Saturday, 14 February 2015

Phil Kessel: But I was right

"But I was right."

The stigma surrounding Phil Kessel just won't go away.

It's funny how in the media business the egos and stubbornness of some get in the way of the ultimate goal of being objective and honest.

And there's no NHL player that is a better case study of this phenomenon than Kessel.

This isn't limited to the media and can be seen in all walks of life. People want to be right. And the bigger the ego, the more desire to be right. It can be argued that from an NHL standpoint, no city has a bigger ego than Toronto.

Brian Burke became the President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008. At the time the Leafs were in shambles, the farm was empty and the big club had nobody to build around.

It was unanimously agreed upon in Toronto that a complete rebuild was needed. Finish at the bottom, draft high and build a foundation of players within. Everyone thought this was the way to go. Except the man in charge of actually making the decisions, Mr. Burke.

In 2009, Burke traded for Kessel (who at the time couldn't come to terms as an RFA with the Bruins) sending two first round picks and a second round pick in exchange.

"How could he do this! A rebuild must done! He's wrong, I'm right."

And just like that the stigma surrounding Kessel began and instead of finding the positives in his game, the media went on a crusade to tear Kessel's game apart because: "they were right."

To both Burke and Kessel's detriment, Kessel missed the first month and a half of the 2009 season and the Leafs went on that year to finish 29th in the NHL, earning the second overall pick. Had Toronto managed to pickup one more "loser" point along the way, it's likely they swap draft rankings with Florida, Boston ends up with Erik Gudbranson and this conversation never happens.

But Boston drafts a franchise player in Tyler Seguin and the crusade on Kessel continues. "See, Seguin is the centre the Leafs need, Burke messed up, look, I was right."

From that moment on, it didn't matter what Kessel was going to accomplish on the ice. The rebuild was flawed to those watching from the outside and Kessel (and to a certain extent Dion Phaneuf) represented five years worth of mistakes made by Burke.

Kessel scores 37-goals... "But I was right."

Kessel plays four straight seasons without missing a game.... "But I was right."

Kessel scores four goals, six points and is the best forward in the Leafs' seven game loss to the Bruins in the playoffs... "But I was right."

Kessel is approximately a point a game player during his entire tenure with Toronto... "But I was right."

From day one, there was no winning for Kessel in Toronto. He was put in a situation where the one way to succeed was to win the Stanley Cup and to do that single handedly is close to impossible.

If people really think that Kessel is the reason for Toronto's failures as a franchise, it's because they are focusing on the "but I was right."

Trade Kessel for Patrick Kane during the 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks run and he's got a cup. Or replace Marian Gaborik for Kessel last season for the Los Angeles Kings and you have the same thing.

Kessel is one of the best offensive players in the league and perhaps most under appreciated.

Getting rid of him, instead of providing him with a gifted centre (something he's never had) would be a mistake because you simply will not get adequate return on the dollar.

If he ends up with a team that has the potential to win it all, he'll be able to hoist the cup.

And I'll be able to tell you, "I was right."

- Mitchy


  1. You managed to prove yourself wrong and back it up in one article...nicely done!

    There's no arguing kessel's skill. Posting his scoring accomplishments here is pointless. We know that he's a good player and one of the NHL's elite. But that is not why people, like myself were against the trade from the start and feel the same way today.

    Wayne Gretzky in his prime wouldn't have made a tremendous difference to the 09-10 Leafs. That team was awful. And Phil is no Wayne. He also would need more of a support cast then #99 would...scoring wingers always do. Phil had Matt Stajan. The results were predictable and should have been predictable to a hockey man as experienced as Brian Burke. And what happens to teams in the position the Leafs were in that year? They play not to lose. Ask the Leaf teams from 1991 and 1997 about this. History backs this up.

    You said "From day one, there was no winning for Kessel in Toronto. He was put in a situation where the one way to succeed was to win the Stanley Cup and to do that single handedly is close to impossible." Isn't that the argument against the trade in a nutshell?

    Add into this the fact that Kessel is widely known to be shy and doesn't like talking to the media and you put him in this position, in the craziest hockey market on the planet and wonder why things didn't work out?

    Even your arguments about different scenarios (Chicago and L.A). are curious. They were teams on the cusp and Phil is the perfect type of player to bring into those situations, not as a building block. The Leafs weren't even close so it's like comparing apples and oranges.

    When people like myself say we were right, it's not about Phil Kessel. It's about the timing of the trade itself. It was the right deal at the absolute worst time. I felt I was right then. I know I was right now.

  2. I'm not sure why the tone of your message has to be so angry and sarcastic. I don't think you grasp what I've written, unfortunately. I'm talking about the stigma surrounding Kessel. I.E: Coach killer, doesn't play well defensively, is soft... etc. And why no matter what he does in Toronto, the way he's viewed will never change. At no point do I suggest that Kessel should be build around or that the 2009 trade was right or wrong.... I think you'd be better served trying to contextualize what's written before writing something condescending like "you managed to prove yourself wrong and back it up in one article... nicely done!" Especially, considering after writing that line, you go on to bring up numerous examples of where you agree with me. Take a deep breath, everything will be okay. Thanks for reading.

  3. Thanks for responding...I apologize for coming off condescending and angry...completely not my intention. I think I was simply pouunding the keyboard with passion! I will admit though that I do feel perturbed that the main point of the article is to denounce those, like myself who claim "I was right."

    While no one likes it when someone says they are right, the arguments ran deep back in 2009 and there were probably a lot of 'You'll see's" going around. I believe that is why there are so many people now saying "I was right"...because so many of us could foresee this day coming.

    You are correct in that I agree with you completely about Kessel's skill. I also agree that if he had gone to Chicago or L,A. back in 2009, it would probably have pushed either team over the top. And yes, you don't suggest that Kessel should be the player to be built around. But making the trade when they did, whether Kessel liked it or not, he WAS the player they were going to build around. My point all along has been ....wrong player...wrong time....wrong team.

    That is the main point of my argument. The place the trade put Kessel in was the wrong place to put a player like him. I predicted this from the very day the trade was made. Many many others did too. So why are you suggesting that it's wrong for people to look back now and say they were right about this? Nobody is denying Kessel's least I don't think's more of where he fits in and when.

    Kessel has taken an unfair amount of abuse in all this..We both agree on this...and that is why I still say I (we) was right and the trade was a huge mistake. That is where the 'I was right' part comes in...not about his talent, but about the process of how, and how not to, build a team.

    Again, I'm sorry if I came off angry...I'm not. But I fail to see what I have to 'conceptualize here. Moreover, as a journalist, surely you are used to feedback to your writing...even when you don't agree with what's being said. Nature of the beast unfortunately. Either way, nice chatting!