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Not fair to put the Leafs’ malaise on a struggling Phil Kessel…

Over the past decade or so, has there been a more over-analyzed trade by the Maple Leafs than the one that netted the supremely talented yet somewhat enigmatic Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins when Kessel was barely out of his teens?

Kessel’s youthful ‘rep’ seemed to be that he didn’t mesh with his coach at the time, and despite his obvious offensive talents, the Bruins didn’t see him as a long-term fixture. (In fairness, the same could be said for a young Tyler Seguin, one of the guys Boston drafted as a result of the Kessel deal, when Seguin didn’t do things the “Bruins way”.) So the Bruins dealt Phil our way and the great debate was triggered—and continues to this day.

At various points in Kessel’s time here, I've seen Kessel a few different ways.  On the one hand he was the classic “he is what he is” player. That is, a gifted offensive guy, a shooter who would always be able to produce goals.  I also saw him, at times, as someone who was slowly “getting it”- an individual talent who was beginning to take his defensive responsibilities a bit more seriously. He was, I thought, maybe becoming a bit more of an all around player. Offensively, he showed over time here that he could do more than shoot, as he made the players around him better. He could create space and find the open man with pinpoint passes. Few players, at high speed, are more exciting to watch.

But coach after coach has not been able to get him to buy in to the kind of team approach (being accountable defensively, etc.) that seems necessary to have organizational success, though Kessel is hardly alone in that department on recent Leaf rosters.

Hey, Kessel was never going to be Wendel Clark, who could also score (when healthy) 30 plus goals a year but also fight, protect his teammates, run over people and win puck battles all over the ice.  Leaf fans love that kind of player. 

But they also loved Dave Keon back in the day, who was one of the finest Leafs of all time.  And Keon never delivered a hard body check in his life.  But he played a relentless two way game, killed penalties, closed off passing lanes and had a tireless work ethic. So that fact that he wasn’t a bruiser didn’t matter to those of us who held him in high esteem as a proud, diligent Leaf.

Kessel is just different.  He’s never been comfortable in the limelight, and it’s difficult to criticize someone who is so far out of their comfort zone.  He did not seek the attention he receives, yet his professional talents mean that, in this market, he is expected to have a kind of relationship with the ever-present Toronto media. I would argue that, despite his seeming reluctance, he has at least tried to do the minimum in that regard.

I’ve often said about Phil that, many nights, looks like the same player to me.  The only thing that is different is what we, as fans, call offensive production. And that has to do with whether the puck actually goes the net or not. What I mean is, some nights the puck misses the net, the goalie makes a save, a shot is tipped or blocked.  But when the puck is going in for he and his linemates, he seemed to be worth his eight or ten or whatever it is million dollars a season, because guys who can score and produce points like Kessel are pretty rare. And as fans, who doesn’t want to see offense- goals?

When the team was flying high a few times over the past several years, Kessel was a big part of that success.  In his early years here he struggled against his old team, the Bruins, but he broke through the barrier and rose to the occasion in the playoffs versus Boston in the spring of 2013.

We were happy to have him then.

It’s often been suggested that Kessel will never be a leader, or a guy that a team can rely on or build around.  That is likely a fair assessment. By that theory, he is more of a high skill support player, someone who can play on a top line and the power play, but who needs others to be “the guy” in terms of leadership and the intangibles that separate the truly great players from the rest.

Could Kessel thrive elsewhere?  Could he have thrived even more in Toronto, had management surrounded him with the equivalent of a modern day Gary Roberts, and a true first line center (and a better blue line corps as well)? The answer may be yes to both questions—though we will never know the answer to the latter.

In the end, the Leafs traded what turned out to be Seguin and Doug Hamilton for a gifted player who was never part of a team that won a playoff series in six years in Toronto. But that is not all on Kessel.

To be clear, the malaise here in this market has not always been present.  I’m sorry, but there’s no way I will accept that, say, during the Pat Quinn years, the Leafs were anything but a serious contender, a team that mostly played hard with a mix of skill, grit and heart. They certainly demonstrated those attributes during that short but wonderful two-year Fletcher/Burns/Gilmour/Potvin/'no-name' defense window in the early ‘90s. Players were proud to be Leafs, and we came achingly close in 1993, 1994, 1999 and 2002 to reaching the finals.

But yes, the issues that seem to be ever present in this hockey market always resurface for some reason.  It’s not that management didn’t care—Burke sure did, and so does Nonis. Every Maple Leaf General Manager and coach has since I can remember. 

But I will say this: when things go south in Leafland, the bottom of the well seems deeper here than in other hockey markets. That translates into more cynicism from the fan base, more caustic media scrutiny and a pervasive sense that the Leafs are “always lousy”—and that’s just not so.

Goodness, we’ve talked here about culture, leadership and “identify” for what seems like forever. When the team goes on a roll (it even happened earlier this season) it looks like the Leafs have enough speed, skill and netminding to be a playoff team.  But we never seem to get past the next hurdle—or find the consistency—which would put the Leafs alongside the best NHL teams.

I’ve long believed ownership is a huge issue here. That was obviously the case when Harold Ballard ran the show for two decades. When Steve Stavro was in charge at the ownership level, I sensed we at least had an owner who let the hockey people do what they had to do to build a good team.  But more recent ownership, represented publicly by Richard Peddie and more recently by Tim Leiweke, has seemingly not allowed their hockey people to run the show without interference.

Somehow, we haven’t been able to convince a high-end free agent to come here in, well, forever—unless we way overpay. Curtis Joseph was the last one, wasn’t he? Is that on ownership? Is it because of market pressure?  Heck, it’s not that the Leafs don’t pay enough. And this is the best place in the world to play hockey, despite the constant pressure. You just have to work hard as a player—and as a team, win a bit more than you lose.

In the times that the Leafs have ‘re-built’ over the past decade (and we should make no mistake, whatever term we want to use, they have been re-built several times) other organizations have built better, or at least more cohesive and successful rosters in much less time.

I’m not among those who feel that the Leafs have always traded away their future.  Sure, when we were good in the early 2000s, we made some deals to take a run at the Cup, but isn’t that what all good teams do—they trade prospects for a shot at a championship.  If you don’t do that, you’re just constantly talking about a “future” that never comes and building with kids that, when they get old enough, they often just end up somewhere else anyway. (Name a player or draft pick that we traded away in the early 2000s that has had such a great career elsewhere that we shouldn’t not have traded them for a shot to win a Cup?)

You have to have a solid foundation, including a mix of promising kids and solid veterans, and then add for the stretch run when you have a legitimate shot. 

But the biggest thing, to me, is not that we have traded away young players or picks, but that, for some reason, we have never found the roster balance needed to be really good when it matters.

This brings me back to Kessel.  Whether you believe, like Don Cherry, that Phil shouldn’t have to worry about defense and should just be allowed to go out and make plays, or feel Kessel should work harder, etc., Kessel is a guy who would be a very nice piece on a well-rounded team. He is the classic goal scorer. He’s never hit 40, but maybe would have in a different setting.

If the Leafs had players to complement him—a stand-out grinder, a slick playmaker, a hard-as-nails leader, etc., maybe we’d be thrilled with Kessel just doing what he does well. But relying on him to lead, or to be what he simply isn’t, hasn’t worked here.  He will likely never become a Modano or Yzerman, guys who took their game to another level by focusing on an all-around approach to helping their team win games. But those guys, if we check the rosters, also had a superb supporting cast. Kessel has never had that.

No, there’s something that happens to the Leafs when things go dsouth.  Whether it’s a matter of confidence, leadership, players just becoming fed up with the constant negativity, but when the team hits the wall, there’s no seeming ability to get up off the mat.

I don’t think it’s that players don’t care.  They do. You couldn't fault their effort in Montreal on Saturday night, a game they could well have won, not that it would have mattered much. But the game is as much mental as it is physical, and if an athlete is not feeling right, individually or collectively as a team, clearly we won’t see their best performance and the outcomes will suffer. That's where the Leafs are right now.

Kessel has not made the Leafs a winning team, but he has been just one of many cogs that, together, haven’t got the job done.  This is on ownership, it’s on management, on the various coaching staffs who have been here, but certainly on the players, too.

The Leafs not only need to “rebuild” (yet again, and the just-announced Franson trade is only the beginning) with youth, heart and skill, they need to find individuals who will thrive in this market, who will embrace being Leafs and appreciate just how much of a gift it is to be able to make millions of dollars playing in a city that so badly wants their team to do well.

When was the last time we had a true heart and should player, a guy who left everything out on the ice pretty much every night?

I’ve often said it here, and I believe it’s true: if a player plays their guts out here in Toronto, and gives everything they have, we will remember them forever.  Why do I remember Brian Spencer (see the old Dan Baliotti photo of Spencer in action in the early 1970s, above right) and Scott Garland with such fondness from their short times with the blue and white in the 1970s?  Because their pride in being Leafs shone through.  The same could be said for Brad “Motor City Smitty” Smith, Brad Marsh, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Gary Roberts, Dmitry Yushkevich, Danny Markov and many others. None of those guys won a Cup here, but they were true blue Maple Leafs.

That’s what most Leaf fans want.  Winning, yes.  A championship, for sure.  But mostly, they want a roster of players who bleed blue and white, who play hard every night, who understand why fans care so much, who also understand their social responsibility here and seem to appreciate being Leafs and what it means to represent the organization on and off the ice with distinction.

And if they can ever bring us that elusive Cup, that would be icing on the cake.


  1. Hi Michael,

    Great post. Lots of interesting stuff going on in Leafland. Let's get on with chatting about all of it.

    Even though I am only a fan, never had any job in hockey, and can barely say I can skate. The dysfunction present in the Maple Leafs is astonishing. From inability in the boardroom, to players who are in my opinion lazy and gutless, to the delusional fanbase believing that Crosby or the first overall draft pick is only a phone call away. I still, will always be a Leafs fan, and wouldn't have it any other way.

    First things first, Kessel. I have never liked the trade, for a lot of reasons. Flat out and right up front, he just doesn't work hard at the things that will bring success to himself, and his team mates. Last night was the first time in the last 25 games or so I can honestly say I saw him skate hard. I'm not mentioning defensive ability, hitting, just making use of his most god given ability, his speed. It is clearly my opinion, but he is a high maintenance baby who I will be glad to see leave town. Eight million bucks a year for a secondary piece on a good team. Not good enough, and neither is his effort level. Why can't we expect Phil to play hard defensively? Why is that too much to ask of him? Is it beneath him to win a puck battle? If less talented players don't work hard each and every game they are out of the League. When the talented players can't be bothered, oh well he's enigmatic. You know what it really is, it's BS.

    To my knowledge, the Leafs have never been in a position to be called a rebuild. I've heard rebuild on the fly, accelerated, partial, and lots of other things. The Leafs have drafted first overall once in the last 47 years. They have never drafted 2nd, 3rd twice, 4th twice, and 5th overall twice. Not only do they trade their draft picks in a historical context, they also trade away a lot of the players they do draft in the first round. Sometimes these players go on to play well elsewhere, some do not. The players that don't get traded away, don't tend to amount to much in a historical context. When talking about the Leafs drafting, and developing, we need to talk about everything. All aspects of this record are bad in regards to the Leafs, and that is what needs to change, desperately. The focus on the guys who are still here is intense, for all these reasons. Plus the need for them to be great, because frankly, they are the last man standing so to speak.

    You are absolutely correct, the Leafs did play hard last night in Montreal. The question is, where was that level of effort in any of the last thirty games? If they had played that hard, more often than not, we wouldn't have had to watch this garbage float of a season.

    1. There may well be a range of comments here regarding Kessel, Jim, and I obviously understand there will be different perspectives. (As a fan, I agree that it's not too much to ask all players to work hard at both ends of the ice on a regular basis...)

      You touched on a key element which is: development. We've had the opportunity to draft plenty of good young players over the past, say, fifteen years, but haven't done a good enough job of getting them where they need to be to become difference makers for the Leafs.

      Effort over the past 30 games? You're right. There's enough skill here that, with genuine effort, they would be in a playoff spot in the East. Thanks Jim.

  2. There's a sad irony in the fact that during the Leafs (most recent) self destruction, Phil has somehow become the poster-child for all that's wrong with the blue and white. One would have thought that the fan and media target would have been David Clarkson, with a contract not matching Phil's, but definitely not commensurate with his output or overall value. I think Clarkson got tagged as a "lost cause" not too long into his tenure in Toronto, and as a result, he's been relegated to invisible mode, while Kessel carries the mantle of "everything that stinks" with the Leafs. Clarkson definitely gets mentioned as a failure, but I've never seen the media target him with the ferocity Kessel unfairly receives. When did you ever see Clarkson in a press scrum, being repeatedly badgered about his cash-for-life contract, and the dismal results he's offered in return?

    Kessel isn't that different than Patrick Kane, in terms of his age, output, and status as a sniper. An interesting hypothetical is Chicago without Toews, Keith, Seabrook and the rest. Would the Chicago media be harshly attacking this seemingly one dimensional player with the gigantic contract? Most likely, yes. The error is with Leafs management signing Phil to that massive contract, without the leadership group that sort of player needs around him.

    It's similar to Larry Murphy or even Bryan McCabe, where the fan base and media alike got their fangs out in a hurry, and the situation became untenable for them. Those Leaf teams also didn't have the pieces to be successful, and the vultures needed their pound of flesh.

    Not trying to offer Phil a hall pass here, as he's a really frustrating, mystery of a player. Streaky beyond what most elite scorers roll through, and also painfully shy, to the point where it makes him seem indifferent at times, and I don't believe for a second that he doesn't care. In short, he's an easy target.

    The big injustice here is in what the Kessel trade ended up being. People rage on endlessly about how stupid it is to trade Kessel for Seguin and Hamilton, but that wasn't the trade. The trade was for draft picks, and at the time both the Bruins and the Leafs didn't see a 29th place finish for Toronto. Phil needs a fresh start with a new team, as this cycle of scrutiny will never end, in Toronto.

    1. The Chicago reference is fair, Russ. Kane has been allowed to play his game in Chicago. I'm sure Quenneville (as all coaches try to) insists on a compete level from Kane beyond the offensive zone, but your point is that there are others who are there for grit, leadership, veteran savvy, etc. Kessel is a goal scorer, not someone that is a saviour and he hasn't been on a team with those kinds of complementary players.

      A different market may provide Phil with a new start, when he still has a lot left in the tank.

    2. Russ, I think the reason that Clarkson isn't mentioned in the same way, is that there is no more that you can expect from him. He is only as talented as he is. He does garner a lot of criticism for his contract. It is universally panned as the worst in the history of the NHL. How much harder do you expect people to be on him?

      The trade was stupid. It was the wrong player at the wrong time. The trade was for two first round draft picks. It was Burkes job to evaluate his team and know where they would be at the end of the season. If there was that degree of uncertainty, he shouldn't have made the trade. First round draft picks are funny, they can either be Claude Giroux, or Tyler Biggs. You have to draft and develop them in order to find out.

    3. With regards to Clarkson, Jim, I read both of our comments, and I think we're actually saying the exact same thing. Me saying he was tagged as a "lost cause", is essentially identical to you saying that "he is only as talented as he is", meaning he's not worth wasting newsprint and coverage on, as there's no upside potential, based on limited talent. I just think that he personally needs to answer for that, repeatedly. He's not absolved of chewing up $36.75M of Cap space over his term here, certainly. Play for your pay, and although Kessel is completely one dimensional, he does toss 30 pucks in the net every year. I'd like to see Phil gone, Jim, but Kessel isn't the biggest problem here. Kessel reminds me of Marian Gaborik, in the sense that you'd be crazy to build a team around him (like the Leafs did with Phil), but he's a valued sniper on a balanced squad, like LA put together. I'm sure Gaborik enjoys shining that Cup ring.

      I agree that Clarkson's contract was universally panned, and for good reason, but what I was getting at specifically is the interaction between the press scrum, Kessel, and Clarkson. There were many overpriced players that deserved to be dragged across the carpet during that massive (ongoing) losing streak, with Phaneuf, Clarkson, Bozak and the goalies ALL available to get microphones deservedly jammed in their face. The result is that they were allowed to slip away in their suits, while the player that's averaging 30 goals a season over half a decade in Toronto got the full bore of scrutiny from the press scrum. I just think it made the media core look really weak as a whole, based on their single minded obsession with Kessel. Spread the pain a little bit more.

      Until the Leafs have some success to divert our attention, that Kessel trade will be the cornerstone of gripes, discussions and arguments, that's for sure. As much as we're all sick of talking about it, I'm as guilty as anyone one to continue to chime in.

    4. I thought I posted another comment today, guess it didn't make it through. Russ we are talking about this a lot. Kessel, I mean. I can't see a way around it really, he is the highest paid, highest profile player, all-star game representative, designated goal scorer, and everything else. Not to mention what Burke gave up to get him here. Do we all wish he had turned into more than he has? Absolutely. Has he had some adversity throughout his career, yes he has. He isn't however a local bank teller doing the best they can given the circumstances. He actively chose to seek out a career in one of the most highly scrutinized areas of our society. He also makes a lot of money, its a factor when discussing his performance and worth to the team. It always will be.

      We agree for the most part on Clarkson too. The media should ask him about his own performances, and not only that but ask Nonis if he is yet worried about years 5,6,and seven. As long as the players are selectively allowed to avoid the media after games, I don't think any of our complaints will go away. The only player who I would consider always available to the media is Dion. He never says anything but, he is always willing to stand up and pretend to answer questions. Phil, JVR, Bozak, Clarkson, not so much. It isn't the media not asking questions, its the team allowing the players to duck out of the room before the press gets a chance to ask them pointed questions.

  3. Kessel is an elite scoring forward, a brilliant play-maker and passer. Over the last five years he's been third in goals, third in points and first overall in even strength points. We may never have a player of this caliber again but all we seem to care about is what he isn't. Had Phil been a different sort of player it wouldn't have changed a thing. He'd still be an elite player who had spent 4 years on a really bad team. A player who has managed to thrive in a tough market with very little help. The team wins when he carries them on his back. When he can't, others disappear completely (Bozak, JVR) and he gets the blame for that too. He's playing with multiple injuries--he always does--and struggling right now.

    He was only Rielly's age when he came to the Leafs, just a kid and a painfully shy one too. The media had a field day with him and have never stopped. He was immediately blamed for the trade, as if he had anything to do with it. Burke thought the picks would be late first round, a complete failure on his part in evaluating his own team. Had he been right, and the Leafs finished higher, we wouldn't have spent so many years complaining about it.

    Kessel made the Leafs look a lot better than they were. He's carried the offensive load since he arrived, he makes his line-mates better and he plays through injuries. He has more than one now, but you won't hear about it. He gets very little credit when the Leafs are winning but takes and takes the bulk of criticism when they lose.

    Kessel is called fat--he's actually got a husky muscular build though his stomach is flat. No one calls Polak fat. He's fought cancer and had to take medications that wreaked havoc with his body, including medications like Prednizone that make your body hold onto water and he may still be taking them. (He was back playing within months of treatment. ) He's been called unfit, yet he placed third in overall fitness in camp against almost 60 players. He's been blamed for Bozak's presence though he's stated several times MacArthur was his closest friend. Bozak lives and trains in Colorado. Do we honestly believe Kessel wouldn't have liked a bit of help in the form of a strong center? He certainly enjoyed playing with Pavelski during the Olympics. Phil was the top scorer there too.

    Anyway. I'll end the rant. I've never seen a anyone so bullied and I've worked in a school. I really feel for him. I'd like to have half his strength. He's the first Leaf player in years that puts me on the edge of my seat when he has the puck and it will be a very sad day for me if he goes.

    1. I'm not really sure where you are going with this Colleen. But, I have to try and find out. Elite scoring forwards who don't work hard in all areas of the rink end up in the pressbox, or the minors, see Alex Semin. Nowhere in your defense of Phil, do you mention any of the things that first come to mind when I think of a hockey player. There are dozens of cliches that I can go to here, Forecheck+Backcheck=Paycheck Be tough to play against, defend your house, hard work will triumph over talent alone.

      All professional athletes are hurt during the season, they have trainers and medical staff to help them work through them. Phil is not a special snowflake, if he is in the lineup, he is fit to play. I'm sorry he had cancer, and I'm thrilled that he beat it. He doesn't get a hall pass on his effort level in his time here because of it.

      Phil is getting the attention a superstar player, at the top of the pay scale deserves for his play. Why are we as Toronto fans always willing to say that he has no one to play with, other markets expect more of their stars. The lifting the team to new heights kind of thing. Here, all we get is he's doing the best he can. No, he is not.

      I happened to watch the Penguins and the Hawks yesterday on TV. Patrick Kane skates hard in all three zones of the ice. He competes for loose pucks, he takes the body to make a play. All the things that I have never seen Phil do. I criticize him for it, because its unacceptable that he can't be bothered enough to care.

      While you are on the edge of your seat watching him with the puck, I can only see the abysmal record of this team with him as its best player. Not to leave out the thrill of watching the Leafs win playoff games. You mention his recent Olympic performance, how did the USA fare in that competition? End of rant.

    2. I respect your views, Jim, and I also respect Colleen's perspective. Colleen can respond if she'd like to.

    3. I don't want to--Jim's smarter than me.
      If Jim's post was a rant, mine was a good example of why Colleen should get off her Chrome late at night. ( My thoughts were on some of the items in the media, not hockey)

      I won't deny I really like Kessel. I can also see the value of moving players like Phaneuf and Kessel that have been on a losing team the longest, not just to move contracts. I don't agree that the core is really bad so much as it's just a bad mix that hasn't worked. I don't see that there's much choice, they have to change it.

      JVR is a player I wonder if the Leafs will consider moving in spite of his youth and very reasonable contract. He may bring the best return of anyone. I've seen some playing well, some noticeable for their poor play but I haven't noticed JVR for much of the season, though he has points. His presence in front of the net on the Power-play has been missed.

    4. Colleen, there is very little evidence to support the theory that I am smarter than you. It was nice to read the compliment, I hope that is what it was. Not being particularly bright, it might have been a well disguised jab. If so, kudos.

      Sometimes the blatant cheerleading for the home team upsets me more than I should let it. I also enjoy watching Phil with the puck, I really do. He is phenomenally gifted, and could be so much more than he is currently, if in my opinion, he was more committed to playing without the puck. Literally, he could be one of the 5 best players in hockey.

      I see his attitude rub off on the less talented, and then I am stuck watching the dumpster fire that the Maple Leafs have become. I have hope for the future, but my head has been through the fence too often so to speak. So I am a little angry, and more than a little frustrated.

      I want you to know that my criticism of Phil was not in any way a criticism of you. I should also periodically keep my opinions to myself.

    5. I see what you were getting at, Colleen, and I was hinting at the same thing with my posts regarding Kessel, and my conversation with Jim. I think there was actually two separate discussions that got lumped on top of each other, those being a pure hockey debate about Kessel, and the second being the media's interaction with him lately. On the hockey side, I think most of us agree that he's darned talented, and also at times completely irritating to watch, during those long stretches where he really does look like a disinterested presence on the ice. Not excusable, at his pay grade. What's also inexcusable though, is what I see as a section of the hockey media that's sensationalistic and predatory in Toronto. During this losing streak, they pretty much maintained a laser-sharp focus on Phil, and while he deserved a heap of criticism, he wasn't alone. The goalies crapped the bed repeatedly, and there were more defensive gaffs in the last month than I've ever seen on a professional squad.

      Phil is the highest paid player, and has to take his medicine when things aren't going well, but he ultimately represents about 12% of the team's overall salary, so I'd just like to see the other 88% get dragged across the carpet as well.

      I don't think anyone's wrong here, as everyone has relevant points.... there's just two different issues fighting for space, and a pissed off fan base blowing off a bit of steam.

    6. Hey Jim,

      I always enjoy your comments but I have to weigh in on this one.

      First of all I am not denying he had a pretty bad stretch in the last two month that has to be clear.

      To the injury thing: yes, they have all kinds of medical help but that does not mean that there is the possibility he has an injury that harms him an that does not go away easily. How often do we wonder : No points in the play offs, what is wrong with Crosby? And then we learn he had wrist problems for the whole season.
      Or think of Gunnarson's hip issues.
      We do not give him enough credit for playing through such problems, like he did last year. That is some kind of toughness, appreciate it.

      Hockey is a team sport, it is absolutely essential to have success, that you have the right players to play with. That has a huge influence on your game, what you can and can't do and if it works. It is about chemistry not about playing with the best players, but players that fit. Phil has nobody to play with and management failed to change that.
      He absolutely managed to lift his linemates to new heights. Look how many players had career years with him.

      In Boston, Phil played in a very diffrent way. Here in Toronto he had nobody to feed him the puck so he went to get it himself and he was still effective. We wouldn't be right to complain if that hadn't worked out. Since the 11/12 season only three players have scored more goals than Phil. Why can we not appreciate that we have one of the best scorers in the game?

      I watched the Pens / Hawks game last sunday as well. And my initial thought was:
      If Kane would be here instead of Phil he would have to fight with the same problems.
      And then I read your comment last monday about the different effort level and I asked myself if I have watched a different game. So I watched this game and the Leafs / Habs game again and there is no difference in their effort levels (in these two games).
      The only difference is that Pat Kane plays with good players on a team where everything works and his deficiencies are masked by his teammates.

      On his olympic performance: You blame him solely for the outcome?
      Wasn't Pat Kane on this team too ? You think he is much much better than Phil so why don't you blame him? If he is better then he is the one to blame right? And what about Suter and Quick and Oshie and and and
      And what about the coach?

    7. Russ--Sometimes the posts all appear at the same time, as it did with these posts. It looks like we're replying to one another, or disagreeing when we've actually not even seen the other posts.

      I've just realized that over the years all I've hoped for with the Leafs is to be entertained for a few hours once or twice a week. No expectations beyond that at all.

      Jim--That made me laugh. My siblings have accused me of the same thing! The sad truth is I'm not that quick on the draw.

      I'm also far too emotionally invested in players who are the same age as my kids. (I have four, volunteered at school, caregiver to a special needs child for 16 years--in a constant role of protect it, fix it, heal it, motivate it or feed it. The "off" switch doesn't work well--I'm not very objective much of the time.) Please don't anyone feel they need to take it easy with me. You've all been wonderful.

    8. Hi Marcus,

      I guess where we disagree is more that you are trying to explain away his lack of production in the last 30 games, and this season for that matter. He must be hurt, his linemates are terrible. Where I am suggesting that he is what he always was. That there was no great revelation coming in his game. Hull learned to be responsible defensively, Hitchcock forced him too. Who is here to do the same for Phil?

      The other point that seems lost, we may have already seen the best of Phil. He may very well be on the downward side already. We can talk about how productive he has been over the last how ever many years. It is not really relevant to the team today. He is having a very average season, 5vs5 especially.

      With respect to Kane. He is leading the League in scoring. He has been a focal point of two Stanley Cup winning teams. His resume speaks for itself. Phil has never won anything as an adult in hockey. Leaders lead, followers get left behind.

  4. Hello Michael,

    I agree 100% with the title of your article.

    In many ways I feel sorry for Phil Kessel.

    Most of us fans are fortunate enough to not have a job which subjects us to even 1% of the scrutiny or pressure that he has endured almost since the day he was traded here. I've heard and read the standard retort to my point above - yeah, but he makes 8 million bucks a year so he should be able to live with the scrutiny and pressure. Really?! Amazing how fans think that the higher the pay cheque an athlete collects, the more garbage he can be subjected to.

    But, we should still try to look at the situation objectively.

    Realistically, by the time the Leafs come out the other side of this rebuild - hopefully within 3 to 5 years if they are lucky - Kessel is going to be anywhere from 30 to 32 years old. Is his God given talent going to make up for the fact that all the young kids on the ice with him are going to be that
    much bigger and faster than they are today? Maybe, maybe not.

    And even though the minute you trade him you would immediately start looking for someone who can do what he does (score goals), that does not mean that trading him would be the wrong move.

    Personally I would lean towards trading him, to give both him and the Leafs a fresh start, and hopefully securing assets which would shorten the rebuild time-frame.

    But, there is one circumstance which MIGHT derail the trading of Kessel. Should the Leafs win the lottery and secure the services of McDavid that would be a game changer. With McDavid as his centre, the rebuild might happen fast enough where keeping Kessel might actually pay dividends.

    Therefore, the Leafs need to wait until draft time (where the best return might be garnered anyway) before a final decision is made regarding Phil Kessel.


    1. Different views on Kessel, today, Wayne and not surprisingly. Frank Mahovlich, Mike Walton, Ian Turnbull, Russ Courtnall, Mats Sundin and now Kessel- the history of highly skilled Leaf players that could frustrate fans is fairly long.

      We'll see if the Leafs hold on to Kessel through the draft- and/or even longer!

  5. I can see how a team like Nashville is ready to trade away some of the future for a run at the Cup as they have a strong team and are currently first overall with a strong defense and an elite goalie as well. Considering that the 1st round pick will be at #26 at best they didn't give up a lot.

    The Leafs in 2003 were not in the position the Preds are today. In 2003 and living in Ottawa it was very apparent that the Sens were the favourite and were expected to win the Cup. The Sens were in bankruptcy protection at the time and there was a push to have Rod Bryden's name put on the Cup when the Sens won it as Bryden no longer ran the team. Of course it didn't quite work out as expected.

    In 2003 the Leafs gave up McCauley, Boyes and a 1st round pick for Owen Nolan. Now in hindsight it was a terrible trade. The first round pick was traded to Boston by the Sharks who picked Mark Stuart at #21 and Cory Perry went at #29 that year. So it does make you wonder what could have been.

    The Leafs current situation it still is almost unbelievable as the Leafs have a lot of skilled players and they showed earlier this year they can beat the best teams in the league. It seems like no matter what the Leafs do somehow find a way to lose and this keeps happening in a lot of games that they actually deserve to win. On the talk shows today they seem to think this latest rebuild could take anywhere from 3 to 5 years.

    I don't believe it is quite as bad as it looks and they may even be competitive next season. They still have a lot of skilled players on the team and quite a few good prospects on the Marlies including Nylander. If they do trade Kessel and Phaneuf they will have to be getting something decent in return and picking up a top draft pick this year might make all the difference a few years from now. Hopefully what will actually happen here is a retooling with the end result being a team playing up to its potential.

    1. Hi Alton. I've always defended the Nolan trade, for a number of reasons. He was a wrecking ball who led San Jose to some big playoff wins before joining the Leafs. (I remember one series in particular, maybe it was against St. Louis, where he was a huge factor...) Yes, the price was the players you mentioned, and while they all had nice NHL careers, I view that, even in retrospect, as worth trading for a shot at a championship. Others disagree, I realize.

      The present Leaf reality is they do have talent, and sometimes teams do find their form with some, as you say, "re-tooling". Good coaching and players who buy into the team concept won't hurt.

    2. Geez guys, at least let the Nolan wounds heal, before you jab that knife in again! I also loved that trade at the time, as we had a talented Leafs team, with a fantastic coach. Nolan seemed like the ultimate player to add to the mix, and your 'wrecking ball' analogy is spot on, Michael. His present day equivalent in the NHL would be Shane Doan, in my eyes.

      Not only was the trade a failure due to injuries, but then there was all that legal garbage with Nolan's contract that followed. It was the first time (after a few drinks) that I reflected on the Boston Red Sox curse, and wondered if we were living the hockey version of it.

  6. Kessel has always impressed with his wheels and his shot. But in this day and age, for the amount he is getting paid, he has to make others better. He doesn't. I don't feel sorry for him, why should we? The last straw for me was training camp, disgusting how he came so unprepared, so out of shape. Sure he rang up some good tallies early, but the Leafs always do well in the early part of the year until the other teams get their game on and leave the unprepared, unprofessional, unworthy behind. Seriously, consider the leadership message of not being in shape, goodness. And think about who you would rather play with.... fx Gary Roberts prepared to the T or some douff who could care less about being as strong as he can for his team mates? I apologize for the rant but I still see so many people arguing Phil is great. He's got game, but only chooses to use 1/2 of it. Apologies again, but I am bleeding blue today...

    1. As I mentioned earlier, Leafs Fan in Mexico, there are differing views on Kessel- and I recognize that he is a player who can frustrate us as fans!

  7. It is pretty amazing how many trades look great at the time that turn out not so great. The Nolan trade is a good example. I was happy about that trade at the time too.

    And on the other side how many trades look not so good but turn out great. When Joe Nieuwendyk was traded to Dallas for example everyone in Calgary was appalled all they got was one junior aged player very few had really heard of. That player was Jerome Iginla and that trade turned out pretty good for the Flames in the end.

    I think the moral is you can never judge trades at face value on the day of the the media always wants to do and jam their thoughts down our throats.

    1. Like draft picks, Pep, I'm with you on trades- it's impossible in most cases to really know what the long term impact will be. Your Iginla example is a good one. Dallas won a Cup, Calgary came very close with Iginla, who had a great career there. Both teams benefited.

    2. Speaking of trades, Pep, I actually think the Leafs did damned well getting a first rounder out of Nashville for the Franson/Santorelli package. This is supposedly a deep draft (beyond the elite names up top), and this could even be a bargaining chip used in combination with a current roster player, to move up even further with another transaction.

      Looking at what fairly elite forwards Gaborik and Vanek got in trade value last year, I can't imagine any more than a 1st round draft pick and solid prospect being available. The Islanders perhaps foolishly showed too much patience waiting for good return on Vanek, and ended up panicking as the trade deadline clock clicked down, and they got very little for him. Both Franson and Santorelli had both been part of the Preds before, and based on their talent and attitude, trading them to a team that was well aware of their value must have maximized value.

      I know my assessment flies in the face of your wise, "wait and see" approach to trades, but at face value, this one certainly doesn't look like a loser.

      Just thought I'd try to toss a cup-half-full comment out there, as lord knows we've dealt with enough misery lately, which I've commented on, at length.

    3. I agree Russ. I was very surprised they got a first rounder even if it is a later one. I would have been happy with a 2nd rounder in that deal especially considering the Leafs don't have a 2nd round pick this draft. Cannot restock the cupboards without them.

      And they were going to lose Franson anyways and most likely Santo so that is a great return in my opinion. Franson is going to get a long term high price contract that he will not be worth nor be able to live up to as some team will overpay like someone always does for UFA's. I don't blame the player just the GM's themselves.

      that would make a good discussion for another time Michael. UFA's, their value to the fans and teams during the first week of UFA time, and their true value and how teams tend to overpay for the "bigger names" that are on the market when the best value usually comes 3-4 weeks later... Winnik, Santo, Raymond last year, etc etc.

  8. So nobody seems to know what happened here and why the Leafs are so bad. I am retired now so I spend a lot of time following the Leafs and I have pretty much listened to all of the analysts and they all don't have a clue as to why the Leafs have totally collapsed. They seem to be in general agreement that the team has for all intents and purposes given up. They also think the team should be a lot better given the skill so the only thing left is to trade Kessel and Phaneuf even though they may not be the problem.

    For some unknown reason this mix of players can not get the job done. Hopefully this will not take another five years as all the experts TV/radio analysts are saying. I find it hard to believe we have gone from a team ready to make a legitimate challenge to a team in need of a five year rebuild. We totally missed out on the four of five years of challenging for the Cup.

    I still think this team is not as bad as it looks and some of the young prospects on the Marlies like Nylander, Brown, Leivo, Percy and Finn will turn things around. The lottery pick this year could pay dividends a few years from now so maybe it is all not doom and gloom.

  9. Alton,

    I am heading for retirement myself and hopefully will be there by the time the Leafs are coming out the other side of this rebuild.

    With the penetration of analytics into the management offices I understand that the game is changing, but being as old as I am I still discount them and rely on the eye-ball test when
    evaluating players.

    If the Leafs do what I have advocated for in prior posts, where possible, and move out players 26 years or older and don't make any trades or sign any FA's for their NHL roster, next season's opening day roster could look something like this:

    JVR (25) - Kadri (24) - Panik (24)
    Komarov (28) - Holland (24) - Kozun (24)
    Devane (24) - Carrick (23) - Frattin (27)
    Bodie (30) - McKegg (23) - Clarkson (30)

    Rielly (20) - Gardiner (24)
    Mikkelson (28) - MacWilliam (25)
    Robidas (37) - Knodel (25)

    Reimer (26)
    Gibson (23)

    You'll notice there are players above who are over my 25 and under cutoff point:

    1. Komarov - provides example of the right way to play.
    2. Frattin - 1st of the placeholders to allow the more promising kids to mature in the AHL.
    3. Bodie - 2nd placeholder.
    4. Clarkson - most likely unmovable because of his contract.
    5. Mikkelson - 3rd placeholder.
    6. Robidas - most likely unmovable because of his contract.

    Each of the above placeholders could potentially be used at the 2016 Trade Deadline to obtain picks and/or prospects.

    The following players would be given their chance in the NHL to show if they are worth keeping and if not, might also be used to obtain picks and/or prospects at the 2016 Trade

    Devane, Carrick, McKegg, MacWilliam, Knodel.

    Based on their play to this point, that would leave a decent foundation of the following players to move forward with:

    JVR, Kadri, Panik, Holland, Kozun, Gardiner, Rielly.

    Based on my eye-ball test, this set of players does give me some hope and I would be interested to see if they could develop further under the tutelage of a first-rate coach (Babcock? or McLellan?).

    Down at the AHL level the following players, who need to develop further, also provide me with some hope:

    Nylander, Leipsic, Brown, Leivo.
    Percy, Finn, Nilsson, Loov.

    Are all of the above players going to become stars in the NHL?
    Absolutely not!

    Are all of the above players going to become productive NHL'ers?
    Absolutely not!

    Are some of the above players going to become productive NHL'ers?

    But the bottom line is this. From the current roster, the following players need to be moved to obtain picks and/or prospects

    Bernier, Booth, Bozak, Holzer, Lupul, Phaneuf, Polak, Smith, Winnick.

    to help restock the cupboards so the above scenario of cycling players through the roster can be rinsed and repeated a-la the Detroit Red Wings.


    1. As I look at your 25 and under roster (plus placeholders) in conjunction with the 9 players listed for picks and prospects, I wonder about Lupul's comments regarding insulating the young players with some veterans playing the heavy minutes (even if they're not better than the younger prospects). I also wonder where Kessel is - not seeing him in your post, Wayne!?

      The latter, btw, is a player I would rather wait upon, to see what happens with him in a new mix... he seems to be buying in (to HIS degree) on coming back further in our zone as a better support, yet his effectiveness may be hampered by some injury (that I wish he would just treat even if they sit him out and work on his fitness regimen to boot, since things won't be as easy after 27 if my own life taught me anything :)

      I definitely agree that many of the players you noted will be gone, but I wonder how that might look (if we can't find the right picks/prospects in one-off deals). For instance, rather than take on a Richards contract for Phaneuf, why not try for Simmonds (a still young veteran presence) and Lecavalier (shorter term), then flip the latter while retaining 1m for 3 years on Vinnie.

      If Montreal still covets him, a 3.5 cap hit would bring in a veteran big body they need and we could add Polak to shore up their D. Then, perhaps we could pry the Swedish Center De LaRose and C. Thomas to accelerate our development. If we can't flip him, then we have a Vet to play and the potential for another trade later in his contract.

      I just think we have to be creative to obtain some quality assets while remaking our core. Hopefully, Olli will get just enough exposure to get into the conversation for a lone (lower pick) or in a package to upgrade our return (especially if we retain salary for the rest of the year to make it work for the other team).

      An example would be if Winnipeg still wants Winnik, and may need a Center to fill in for Perrault (now injured for some weeks to come), then a 2nd could be upgraded with Olli to the 1st they got in the Kane deal (24-30 pick depending on playoff finish). You never know how desperate a team on the bubble with a recent injury may become (though Chevy seems pretty level-headed). If not Winnipeg (who knows Olli), then the two may well help another team, too. Whatever the actual return, it can only be better with a package that would show we were helping Olli get back into the playoffs, too.

    2. Hello InTimeFor62,

      Whoops, my mistake.

      I had discussed Kessel in a previous post and when re-reading that post I inadvertantly left him off my list of players to be moved. I guess I got caught up in the fantasy of McDavid being his centre.

      Therefore I'll revise my list from 9 to 10!

      Bernier, Booth, Bozak, Holzer, Lupul, Phaneuf, Polak, Smith, Winnick + Kessel.

      Now, being the realist that I am, I know that my "list of 10" won't all be moved between now and the beginning of next season - after all, we are having a sale, NOT a fire sale!

      Based on their contract status that would mean we need to move, or risk losing for
      nothing, Booth, Holzer, Smith (?), and Winnick.

      Even though that would prolong the rebuild, some of the "List of 10" could be brought back and could help shelter some of the youngsters as you (and Lupul) mentioned.

      Having seen the results of packaging Franson and Santorelli together, I agree
      whole-heartedly with your suggestion to try that option to move out players from my "list of 10". Though I don't see why Philly would be interested in taking on Phaneuf - even if we took Vinnie off their hands!

      As LA is now doing their late season charge, I think Winnipeg is going to need to do something, but not sure what that might be. Seems Byfuglien will move back up to the wing to fill in but what that will mean for their D, who knows.

      I still think LA might have to do something with the Voynov situation still an unknown so I would keep LA's Lombardi on my speed dial and check in with him before making any other move.


    3. Hey Wayne, thanks for the feedback... now that I know Kessel is on your list, what do you think of offering him to Carolina (if he'd waive) in order to grab their 1st (top 5 pick to increase lottery odds) and a 2nd too (or 1st in 2016) while taking back a huge contract in Semin for the rebuilding years. Might just be enough to give us a major say in the upcoming draft.

      Another possibility would be to offer Columbus a player more likely to help them sooner (since I think this year was an injury-plagued anomaly for them), they may well want one off your other list i.e. JVR. If we grabbed their 1st rounder (in the top 8), we'd surely have some prime picks in a loaded draft.

      My question to anyone reading: would you do it with either of these ideas?

      I don't see Buffalo, Edmonton or Arizona's pick being available before the lottery is finalized, but with 3 top 8 picks, we might just be able to cobble together a deal to get McDavid even if we lose the lottery...

    4. Hello InTimefor62,

      I would do the Carolina trade but, again, not certain that Carolina would do it - don't think they are in the position right now where Kessel really makes a difference for them.

      I wouldn't do the Columbus trade as described as I think JVR could fetch more than a 1st round pick. He is young, a pretty good goal scorer, and under an extremely favourable contract.

      I agree that Buffalo and Arizona probably will NOT trade their 1st round picks - especially if it's the 1st overall pick!

      I posted my package for McDavid on some of the EDM fan boards fully expecting to get trolled - but I had some unexpectedly favourable feedback from some of the fans saying they would do the trade.

      It seems there is a certain level of fatigue in EDM for rebuild 2.0 but I think it will be irrelevant as it's looking like Buffalo will be getting the best odds for the 1st overall pick.

      Unless the Leafs do that thing they always do - win a few games when NOTHING is on the line - there is a distinct possibility that we could be heading into the Draft lottery with the second best odds of winning McDavid (13.5%). If we somehow ended up with the 2nd overall pick, at that point I would make a full-court press for the 1st overall pick. Being able to offer up an Eichel and whatever else they wanted off our roster (other than a Rielly) we might actually be able to swing that deal.

      We shall see, as only time will tell.


    5. I think you're right about Columbus, Wayne, and I would hope for a better return for JVR, but the first is pretty enticing if we could get a 2nd, too, yet it struck me that Columbus could then move up the standings and out of the top 8... so it hit me, JVR is from NJ, so the Devils might be a better target.

      The only reasons I think Carolina would be interested in Kessel are that it seems the Staals are entrenched with their No Trades and want to stay there AND Semin seems to be a real sore spot for them, whereas the shorter term provides us with options in the near term (especially if Alexander finds a bit more motivation to contribute, though he isn't that much worse on the back check than Kessel - perhaps he could be trained into a better work ethic or just 'fit in' better here). At least its a shorter commitment with Nylander and Johnson in the wings (pardon the pun) - easy to forget the latter sometimes! Semin could provide sheltering for the young guys as mentioned above.

      Enjoyed the interaction and thanks to Michael for providing the forum where we seem to look to the future a lot nowadays (while remembering some Vintage Leaf Memories along the way). Guess I'm hoping for the end result of this re-tool/build to look a little like what the Fletcher blockbuster did for us when hope was waning in the early 90's. Hope we find our new Gilmour soon...

  10. Hello InTimeFor62,

    I will whole-heartedly echo your thanks to Michael for providing a forum and being patient with us armchair GM's.

    I think I mentioned in one of my first posts to the VLM site, I really enjoy the interaction with my fellow VLM'ers and the civilized discussions we all, hopefully, enjoy.

    Even though the Leafs enjoyed some limited success in the early 2000's, I always look back on the Gilmour era as the last glory days for the Leafs. I know both eras enjoyed similar levels of success, but what the "Muskoka 5" did to the Leafs' rebuilding plans still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. In fact, my sister will not even tolerate anyone mentioning Sundin's name in the same breath as her
    Dougie when the discussion turns to great Leafs players of the past 25 years.

    Assuming the hockey Gods are not on our side, as if they have ever been in the past 47 years, and we don't win the lottery (and McDavid's services), if the Leafs can somehow get themselves to the 3rd overall pick, I think we could draft our next Gilmour - Dylan Strome.

    In fact, if the Leafs came second, I would explore trade options with whoever finished with the 3rd pick to trade picks with them and hopefully secure an extra asset while at the same time picking up Strome in the 3rd spot.

    I don't always agree with everything Don Cherry says, but that is one area where I think he hit it right on the head - the Leafs need more Canadian (Ontarian?) players because they will most likely have grown up Leafs fans and will wear the sweater with that much more pride.

    Sometimes I wonder how much the fact that both Kessel and JVR are Americans might influence the situation that to them the Leafs sweater is just another sweater - for this same reason, I would shy away from drafting Eichel.

    I am very much looking forward to Michael's next article to see where our discussions head next!


    1. I'm with you, Wayne, in terms of how relaxed and inviting the atmosphere is here at VLM. Michael has posted before about his mandate being an encouraging environment, and he's really hit a home run with the structure of the site. That's not to say that we're all in harmony in terms of our vision for the team going forward, but ultimately the VLM population is respectful, despite our differences. It's a fantastic place to all put our pretend GM caps on, and impose our ideas on the direction of the Leafs. The biggest thing I've learned from my experiences here, is that the vast majority of us (I'm tops on that list) wouldn't last a season in Leafs management, as the day-to-day things that drive us bonkers would lead to some pretty impulsive decisions. "Get rid of that goalie!!"... followed by next week... "Crap, get him back!!"

      With regards to the dreaded "Muskoka 5" era (a Bill Waters comment, I think...and a funny one), it irritated me a whole bunch as well, but my distaste was towards the management groups as opposed to the players involved, as you mentioned Sundin. Pro athletes and their agents ultimately sign whatever contract maximizes the dollar value and comfort for the player, and if Leafs management wasn't comfortable with the lack of flexibility no-trade clauses burden a team with, they shouldn't have offered them in the first place. GMs are responsible for $70M of payroll and hundreds of millions in potential revenue, so I say bad on them, if the players consistently outsmart them in contract negotiations.

      Speaking of no-trade clauses, an article was published last week about agents being polled, and Toronto being one of the top 5 teams on no-trade lists for their respective clients. Many blamed the media for it, but I wasn't in that group. If Toronto builds this thing properly, assembling young assets and creating a talented and youthful core that has a 5 year window for deep playoff success, things will change. Free agents will suddenly look at the Leafs as being a vehicle to cement their place in history, and try to push a well storied franchise deep into the playoffs.

      Like you Wayne, I look every night to see if Michael has posted a new article. I sit and try to craft a well worded response, while my wife mentions that I REALLY should get that meat into the oven soon, as it's getting late!

    2. No doubt none of us would last long in management (my track record in "pools" would prove that!), Russ.

      I learned long ago that it's easier to publicly criticize and just go on about the Leafs in a cynical fashion. That's not what I wanted this site to be- or become.

      When I was very young, I drove my Dad crazy in the '60s (and the Leafs were really good then) with my criticisms of various players. I'd want guys traded on the spot.

      That was probably the trigger for understanding, much later in life, that everyone- players, management, coaches- all want to win. By and large they are giving their best. We all have personal pride in the jobs we do, and so do they.

      Hopefully VLM is an environment where, even if we are of the view that players or management aren't getting it right, we express ourselves in a generally respectful manner- including with each other. As I've often said here, we all look at the same picture differently, and that's OK.

    3. Hi Michael,

      what Boston did with the Kessel trade is asset management. I hope the Leafs can be at that point as well in about ten years. Mike Futa from the Kings said that they do it every time, they even draft players for the purpose to develop them and trade them for pieces they need.
      We do not know what would have become of the first round picks Boston got for Phil if Burke had kept them. We assume he had picked the same players and that they would have had a top development in Toronto. But we do not know, We got a top 5 scorer in that deal. Pretty good return.

      I have no doubt that Phil is able to up his defensive game if he plays with other guys.
      Perhaps a diffrent coach is the key (see Ovi).

      I don't know if he is not comfortable in the limelight, in a lengthy interview at the all star weekend he seemd very comfortable. And it seems that he is not that affected by the hype in Toronto.

      All "high end" free agents are overpaid in this day and age, in term and money.
      And hey, we got Clarkson.

      In a way Don is right, sure Phil has to fulfil his defensive duty, but we should concentrate on his strength and they should do everything to get the best out of him in terms of offense.

      Comparing him to Stevie Yzerman , one of the best players in the game of all time, is completely unfair. Him and Modane played another position with much different dutys.
      Compare him to Shanahan, Hull, Robitaille, Gartner or Bossy but not Stevie Y.
      No, Phil has no supporting cast. There are some guys (JvR, Bozy, Lupul, Kadri) that can keep up to his play for some time but that is all.

      We should not forget that in this day and age there are a lot of specialists in hockey.
      And the modern equipment enables them to perfect that. But that makes them weaker in other areas of their game.

      We have one of the best specialists in hockey!

      I do not know what the Leafs will do. But one thing has to be very clear, if they really trade Kessel we have no chance to win a lot of games in the next few years. When the Leafs trade him, they will be loosers for quite some time. And there will be no chance for a quick change.

  11. Hello Marcus,

    I remember Mike Futa saying that on one of the sports radio shows and I immediately thought to myself - wow, that was a worthwhile free piece of advice on how to properly run an
    organization. Of course, it is just a variation of the "draft the best player available" mantra but still a worthy tidbit.

    As it is something that the Leafs have not valued for quite a long time, they are going to have to change the mind-set of the management team and learn how to properly manage their assets.

    Based on his hires, I think Shanahan understands this and has now been able to convince the board (at least for the time being) that this is the way to go. Unfortunately, as his mentor was Brian Burke, I don't thing Dave Nonis is the right fit for the GMs position with the Leafs. He has shown too many examples of poor decision making when it comes to asset management - letting UFAs walk for no return, throwing in too many draft picks in trades, etc.

    I think Shahanah has a plan and it would be nice if he could share it with us fans, but it's never a good idea to show your cards to other teams as you could end up getting fleeced.

    Whether it is right or wrong or whether you agree with it, my idea to move out everyone on the current Leafs' NHL roster over the age of 25, is at least a plan. Whether it would work or not we will never know but it would get us started towards the situation where our cupboards in the AHL and ECHL would be fully restocked and we would hopefully be able to emulate a team such as Detroit who roll players through their pipeline up to the NHL and occasionally hit the mother load with the odd star and sometimes very solid NHL players.