Phil Kessel – 40 Goal Support Player…
Phil Kessel equalled his career best 37 goals last season. He has three other 30+ goal seasons under his belt and has 4 goals and 8 points in 7 games so far this year.
He is someone I, and many others, believe can break the 40 goal barrier.
And yet one of hockey’s most respected pundits described him as a ‘support player’ today.
Speaking on TSN Radio, Darren Dreger referenced Kessel’s perceived ‘failings’ as signs he was more of a support player than a leader – from Hope Smoke’s transcription of the segment:
Kessel had 2 goals and 3 points against the upstart New York Islanders last night, helping Toronto to a 5-2 victory on Long Island.
It seems somewhat bizarre that one of the league’s top snipers, and the Leafs leading scorer, is not considered part of the teams leadership group.
Kessel may not be the most outward of players in front of a camera, but then the sport is littered with examples of those who did their talking with the puck – Lidstrom, Sakic and Yzerman all spring to mind.
He’s carried the team on his back at times, and then there’s the little fact he came back from testicular cancer to become one of the best goal scorers on the planet!
How is this guy not a leader for the Leafs?!
The conversation took an even stranger twist when Dreger said David Clarkson could be a sort of ‘impact’ player:
While Clarkson is a much different style of player to Kessel; the idea that the latter is a support player while Clarkson could become an impact player for the club is confusing to say the least.
The Mimico native seems to be more at home on the Leafs third line, but there is no escaping the fact his reputation was built largely on standing in front of the net while Ilya Kovalchuk, then one of the best players in the world, fired rockets from the point on the Devils powerplay.
Simply put – to talk about Clarkson being successful without scoring, while essentially playing down the role of a 40 goal scorer, smacks of another cheap attack on Kessel – and another attempt to justify the boneheaded decision Toronto’s management made when signing Clarkson to such an exorbitant deal.
Clarkson has been dragged over the coals plenty of times before – to the point where you can even have a bit of sympathy for the guy at this point. But to compare him to Darcy Tucker and use terms like “There’s just something about those guys, they care so much” while decrying Kessel’s effort makes no sense.
In Kessel, Toronto has one of the top 5 wingers in the game. But rather than recognise this, the local media seems hell bent on tearing him down.
And then people wonder why the organisation is so starved of success…