The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone a while without back to back wins. They have lost 15 of their last 17 games and have gone from an 80%+ chance of making the playoffs to a 0.5% chance of making the playoffs. So, accordingly the media (and fans) have gone crazy and are suggesting some wacky things that should be done to make this team better. One of those ideas comes from Damien Cox (@damospin on twitter) suggesting the Leafs trade Kessel while his stock is sky high so now I ask the question, should the Leafs trade Phil Kessel this off season?
The first thing I must point out is the fact that Kessel has had 4 straight 30 goal seasons and is on pace to get 40 goals and 80 points for the first time in his career. These are really good numbers seeing as the last Leaf to do either of these was the much loved Mats Sundin.
Most fans will see those numbers and will immediately say Kessel can’t go anywhere but there’s more to it then just that. Kessel has improved his defensive play but him and Lupul are still among the leaders in Even Strength goals against (stat taken from TSN but no reference available, take it for what it is).
Cox argues that Kessel isn’t a leader in the dressing room and isn’t the player to get this team back on track but let’s be serious, who ever thought he was going to be the leader of this team. There’s no way Kessel was brought in to be the leader of this team, he was brought in to be the Offensive Leader and lead with his on ice play which he has done. Is Kessel really a guy that every thought would take the Leafs, or any team for that matter, on his back and carry them anywhere? I don’t think anyone would say that’s the type of player they thought they were getting when Kessel was acquired 3 seasons ago.
Cox also tries to compare Kessel to what Stevie Y did with Steve Downie in Tampa which is a complete joke. These players are completely different. Kessel is a much bigger impact player then Downie will ever be, ever. End of story there.
Now, Cox isn’t entirely wrong. The Leafs should think about trading Kessel, but not until next season at the earliest. If the Leafs end up not being a playoff team next year and finish with a lottery pick again, you can almost bet that Lupul is not going to sign (not guaranteed but it doesn’t look good). So, if Lupul were to leave why would Kessel stick around? My guess is he wouldn’t and if there’s ANY hint that Kessel doesn’t want to resign, you trade him for obvious reasons. You can’t lose a player of his caliber for nothing.
That’s what I think on the situation. I don’t think Kessel should be dealt right now but I also don’t think he should never be dealt. Let me know what you think and follow me on twitter @topcheddar67.