Phil “The Thrill” Kessel, the Leafs’ Offensive Threat

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    Updated: November 14, 2013
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    Phil Kessel is such a dynamic hockey player. There’s not one club in today’s NHL that wouldn’t trade two first round draft picks and a second rounder to acquire him. The guy brings so much to the game. He skates really fast, and if his trademark skate to the point, stop and shoot doesn’t net him a highlight reel worthy goal, then you can always rely on him to get gritty in the corners with the best of them…

    Phil has been pointless over the past two games, but not last night. No, Phil showcased his skills for all to see. The Leafs were up 1-0 over the Minnesota Wild with over four minutes left in the third period, when Phil Kessel back checked a little too enthusiastically and deflected a shot from Zach Parise off his skate and into his own net, tying the game up. The Wild would go on to win in the shootout, and I suppose they have Phil to thank for at least one of their two points. But I’m being too hard on Phil, and despite all this sarcasm I really do think he’s an exceptional player. The loss wasn’t entirely his fault, after all.

    The sad truth is that the Leafs have only won one of their last four, and in that time they’ve only managed one even strength goal. So then, you ask, what ails one of the NHL’s most potent offenses? It’s simple, really. Without centers Tyler Bozak and David Bolland, the Leafs have lost their depth down the middle, and so they’re having trouble scoring goals. The experiment with James van Riemsdyk at center has proven disastrous to the Leafs’ deadly first line and to make matters even worst, it looks like Nazem Kadri is going to be suspended after plowing over Niklas Backstrom last night. So, that’s three centers down, then.

    Things aren’t all bad, I guess. Jonathan Bernier has looked as solid as ever between the pipes, stopping 33/34 shots on goal against the Wild, and our penalty kill has vastly improved since our loss against Boston. But I’m not the eternal optimist, and these recent troubles have reminded me that if you want to win the Cup, you need a first line center. The Leafs haven’t had one since Mats Sundin, and imagine what a threat Phil would be if we did.

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