Analyzing the Phil Kessel trade two years later


Phil Kessel
(Icon SMI)

The Toronto Maple Leafs trade to acquire Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins in September of 2009 may be the most scrutinized trade of the past two years. Typically media and fans can identify which team won a trade within a couple minutes of hearing it, but this trade has an incredible amount of layers.

When the Maple Leafs made this trade they were acquiring a 21-year old who was coming off a 36 goal campaign – albeit playing with all-star centreman Marc Savard. Clearly any team looking to acquire a young player with that type of scoring pedigree has to pay a premium, and that’s exactly what the Leafs did. Here’s the breakdown.

Leafs acquire:

Phil Kessel

Bruins acquire:

Leafs 2010 1st rounder – Tyler Seguin
Leafs 2011 1st rounder – Dougie Hamilton
Leafs 2010 2nd rounder – Jared Knight

There is no way that Leafs GM Brian Burke would have made this trade if he knew his team would finish with the 2nd worst record in the 2010 season. Burke truly believed his roster was capable of much more. In the pre-season he was inexplicably trumpeting the Leafs as a potential playoff team, despite the fact their roster was littered with average players. In hindsight, one could argue that first round picks shouldn’t have ever been on the table considering Toronto was in the midst of a rebuild. It certainly appeared after the 2010 season ended that Peter Chiarelli got the better of Burke.

If you asked Maple Leaf fans following the 2010 season if they would trade Phil Kessel straight up for Tyler Seguin, my guess is that most people would approve. In fact the attitude around Toronto was quite down on Kessel despite the fact that he scored 30 goals in 70 games as a 22-year old. It was also rather peculiar given the less than stellar cast of characters Kessel was forced to play with. He was the only player on the Maple Leaf roster to score 50 points.

The reality is that unless Kessel was at the very top of the scoring race, trading a 2nd overall pick to get him seemed ludicrous given the state of the franchise. Rebuilding hockey teams build through the draft, and giving away draft picks when your team is short on talent is a recipe for long term mediocrity. There wasn’t a lot of be excited about in Leaf-land at that time, and the reality of giving away a potential superstar in Tyler Seguin reinforced the despair of many Maple Leaf supporters.

In many ways, trading two first round picks for Kessel was the final straw for Leaf fans. Toronto consistently gave away draft picks through the 2000’s and it was customary for the Leafs to begin drafting in the 3rd or 4th round. Brad Boyes (2000 1st rounder) was gone, Tuukka Rask (2005 1st rounder) was gone, and Alex Steen (2002), Carlo Colaiacovo (2001), and Jiri Tlusty (2006) didn’t work out. The last time the Leafs had a top two pick was in 1985 when they selected Wendel Clark!

Fast forward to February 18th 2011. The Leafs and Bruins once again make a big trade.

Bruins acquire:

Tomas Kaberle

Leafs acquire:

Joe Colbourne
2011 1st round pick 30th
2012 2nd round pick

** Leafs trade 2011 30th and 39th pick for #22 – select Tyler Biggs

To people outside of Toronto, this was a completely separate trade, but to Leaf fans this was an extension of the Kessel deal. This deal was heavily praised by media and fans in Toronto as Tomas Kaberle was set to walk as a free agent in the summer. I realize it’s not healthy and probably a little delusional, but this deal helped Leaf fans reconcile the Kessel trade. As bad as the Kessel deal was for Toronto, this trade was equally bad for the Boston.

So where does this deal stand? As of October 18th Phil Kessel is tied for the NHL league lead in both goals (6), and points (9). Meanwhile Tyler Seguin is leading the offensively challenged Bruins with five points in six games. Dougie Hamilton is ripping apart the OHL with 17 points in 9 games, and Joe Colborne has been doing well in the AHL with seven points in 4 games. Bruins 2010 2nd rounder Jared Knight has nine points in eight games with the London Knights, and Leafs 2011 first rounder Tyler Biggs is playing college hockey at Miami of Ohio.

It’s been over two years since the original Kessel trade was made, but there are still too many moving parts to identify a winner and loser. Will Kessel become a 40 to 50 goal scorer? Will Seguin become a superstar? Will Dougie Hamilton turn into a point producing minute-eating defensemen? Will Joe Colborne emerge as a bona fide NHL centreman? So many questions, and still very premature to provide answers given the youth and potential of the player’s involved.

It will take years for these deals to shake out but in the meantime, it’s interesting to see how these trades have shaped two teams battling in the same division.

[Editor’s Note: You may also want to read ‘Reminiscing on the Kessel Trade‘]

13 thoughts on “Analyzing the Phil Kessel trade two years later”

  1. throwing in the Kaberle deal to the mix when analyzing the Kessel trade makes sense why? You say because it helps the Leaf fans reconcile the original deal. Problem is that is not how you analyze a deal. None of the components from the Kessel deal were used to acquire anything else. let’s be honest Kessel would need to be a consistent 50+ goal-scorer to make this deal even. The Leafs got hosed – plain and simple.

  2. Of course Leaf fans include the Kaberle deal. Its because they were so cleanly hosed in the Kessel deal. For crying out loud – if you’re going to play that game – lets go back and include another Toronto boner – Raycroft for Rask. Thanks again Leafs!

    And we can talk about the Kaberle deal in a few years after the shine has worn off the cup he won in BOSTON, and IF Colborne (soft as charmin) actually amounts to anything.

    • You have to admit that Kaberle was a huge dissapointment in Boston and didn’t provide the puck moving offense that the Bruins had hoped for. They could have gotten another defencemen at a much cheaper price to play the 5-6 role that Kaberle did. I’m not sure how people in Boston viewed his contribution to the Cup run but here he was viewed as a liability.

      Currently Joe Colborne has 15 pts in 7 AHL games. I agree the Raycroft for Rask trade was HORRIBLE but at the time the Bruins traded their starter for Rask (#21 in 2005). Fast forward to 2011 and the Leafs trade Kaberle to Boston for Colborne (#16 2008) and a first and second round pick. This deal could look much worse than the Raycroft deal in a couple years.

  3. In the meantime, Kessel has scored 3 more points for 12 points. In the mean time, he might score more tonight versus Boston. Lovin’ Kessel all the way, always have since the trade. Not fussed over what we didn’t know we were giving up (2nd pick), and have not been fussed since – ever. I would still make the same trade. We had NOTHING for perennial 30 goal scoring, not to mention the upside we might be starting to see now. Love Phil the Thrill.

    • Though you have to admit seeing Kessel freeze up in Boston yet again is concerning. The guy just can’t play in Boston.

      Personally I think that Seguin and Kessel may end up as a wash. What I am interested in is the development of Dougie Hamilton and Joe Colborne. They could be turn into an all-star or a bust.

  4. How can you say there’s no current winner? I’d say that winning a cup makes you the winner of the trade. If Kessel helps lead the leafs to the cup, I’m pretty sure both sides win. You like to say the leaf fans are slighted and looking for hope, but you seem like you are too.

    As a B’s fan, every explanation for how Toronto “won” the trade is overruled by the sound of “Zdeno Chara come get your Stanley Cup!” I hope Phil the best in Toronto, someone please stand up for him so he doesn’t get hurt. So talented, but he’s as soft as a down comforter.

    • So you don’t think Kessel would have helped on the Bruins Cup run??? He had 11 pts in 11 playoff games as a 21 year old in ’08. Look at the offensive numbers of some of your Bruins last year, Kessel may have lead them in playoff scoring if he was still there.

      I can say there is no winner because the Bruins won the Cup with Tyler Seguin in the press box for all but a handful of games. Yes he had two big goals in the Tampa series but he didn’t even play in the finals. I would say they won the Cup in spite of that trade. Wouldn’t it have helped Boston to have a 30 goal scorer in the lineup rather than a guy in the press box?

      Leaf fans ARE looking for hope! The Leafs haven’t been to the playoffs in 8 years, of course they are looking for hope. That goes for any struggling team. The Chicago Cubs have relied on hope for 100 years.

      As for me, I’m not a Leafs fan, I’m just telling it like it is. Step outside your “Bruins fan” mindset and look at it from an un-biased perspective.

      • That’s like saying Hossa shouldn’t have left the pens because they won the cup the next year.

        Phil would have taken an offense slot from a guy who actually hits.

        I don’t see what else the mission is in the NHL besides winning a cup.

        I understand what you’re getting at, but I feel it’s flawed logic regardless. Your analysis of the situation is good.

        I mean after all you need material to write about! :) lol

        • Hossa left as a free agent, completely different scenario.

          Typically teams that think they are on the verge of a Cup run do not trade roster players (and a young one) for draft picks. That’s something a team does when they know they aren’t close to winning the Cup.

          As far as the Bruins Stanley Cup run is concerned the Phil Kessel trade did not help. You cannot honestly tell me that having Kessel in the Bruins lineup last year wouldn’t have helped. He could have taken Recchi’s spot, he could have taken Horton’s spot after he got knocked out of the Finals.

          So how is this logic flawed? The Bruins made a trade for the future when they dealt Kessel and their returns (Seguin, Hamilton) had very little impact on their Cup run.

          That’s why I said the Bruins won the Cup in spite of the Kessel trade. I’m not saying it was a bad trade because it’s worked out great for the franchise, I’m just saying it didn’t help them on their Cup run.

    • Haha, yes they did. I was thinking of adding that trade but since it had nothing to do with the Bruins I felt it was unrelated. But it is an interesting note, you are right.

      At this point though I would say the Leafs may have been better served not making the Liles trade. Personally I don’t like the Idea of Keith Aulie in the minors and Gardiner or Franson sitting in the press box every night. Liles is likely to leave as a UFA after the season so why not groom these younger players?

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