Why Phil Kessel Is Exactly What the Habs Need

As usual, ’tis the season for discussing potential trade targets.  If last year’s trade deadline proves anything, it’s that no one has a clue about how things will play out!  But, it’s still fun to speculate. And since I spend 60% of my day thinking about potential trade scenarios, I figured I’d write about the only trade target that matters: Phil Kessel.

What’s REALLY Wrong In The “6”

Phil Kessel is an offensive wizard.  At the same time, it is crucial to remember that his wizardry is confined to the offensive zone.  That’s why I’m always confused about the criticism he gets in Toronto.  I think part of the issue is that the team/fans have misguided expectations for Kessel.  Did they not get the memo?  He scores goals.  That’s it.  No, literally, that’s it.  Since the start of the 2011-12 season Kessel ranks third in the NHL in points, fifth in goals and ninth in assists.  He is an offensive juggernaut.  He’s not going to backcheck, kill penalties, or generally care at all about defense.  He’s not a vocal leader, a quiet leader, or any type of leader for that matter.  He just scores goals.  And if you ask me, he is one of the only guys doing what he was hired to do.  But every failing organization needs their whipping boy, and it’s easy to focus on the guy making $8M a year.

What Would Montreal Have To Give Up

You can bet that Toronto, a team destined for a rebuild, would be looking for a combination of young roster players, top prospects, and draft picks.  Here is a list of assets I would make available to Toronto:

Roster Players

Lars Eller:  He is an established player with good skills.  He has proved that he can be a shutdown player, which every team needs.  However, during his time in Montreal, he has also shown flashes of offensive brilliance (Exhibit 1. Last Year’s Playoffs).  Perhaps, with more opportunities on the top two lines and some significant PP time, his offensive numbers would be much more appealing.  He is a big hockey player that can skate as well as play with both power and finesse, and those skills are always in demand.  In Montreal, with the sudden emergence of Jacob De La Rose (albeit, over a very small sample size), as well as the always steady two-way play of Tomas Plekanec, perhaps Marc Bergevin and associates see some overlap in skill sets at the centre position.  Plus, at some point, they’ll need to move Alex Galchenyuk to his natural position.

David Desharnais:  He has established himself as an NHL calibre player.  I’m not sure that he would be a first line centre on many other teams, but he provides great value for his salary.  I doubt Toronto would have any interest in a small centre, but, again, Montreal needs to create an opening for Galchenyuk at centre, so it might be worth throwing out some feelers.

David Desharnais Montreal Canadiens
David Desharnais (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Alexei Emelin:  He provides a physical element on the back end and, for the most part, plays a steady, responsible game.  He seems to always elevate his play against Boston, which is a bonus! The biggest deterrent will be his $4.1M salary, which is extremely expensive for a third pairing defensemen.  With Jarred Tinordi, a younger, bigger, faster defensemen, waiting in the wings, Emelin is expendable.



The group of prospects that I would make available include: Michael Bournival, Christian Thomas, Martin Reway, Greg Pateryn, Sven Andrighetto, Zach Fucale.

None of the above prospects bring anything unique to the table.  All the forwards fit a similar mould: fast, skilled, small.  Pateryn hasn’t been able to find his way onto the big club, even though they’ve had a need for defensemen in the last several years.  In fact, Nathan Beaulieu is two years younger and has developed much faster.  I’ve listed Fucale because he holds more trade value than Dustin Tokarski at this stage.  Let’s face it, barring a major injury or Patrick Roy like catastrophe, Carey Price is going to be the goalie for the next decade (vigorously knocking on wood).

Prospects that I wouldn’t make available include: Jarred Tinordi, Jacob De La Rose, Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon, Michael McCarron.

These prospects have too much upside to give up in any deal.  Tinordi is a big, physical, smooth skating defenseman, which is exactly what the Habs need.  De La Rose, at 19, has basically stolen a roster spot and relegated Lars Eller to the wing.  Scherbak, Hudon, and McCarron are too young and hold too much potential to deal away this early.


Draft Picks

You’re not going to get Phil Kessel without including at least one first round pick.  However, looking at how young the current roster is, plus the stable of prospects that are coming up the ranks, giving up a pick or two should be a little easier to swallow.


Why Would MB Do This?

So, why would MB ever pull off a move like this?  Because, a player like Phil Kessel rarely becomes available and when it does happen, you need to consider making a play.  Also, because he represents everything that this team is currently missing.  More than anything, the Habs need a proven goal scorer.  With the current defense corps playing so well in front of the best goalie in the world, the Habs rank first in the league in goals allowed per game (2.21 goals allowed/game).  However, they continue to struggle putting pucks in the net (2.55 goals scored/game).  It doesn’t take a genius to see that a goal difference of +0.34 makes for a lot of close games.

Aside from Pacioretty (who has been lights out), the team has been struggling to score.  The current second line of Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Eller doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing defenses.  However, you swap Eller for Kessel and suddenly things are much different.  Simply put, a Pacioretty-Kessel one-two combo would be lethal.

Plus, Phil would love it in Montreal.  Firstly, he would only be expected to score goals.  And as long as he did that, no one would bother him.  The solid two-way

Phil Kessel Maple Leafs
There’s no doubting what Phil Kessel could bring to the Islanders, but would it be worth it for Garth Snow to bring in such a figure into New York’s dressing room? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

play of his teammates, plus the steady support from the defensemen behind him, and the play of Carey Price would mask any of his defensive shortcomings.  Secondly, he doesn’t have to be a leader on this team.  He would enter a veteran team that is a close knit group and has an established hierarchy.  According to PK Subban, he is a very likeable guy, and, based on the number of his teammates and peers that have come to his defense in recent weeks, I think he gets along well with others.  This leads me to think that Ron Wilson’s “two weeks on, two weeks off” comment might be a little misleading.  Further, sharing the spotlight with Subban, Price, and Pacioretty would allow him to operate under less scrutiny.  Granted, the Montreal market can be harsh if you don’t put up, but he should find himself shielded from many of the responsibilities he faced in Toronto.  Being part of an organized, well run team like Montreal, from Jeff Molson, to MB, down to Therrien and the players will help.

In conclusion, if I was to play cupid, I think Kessel and the Habs make a perfect match.  Perhaps, Valentine’s Day will come on March 2 in Montreal.

39 thoughts on “Why Phil Kessel Is Exactly What the Habs Need”

  1. Hey Adam Alexander, while the Leafs and Habs are at it, why doesn’t Toronto offer Phaneuf, Bozak, and Robidas for Subban? Oh wait, there’s no way the Habs would part with him without a first, Toronto should add a 2018 first-round pick.

  2. The Habs need another small forward like they need a hole in the head.. But since I hate the Habs by all means sign him!

  3. Phil Kessel is exactly what the Habs DON’T need. The leafs don’t have anything the Canadiens could possibly need. And I feel sorry for any player that gets traded to the Leafs. Going to the Leafs is the end of the road. hell; you may as sit out in the back alley and drink.

    All leaf fans: Please line up for a lobotomy!!

  4. I would say that Kessel is still in Toronto because no one wants the guy…..don’t you think there would be plenty of teams lined up to take him is he were desirable?

  5. I’m somehow joining his thoughts : IF the Leafs want to move him, guys like Emelin, Paetryn and even Eller aren’t THAT bad, if you count in a 1st pick and maybe a second (years appart) AND a guy like Fucale or another young prospect. Really, if I would be TOR and IF I’d decided TO REBUILD, I would think about it.

  6. I am still trying to figure why or better yet, rationalize why Montreal would need Kessel. Kessel would not fit in. Montreal is a disciplined club, that alone would leave Kessel out. Then there’s his on again and off again. Thank god, I’m a habs fan. If I were leaf fan, I think I’d be wantin to slit my wrist.

  7. Kessel would be amazing pretty much anywhere. though i would love to see him go to a contender like MTL i don’t think TO would trade him anywhere in the East. Send him of to where he wont score on you 8 games a season.

  8. Adam Alexander, you are one dumb idiot if you think that the Habs will give anything or anyone to acquire that loser Kessel. The Canadiens are in first place, why would they bring any player from a pathetic team like the Leafs to join their team. Kessel and the rest of the Leafs are losers and will always be loser

  9. so let me get this straight, the Leafs get back a bunch of crap the Habs don’t want and they get a bonafide NHL’er that can score. What an absolutely useless article, nobody in their right mind is gonna make that trade, on top of here are the Habs prospects they can’t have. Think about it next time you write an article, you must be dreaming and a Habs fan.

  10. NO … just no!!!

    In Montreal you are expected to know where your own zone is. That’s why we are first in the conference.

    Kessel plays for Kessel first and for the team second … he’s just not the type of player that Montreal needs.

  11. What an insightful and well-written article. The author aptly points out the positives in Kessel’s game which many of the Leaf faithful overlook (ex. Larry Murphy, Steen, Tlusty, etc.). Also the benefits for not only Montreal but also Toronto are described in an impartial, fair manner which looks at both sides of the equation. Kudos to this new up and coming hockey writers author.

  12. There is no way the habs would even think about taking on his 8 mil per year salary. MB would never make that move knowing that chucky has to be resigned this off season. That would tie up too much cap space. Eller runs a 3.5 mil per cap hit and he is only on the books for 3 more seasons.

  13. Ridiculous. What low standards. The only that matters is he scores scores and ranks well? I think not. Fans are disappointed because Kessel will not give it his all. My parents always taught me to DO MY BEST at anything I did. That is the problem. Phil is not giving his best, and definitely not consistently, or he would have a LOT MORE goals. And the outcome for the team if he had a “great team attitude” and gave it his all would be a better final result, season over season. I would rather have a player who has a few less goals but is being a team player and working hard than one who feels he is above practicing the same hours and can pack on whatever weight he wants to and bring a good game when he feels like it.

  14. I can see Conn Smyth rolling over in his grave. LEAFS have sucked since they left the Garden and then they were good only in 1967 since.

  15. ‘The Hockey Writers’ – mostly idiots who should learn some hockey history before embarrassing themselves with the claptrap they write.

  16. I had to chuckle and shake my head at this one. Kessel is NOT something the Habs need and I don’t see any universe in which Bergevin seriously considers try to acquire this guy. One thing I’ve noticed very clearly about the Canadiens is their work ethic and effort level on the ice. They have (arguably to some), the best goalie in the world and an excellent two-way defence pairing in Subban-Markov, but they’re a “don’t quit” club. They’re very well-balanced and sound at all aspects of the game. Roster-wise, their only area for improvement is at centre.

    The word is out on Kessel and it isn’t good. People can drone on about his previous seasons and how he’s “top-five” in scoring in the last ______ seasons, but how’s he doing this year…? He’s currently tied for 34th-overall in points with Hudler, Brassard and Giordano. That’s not “bad” company, but other than Giordano, I’d hardly describe the other two as “elite” (Gio being a defenceman). Kessel hasn’t missed any games this year. He’s still playing with Bozak and JVR. He’s still playing on the top-line, seeing prime PP time. So what’s the problem…?
    The problem is that Kessel cringes and cowers from adversity on the ice and in the dressing room. He chooses not to speak to the media, is last on for practice and first off when it’s done. Chooses not to back-check, block shots, go into corners or play physically. He offers one-dimensional offence (wrist shot from the left faceoff circle in the opposing zone, or from the right wing on a rush).

    He’s not a team player in any sense, whereas the Habs are a very cohesive, close-knit unit. Montreal is also a fish bowl, like Toronto when it comes to the media and all things hockey. Kessel’s play has completely imploded to the point where he isn’t competing at all anymore. Other players, GMs, scouts and fans see that. Why would the Habs want a player with such awful character and poor work ethic? They boast names like Subban, Gallagher, Emelin, Pacioretty and Plekanec – skilled, gritty guys that aren’t afraid to mix it up when they want.
    Kessel is the LAST thing the Habs need – they don’t need a me-first, indifferent attitude on the ice and in the dressing room, nor would the Canadiens’ organization condone what the Leafs have for years now.

    What you suggest (for Kessel to only focus on scoring and ignore the other aspects of the game) indicates that you really don’t grasp how poorly Kessel is perceived throughout the league. To further excuse Kessel’s terrible attitude is the mistake the Leafs have been making since they acquired him. Instead of forcing Kessel to adhere to team policy, the Leafs have only encouraged his unprofessional conduct, by giving in to his petulant demeanor. And you propose further allowing it from one of the best clubs in the league.


  17. I think a good fit for both teams would be Sabres…Sabres need an offensive presence, and have a ton of prospects and picks available…

  18. get off the delusional train, do you really have nothing else to write about?

    Were you forced to come up with a column idea to fill this space.
    There is a reason why the Leafs and Leafs management are where they are.
    And there is a very good reason why the Habs are where they are.
    Stop writing nonsense.
    It was not long ago when Kessel was scoring for Team USA and the Toronto media were wetting their pants. OMG he is one of the best.
    And now one year later he is being held out to dry as the reason the Leafs miss the playoffs again and for some reason you all beleive the rest of the country or the hockey world for that matter cares.
    Get Real.

  19. If you think Toronto is just going to give him up for the sake of getting rid of him, you are wrong. Trading Kessel in the off season makes sense for the leafs.

  20. If I am Toronto I laugh at this. Montreal has literally nothing that could get Kessel (unless you are talking about Price which would be stupid.) There is not good trade for either side in this case.

    • Just remember it’s not just players that are traded these days but players and their contracts. Kessel’s contract will lessen any return unless they are willing to retain some of his salary.

    • You’re kidding right?

      The leafs.. Practically the worst team in the league, want no one from the habs, possibly one of the best teams in the league.

      For the sake of your team and fans.. I just hope you’re being sarcastic.

  21. So to summarize you want Kessel but don’t want to give anything up? I’m not a fan of either team but this is horrible proposal. Not even HF worthy.

  22. How the heck did this joke of a blogger get on front page of yahoo. Puck daddy wasn’t unprofessional enough?

  23. Umm.. so Leafs get back average players , draft picks, and decent but nothing awesome in prospects from the Habs… So a case of volume over quality. Pretty much a stupid deal for toronto … move along

      • Funny thing is, this moron has “shared” the same video every day on TSN.ca and Sportsnet.ca for the past 5 months.

    • Excellent video that illustrates why the Leafs should keep Kessel! Leafs are the laughing stock of the East and need to keep that reputation up! Besides he has the body of a wombat and the reason why nobody wants him, including Montreal!

    • Is there any place at all that you don’t post the same thing over and over again? Did Kessel kick your dog or something you clueless tool?

Comments are closed.