Phil Kessel: Toronto Maple Leaf Must Show His Worth Again

 

So, Leafs Nation, your 2009 did not end with many fireworks. A loss is never a good way to end a year.

Unfortunately, 2010 did not start very well for you guys either.

Back-to-back losses against the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames–the first coming before the ball dropped at Times Square and the latter after–would leave the province of Alberta partying during the holiday season, but Leafs fans are likely scratching their heads. Where did the offence go?

More importantly, where in the world is Phil Kessel?

Kessel during better days (rubyswoon/flickr)

It seems like the star-forward who joined the team like a man on fire has been contained as of late. Perhaps he has gone on a winter vacation…

The Boy Wonder has scored one goal in his last eight games. The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to win only two of those games.

Granted, Kessel scored in a losing cause against Edmonton, but something must be said about the depth that has vanished in the lines.

Kessel brought a spark to a club delving into the depths of the Eastern Conference standings. He was a consistent goal scorer and the Leafs began to show promise.

Not too long ago, some people–including myself–were speaking of the Leafs as a potential playoff team. They were climbing their way up the standings, thanks to, for the most part, Kessel and his goal-scoring abilities.

And now? Not so much.

I warned my loyal readers of what would happen if Kess went cold. Unfortunately for Leafs Nation, it has become a reality and the result has been far less than desirable.

No scoring threats means no goals. Period.

To make matters worse (maybe), Mikhail Grabovski is going to be out of the lineup for six weeks, the result of an injured wrist. John Mitchell will be replacing him in the second-line centre position. I suppose we’ll have to see how that works out. Grabiovski, I feel, is somewhat overrated; Mitchell can prove to be an upgrade.

Mikhail Grabovski is on the shelf (svictoria29/ Flikr)

Grabovski may be replaceable, but Kessel is not. His goals are a priceless asset to the Leafs. Though it is not an injury that is impeding his progress, something certainly is.

He was just named as an obvious selection to Brian Burke and Ron Wilson’s USA Olympic Squad. There was no surprise there: not because he is overseen by the two on a day-to-day basis, but because he is an elite player in the NHL.

He is going to be expected to score goals in the biggest tournament on the world stage.

If he is supposed to do it there, hopefully he’ll start doing it in the NHL again.

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