last week, a mainstream hockey writer wrote a piece that, if I saw the headline correctly, essentially said:  it's time to acknowledge Burke made a great trade with the Bruins to obtain Kessel.  Personally, I wouldn't go that far.  I've seen too many trades over the past fifty-some years where one team seems to be the "winner", only to have things change significantly over time.  From my perspective, there doesn't have to be a "winner", anyway.  Sometimes deals work out well for both teams and neither would change a thing.  I just like to assess how a big deal works for both sides, both short and longer-term.

For me, enjoying sports is sometimes rooted in being able to follow precisely this kind of major deal—one that gives fans on  both "sides” something to talk about for years to come.

I mean, isn’t there an element of pure pleasure (and I don’t mean fantasy hockey pools, though that’s fun,
too, for those so inclined…) when, on the same night, you see that Kessel has potted a big goal for the Leafs, but you flick the channel or scoreboard-watch on the 'net, and you notice that young Seguin has a couple of assists?

For those not keeping score, Kessel leads the NHL with 31 points in 24 games and is plus 4 on the year.  Seguin has slowed down a bit lately, production-wise, and now sits at 23 points in 22 games thus far.  He is plus 19.

It isn’t exactly Mantle and Maris gunning for Babe Ruth’s record of 61 home runs in 1961, but it’s pretty cool, nonetheless.  We’re talking about two young stars, maybe NHL superstars, some day soon.

Of course, Leaf fans want Kessel to outdo his Bruin counterpart, and I have to believe Bruin fans feel the same about Seguin.  Again, that’s part of the fun of being a fan.  It can be something that is debated non-stop, for years.

Kessel himself may have long grown tired of the persistent questions about the trade (I can probably take the “may” out of that sentence…), and that’s understandable.  But you can be certain that he wants to do well against the Bruins, and some game soon, it’s going to happen—and he will be immensely relieved. (On that note, can you imagine how much fun a playoff series against the Bruins would be?  A 7-game series would be great in itself.  But throw in the Kessel-Seguin attraction, and you have a real storyline to follow...)

Trades—while difficult for the athletes involved and their families—are the kind of thing that make fans even more passionate about the sport they love and the teams they follow.  (Consider how much discussion there would be in Toronto if the Bobby Ryan "rumours" proved to be true, and he ended up in a Maple Leaf uniform?) And we would no doubt be kidding ourselves if we believed that the players who have been dealt don’t harbor feelings toward their former organization (check my earlier post about Ron Wilson, and his summertime comments about the San Jose Sharks, his previous employer).  It’s human nature.  And that’s part of what makes trades so riveting for fans.

There are things I can’t seem to remember about my fifty-plus years following the Leafs, but I think I remember all the major trades in Leaf history.  The memory bank includes getting Red Kelly in the late ‘50s, the Saturday afternoon when Dickie Duff was dealt to the Rangers (and played aginst the Leafs that very night) in early 1964.  There was the amazing multi-player deal that sent the “Big M”, Frank Mahovlich, to the Red Wings in late February (I think it was), 1968.

I also have fond memories of the January day we traded Mike Walton (talented but very unhappy in Toronto) and got Bernie Parent from the Flyers in a three-way deal with the Bruins.  The Dan Maloney deal was huge in 1978, but I wish it had been possible a few years earlier when Maloney, a rugged winger the Leafs desperately needed, was younger.

Some historical follow-up: the Kelly trade was great for Leaf GM/coach Punch Imlach.  Kelly became a center in Toronto and helped the team win four Cups in the next eight seasons.  The Mahovlich deal actually worked out best for the Montreal Canadiens.  By that I mean the Red Wings flipped Frank (picture at left) a couple of years later to the Habs, and he was a major contributor to two Cups (1971 and 1973) for Toronto’s arch-rivals.  (In fairness, the Leafs got some fine years out of Normie Ullman and to a lesser degree Paul Henderson.  Henderson was a Team Canada hero but never really quite reached the heights expected of him in Toronto before jumping to the WHA.  The Wings received Mickey Redmond in return for Mahovlich, and while the team struggled, Redmond had a couple of 50 goal years in Motown.)

Some of you have heard my tale of woe about Parent before.  He looked great in blue and white  after joining the Leafs part-way through the 1970-’71 season, but just over a year later, the fledgling WHA beckoned.  Leaf owner Harold Ballard wouldn’t pay up, and the rest is Hall-of-Fame history—Parent earning that honor in large part for leading the expansion Flyers to two Stanley Cups in the mid-‘70s.

The Maloney trade cost the Leafs Errol Thompson, a nice winger and two first-round draft choices, but without him, they would never have beat the Islanders in the 1978 playoffs—still one of the biggest upsets in Leaf playoff history.

My point in all this being, I guess, that trades create some great memories.  And they give us something to cheer about, fight about, debate and get passionate about.

So while I respect a fan’s desire not to have the “Kessel-Seguin” discussion any more, for me, it makes the fan experience all the more entertaining.

Especially this week.


  1. There seems to be a general misconception that Kessel was traded for Seguin. At the time of the trade (Kessel for 2 1sts and a 2nd prior to the 2009-10 season) the Leafs were percieved by many as a playoff team (Toskala's subsequent implosu
    ion and Gustafsson's heart problems put an end to that). No one in their worst nightmares expected this trade to yield a 2nd overall pick. By the way I was at Red Kelly's 1st game as a Leaf at Maple Leaf Gardens...5 minute standing ovation when he came out for his 1st shift.

  2. you were there the night Kelly played his first game for the Leafs? How old were you at the time? To have such a vivid memory now 50 years later, that must have been something special. Sounds like you may have been at a number of Leaf games in those days at the Gardens! Thanks for sharing that memory, I hope you will drop by here and comment more often.

    You make a very good point about the Kessel deal. The "trade" of course was not Kessel for Seguin but Kessel for the draft choices you cite.

    Now, it's relevant that Burke has often claimed publicly that he and his staff talked about precisely this scenario unfolding, and they decided they would make the trade in any event. And, he has also said that he would do the deal again. So it's certainly fair to discuss this as a "Kessel for Seguin" swap, though that wasn't the initial likelihood, for sure.

    The Bruins, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, already have their Cup with Seguin and Kaberle as minor contributors, but contributors nonetheless. And the Bruins have two more pieces of the Kessel deal in their system, just as the Leafs have Colborne and another first-rounder (obtained for Kabby) as a key part of their future going forward.

    All part of the fun of gauging how this will all shake down over time.

  3. I guess the received wisdom is that trades can't be accurately assessed for years, since the teams involved usually have such different agendas. I think that's true here - I expect both Kessel and Seguin will contribute significantly to their respective team's successes. But, mainly because of the reaction of the Boston fans and the pounding Kessel seems to receive from the Bruins, I always hope he smokes them - and get a special thrill when he scores on them.
    There's no question that the Bruins represent a measuring stick for us this year - hopefully comments on how the whole team played will eventually supersede talk of "the trade".

  4. I've always maintained that without the Kessel trade, the Leafs might well have ended up with the first pick. They only finished 12 points ahead of the Oilers, and with the same number of goals for (214). Phil scored 30 of those, including five winners. Without Kessel on the team, somebody else could've stepped up, but it wasn't like we were blessed with alternatives. Certainly not with the skills Kessel possessed. Of course, we'll never know how that scenario would've played out, but is it that unreasonable to imagine it could've gone that way?

    Anyway, as far as the trade goes, it's still far too early to judge. After all, two significant parts of it have yet to reach the NHL. I've not had a chance to see either Hamilton or Knight play recently (living in England, the World Juniors is basically the only chance I'll get prior to their arrival in the NHL) but Hamilton's OHL stats look pretty ominous. That being said, if the Leafs do end up 'losing' the trade, receiving Phil Kessel in return certainly makes it a lot easier to stomach than some of the other trades they've lost in recent years.

  5. I was 18 at the time of the Kelly trade. I was fortunate enough to have a season ticket in the grays for the 61-62 abd 62-63 seasons (a friend of the father of a friend of mine had 2 season tickets but was waiting for his infant son to get old enough to appreciate them). A season ticket in the grays cost $52.50 back then ($1.50 x 35 games). it cost us 50 cents for parking, 25 cents for a coke and 25 cents for a hot dog.

  6. Gerund O'...I agree that the two teams (as is almost always the case) had very different needs and agendas at the time of the trade. It helped the Bruins win a Cup, and should ultimately help both clubs be more competitive - and exciting - for years to come.

    Hail_G...your suggestion about what could have happened makes sense. Leafs likely would have taken Taylor Hall if they had not made the deal and had the first pick overall, just as the Oilers did (maybe because he was perceived to be a bit grittier than Seguin...)

    The "other guys" in that deal, as you mention Hail_G, are the wild card here. Hamilton seems to be a big, skilled defenseman.

    PeteCam...those have to be wonderful memories. And the costs you mention- those were the good old days!

  7. Burke made the right move. How many 1st round draft picks make the NHL? say about 1/3. out of that third, how many turn out to be a consistent 30 goal scorer with pylons for teammates? maybe 1 or 2 a year if that. The leafs had finished just shy of a playoff spot the year before, and so bringing in Kessel made sense because if toskala wasn't garbage, and half the team played their worst season ever they would've made it making the 2nd overall pick a 20th.

  8. Sequin is still a teenager and may already be a better all around player who gets less playing time than Kessel. Also Sequin's production is much more meaningful on an elite tem. Also Sequin isn't close to making Kessel money yet.