All throughout the offseason, every Bruins fan was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once rumors began to circulate about Phil Kessel moving across the border to Toronto in June, every Boston fan awaited the B’s to make a move, or worse, another team swooping in with an offer sheet stealing Kessel away with the Bruins getting nothing in return. Almost two weeks before the start of the regular season and fans finally have some closure on one the biggest Boston storylines of the offseason. On Friday, September 18, Kessel was traded to Toronto for a 2010 1st and 2nd round pick and a 2011 first round pick. The Bruins receive no additional players and remain with $1.7 million in cap space for the upcoming season and a (somewhat) set roster. Those, are the facts.
These, are the opinions.
I’ve been reading about Phil Kessel in The Boston Globe almost everyday, or at least it certainly seemed like it. “Get rid of him!” one reader will comment. “Sign Kessel, more of the same from the Bruins,” another reader will write. Hockey ‘scribes’, as they call themselves, subtly call for a trade and target Kessel basing his play on his selfishness and immaturity. Readers groan and discuss amongst the uncertainty of what will truly happen. At the end of the day, ‘scribes’ and internet message board dwellers know little, if at all any of the truth.
For what it’s worth, I liked Kessel. I loved his speed, his ability to score goals, and even (to an extent) his cockiness. I didn’t like his price-point, however. For a one-dimensional player who has been called out for his lack of defensive ability, $5 million a season seemed a bit pricey, no? And how long would he be on the shelf for? Until November? December? Nothing was guaranteed. Throughout the offseason, I dreaded losing Kessel, or at least I thought I did. What I was really anxious about was losing Kessel and getting nothing in return. Exactly what didn’t happen. Not only were the B’s able to rid themselves of a young player who has yet to prove himself to be a consistent player, Boston kept their cap space and acquire a set of first round picks and a second rounder from Toronto for the next two years. Picks turn into prospects, after all. Boston, believe it or not, won this trade.
Kessel wasn’t happy in Boston and would have been a distraction for the team if this situation was left unresolved any longer. At the end of the day, Kessel was a salary cap casualty, the odd-man out in a post-CBA NHL. Toronto picked up a young player with speed and the ability to score goals, a player who no doubt will be the best forward on the Maple Leafs. They could afford to overpay him, the Bruins could not. And while Kessel will be hyped up for Toronto, one must wonder if Toronto’s center Matt Stajan, will be able to produce the same amount of passes to Phil as Bruins’ playmaker Marc Savard, once did. Savard is known for being one of the NHL’s top playmakers and Kessel benefited greatly by playing on his wing, and being his main target, last season.
Kessel is also a streaky player. Last season, he had a six-game, seven goal streak from November 26 – December 8. After his bout with mononucleosis in January however, Kessel was held scoreless for almost a month starting on his return to the ice on January 29, until February 22. A bit of a stretch for a coveted goal scorer.
Take a look at his multi-goal games, which he had five of. How many of those games were against playoff contending teams? Zero. How many of those games were against teams over .500? Two, and they were both the Ottawa Senators, one game over .500, ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference. Against playoff teams, Kessel scored seven goals. That’s it, seven. His only hat trick came against the New York Islanders on the last game of the season on goaltending tandem, Yann Danis and Joey MacDonald. Not so staggering statistics once you take a step back.
So why are B’s fans up in arms that we traded away Kessel? Is it his speed (which he’s been benched for because of his lack of back-checking)? Is it the amount of goals he scored (again, seven, against playoff teams; 11 and 19 goals in his previous two seasons without Savard on his line)? Is this a player really worth a supposed $5.4 million a year? No, it’s not.
The Bruins now have two first round picks in 2010 and 2011; their own and now Toronto’s. With the way that the Bruins draft prospects, the B’s should be in a good place for the next few years. Boston already has an ample amount of impressive prospects waiting in the wings down in Providence. Notables include, Zach Hamill, a 2007 8th overall pick, Brad Marchand, a 3rd round selection in 2006, and soon, Boston will be seeing Joe Colbourne, the team’s first round pick in 2008, make his way to the Garden. At the very least, Boston now have many options in first round draft picks to lure a player to Boston when the season is starting to wind down at the trade deadline. All for Phil Kessel, a fifth overall selection in 2006. Not too bad to double down on your investment, a player who will most likely miss the first two months of the season.
I’m going to miss Phil Kessel. I enjoyed the pairing of he and Savard. But in the end, the Bruins won this deal, acquiring two firsts and a second rounder for a young, somewhat inconsistent player, isn’t half bad. It will suck to watch Kessel in a Leafs jersey for the next five years and wonder what could have been, but at the tune of $5.4 million a year, I’m sure Boston will be just fine with the team they’ll have.
No matter what any message-boarder, ‘hockey scribe,’ or blogger will tell you, all that matters is that you’re either a fan of the team in good times and in bad, or you’re not a fan at all.