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OK: Who would un-do the Kessel trade?

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?

Your call.


  1. I would undo the trade. There are two reasons for this.

    1, Kessel is the right player at the wrong time. To me he is the kind of player who complements a top line with excellent secondary scoring. His all around game to me just isn't good enough for him to be a legitamate top three forward. Don't get me wrong Kessel is a very good player but I think much better used as a secondary scoring option and not the first. He is not the first piece you get in building a team, he is the last piece you get. He is the guy that gives you options and hopefully puts you over the top.

    2, I know hindsight is 20-20 but the one thing the Leafs are seriuosly lacking is a stud number one centerman. These are the kind of players you never get in a trade and if you get them in free agency thier best years are behind them. The only way to get an elite center is to draft him. Tell me the last time a truely elite centerman was traded at a young age when his most productive years were still in front of him. It would have made much more sense for the Leafs to go after a guy like Kessel this year

  2. The Rask trade did more damage to Leafs than the Kessel trade.

  3. The one other thing this trade did was make Boston more open to further trades with Toronto and allowed us to trade Kaberle for what amounted to Colborne (perhaps a 1st line Center sometime soon), Tyler Biggs (or was it Stuart Percy?... I forget) and a second round pick next year which we flipped for John Michael Lyles.

    Boston may have never done the Kaberle trade (which was VERY good for us) had we not buttered them up in the Kessel trade previously.

  4. I'm not sure if I would undo the trade, but either way, I'd want Kessel on the roster somehow. Maybe through trade after he resigned with Boston. Boston fans love it as they've gotten a Cup anyways, but it's stretching it to say the trade enabled it, big-time. Imagine where the Bruins would have been WITH Kessel's performance on a 5v5-starved team. As well, not having him is going to limit their chances in the future, and it may be that last year's Cup is the last is a long while, again, due in part to getting rid of Kessel.
    When you have the chance to get an effortless scorer like Phil, you do it. Yes, we need 2 more heavy forwards yet, but I love having him on the roster.

  5. Long suffering Leaf fanSeptember 22, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Hindsight being 20-20, the question should be asked, "How many Leafs fan's think that Mr Burke should have pulled the trigger in the Thomas Kaberle and the Leafs first for Kessel in '09 draft?" Even though I think Nazem Kadri will turn out to be a Russ Courtnell type of player, I still would have done the deal than what did occur.

  6. I like the Kessel trade. It was unlikely the Leafs were going to make the playoffs either of the past two years, so Phil can't be blamed for their falling short. In the meantime, he went and scored 30 goals a year - without a top set-up guy. What more can fans expect? "Natural" scorers are hard to find, and he's one of them.

  7. I’m a bit Leaf focus so honestly I knew very little about Phil Kessel.
    But for me if you are going to risk 1st round draft picks times 2 at the start of the season with a franchise who has finished at the bottom 10 with significant personnel changes that include 1st goaltender you must obtain certain minimum criteria, anyone of which if not satisfied are instant deal breakers. Because I’m risking a potential lottery pick times 2. Again Leafs are bottom 10, our needs are different than top 10. Minimum is a forward with hands, speed, does well back checking good defensive game as well and certain intangibles. Pro staff knew Kessel is bottom quarter of the league defensively. With no physical game what so ever I better have big, fast, and physical centre and Left wing to compensate. No space even with Kessel’s speed and he is MIA. Worse, because of a lack of desire and somewhat fearful of physical play, Kessel is a liability in defensive zone, so I better protect him with our best defensive stay at home defensemen. This all sounds like Kessel is a perfect fit with only a limited number of top 10 to 5 teams. Need power play specialist and you have stud set- up- pro centre, Kessel is your man. Have two quick star defensemen and top 10 goaltender, Kessel will not hurt you as much defensively.

    Great I love 32 goals and 12 on PP, but what hurts is -20 +/-.

    We shall see what Seguin+Hamilton+Knight do in the future to properly judge this trade.

    Another minimum criterion is the intangibles, putting forth that extra effort every time. Its something in their eyes, something in their step, I can’t describe it. Its a passion and hunger to improve for now and rest of their career. It’s seen and not seen, I don’t know how pro scouting staff quantify this. You see it now , for example, in Brett Lawrie’s eyes intensely focus listening to hitting coach or Bautista. Or feel it in his passion for the game when he tries to “Pete Rose” Boston Red Sox catcher 6’2” 230lb Jason Variek. When you do that extra, for example Kadri, Bozak and Armstrong coming in a few weeks early on their own because they need to hit pre-season running and are trying to make their case they are Leafs legitimate no. 3 line. I don’t see this in Kessel. And I wonder how long his skill will remain without the above passion, hunger to learn, etc. If Phil doesn’t score he appears to get discourage and I know every player does, but the best players in the league have other aspects of their game they can work on while waiting for a little puck luck, Kessel does not. Again I’m risking a lottery pick for 2 drafts and I could possibly be giving up top 3, which in almost every draft has a good chance at a franchise player. I need this and a few more things to compensate for huge risk. Do the math and Kessel just does not add up in my books.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

  8. Phrankie B...I sense a lot of Leaf fans rue the Rask trade... make very valid points...

    Anon's link to the subsequent Kaberle is an interesting one. Hard to say if there was a direct link, or cause/effect. But while Kabby helped Boston (although his role was very small, along with Seguin) win that Cup, most Leaf supporters see that deal as a massive "win" for Burke already, and we haven't even seen the best of what Toronto received in return. It's too early.

    Long Suffering makes a comparison between Kadri and former Leaf speedster Courtnall. Interesting, as well.

    I can see where Gerund O' and KidK are coming from (an aside...happy birthday, KidK...)but it all kind of exposes the internal conflict a lot of us have-- we want Phil, but maybe not at the cost we had to give.

    And on that note, Walter B adds a very thoughtful comment. Those who follow this site know I've expressed similar concerns about Kessel. Wonderful talent, but a guy who will go to the well or lead the way? We have not seen that in his personality and it just may not be there. We'll see.

  9. Nobody has considered that if we never got Kessel and his 30 goals there's a good chance we would have come in last place and drafted Taylor Hall.

    Considering that possibility I would have to say that I would undo the trade.

  10. I'd just like to make a comparison if I may.

    Jerome Iginla scored 21, 13, 28, 29, & 31 goals in each of his first five NHL seasons. Then in his sixth he scored over 50, and he's been a top player since.

    Phil Kessel has had three 30 goal seasons in his first five seasons. Since being with the Leafs he has had the same problem Iginla has had, not having great linemates.

    Now I'm not saying they're the same players but what I will say is Kessel has only played 5 seasons. But in those 5 seasons he's shown he's got the potential to be a superstar.

    Let's give him yet a little time before we say this trade is a bust, he could end up being a 5o goal guy... you never know!

  11. Seguin is unproven. Right now we are lacking a first line centre. If we undo the trade we are lacking a sure fire top line sniper. Kessel is one of only 9 players to put up 30 goals in each of the last three years. Two of which were with our brutal leafs team. Kessel is a sure thing. Seguin is unknown. Doug Hamilton stings tho. Too bad Burkie hates offer sheets.

  12. Boston would be very pleased and consider themselves lucky if Seguin (certainly the best player they got for Kessel) became a consistent 30-goal-scorer. ANY team would be thrilled with that outcome from ANY draft pick.

    Even a top-5 pick has a very remote chance of scoring 50, a remote chance of scoring 30, likely to score 20. The way I see it, we got a sure thing in exchange for a couple of lottery tickets. If Seguin and the others blow up and each become Gretzkys, I'm still fine with that. But the chance was always there that we'd get a Daigle (and the chance is still there for all of the Bruins' kids).

    So really, are you fine with getting $100,000 or do you spin the wheel, which ranges from $1,000,000 to $1? Whatever the outcome of the wheel-spin, you can't be upset about a hundred grand.

  13. I like W. Bishop's thought, but I would say two things-
    1. Defensive responsibility can be taught at least somewhat. Pure sniper-hood cannot, it can only be improved on. Some of Kessel's goals still take my breath away when I see them dozens of times later.
    2. His -20 I don't particularly care or worry about, due to not being much of a statistics guy, but knowing it's kind of a flawed stat. I feel if the team gels as a single unit properly in this and next season, his D flaws can be minimized and hopefully he hits a 40 goal season, which I think will put an end to the discussion about the trade, or at least should.

  14. Undo the trade, finish last and you have Taylor Hall - who really was the 2010 Rookie of the Year.