FanPost

83 games of 81: So, Kessel can score

Kessel_scores_medium

The mood around the Kessel trade is downright grim these days, with Tyler Seguin in the NHL and our current slump making this year's first rounder look like a sweeter and sweeter plum to have forgone.

Part of the problem, I think, is that folk do not quite realize what we have in Kessel, since his streakiness masks his true production level. Missing training camp last year meant he never had the chance to place amongst the goal leaders.

Whatever numbers Kessel has been able to accumulate, he's done it in adverse circumstances:

  • He missed training camp and the first 12 games of last season.
  • For his centres, he has been blessed with Matt Stajan, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, and John Mitchell. Holding out hope for Bozak, but this is not an impressive group of centres. No Luc Robitaille on the left either.
  • Because the Leafs have little scoring depth, Kessel has been the focus of every opponent's defense, every game that he has played as a Leaf.
  • He's not done developing yet, in body or skills.

Despite this, Kessel has put up 37 goals in 83 games as a Leaf. It doesn't get much fairer than game-for-game, so here are the leaders for goals over their last 83 games played. Hopefully this puts Phil Kessel's performance in perspective.

 

Player

Team

Pos

Goals

1

Alex Ovechkin

WSH

L

56

2

Steven Stamkos

TBL

C

51

3

Sidney Crosby

PIT

C

51

4

Marian Gaborik

NYR

R

46

5

Daniel Sedin

VAN

L

45

6

Alexander Semin

WSH

L

44

7

Patrick Marleau

SJS

L

41

8

Teemu Selanne

ANA

R

40

9

Dany Heatley

SJS

R

38

10

Marian Hossa

CHI

R

38

11

Phil Kessel

TOR

R

37

12

Bobby Ryan

ANA

R

36

13

Jeff Carter

PHI

C

36

14

Chris Stewart

COL

R

36

15

Ilya Kovalchuk

ATL, NJD

L

35

16

Zach Parise

NJD

L

35

17

Rick Nash

CBJ

R

35

18

Eric Staal

CAR

C

35

19

Nicklas Backstrom

WSH

C

34

20

Alexandre Burrows

VAN

L

34

Ten. There are a whole ten guys in the NHL with more goals than Kessel over their last 83 games. Look at the names. Half of those players are going to the Hall of Fame someday. Consider their salaries-other than Stamkos, no-one cheaper than Kessel. Of the under-30s, anyone available for two 1sts and a 2nd?

Not that this is some sort of goal-scoring competition or anything, but I defy anyone to come up with a definition of "elite goal-scorer" that less than 11 players in the world can match.

One pressing concern is that he is wasted on his line-mates at the moment. While patience is important when evaluating the performances of Bozak, Kulemin and Versteeg thus far, Kessel needs a centre who can complement his skills. He has more to offer than breakaways and open looks. If we thought finding linemates for Sundin was a problem, this is a crisis: Kessel is not the type of player to take a play on his back, like Sundin so often did. He is an opportunist, and needs support to maximize his potential.

Despite everything going against him, Kessel has already proved he is elite; and it only gets better from here. I wish Tyler Seguin luck, because he has an uphill climb to match what we have in Kessel.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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