As Kessel sniped his 28th goal of the season in last night's 3-2 shootout win over the Habs you can see why Brian Burke gave up two first round picks as well as a second rounder to get him. Not many players in the NHL have a deadlier shot and Kessel is almost sure to score when he gets an open shot in the slot.
Now debate has been raging all season because of how the Leafs have played this year and the fact they could have POSSIBLY had the chance to select Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin at this year's draft...but with Toronto's play as of late that may possibly change if they keep winning and they get some help from the teams ahead of them. No one would be talking about the two first rounders if the Leafs were in the running for a playoff spot in the 7th to 10 seed in the Eastern Conference which Burke counted on (as I did as well).
Looking at the Leafs roster at the beginning of the season the defense looked good enough to play well with the additions of Beauchemin, Komisarek and Exelby to returnees Kaberle, Finger, and Schenn. But no one could have predicted how long it would take the defense to gel and how bad Toskala would be and how steep the learning curve would be for Gustavsson (thankfully he has looked sold lately; 5 straight wins, allowing just 11 goals in those game).
But back to what this blog is about. The Kessel deal. Was it a good one? I think it was and I'll tell you why.
For the Leafs, 30 goal scorers don't come along everyday. And Kessel looks like he could score 40 (which is even rarer) given a full season and someone he has chemistry with (Bozak looks like he could play with Kessel, I'll delve into that in another blog).
According to hockeydb.com since 1990-1991 (18 seasons) the Leafs have had just 8 players reach the 30 goal plateau in a season. Nikolai Borchevsky, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Gartner, Sergei Berezin, and Alexander Mogilny all did it once for Toronto. Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour eclipsed 30 twice, while Mats Sundin did it 10 times. So obviously it's difficult to find good consistent goal scorers...Sundin was one but he's gone.
Now Phil Kessel will be only 23 when the 2010-2011 season starts in the fall so he should provide 30 goal scoring for the remaining 4 years of his deal and provide the Leafs some scoring punch to help them back into the playoffs. With the trade Burke probably figures he has a fairly consistent goal scorer that's scoring now (some top picks take a half season or more before they can be counted on) and he can now focus on putting the other pieces together to get this franchise back to the promised land.
What Burke got in his trade was one of the young premier snipers in the game who is a proven 30 goal scorer with potential to get better. Kessel scored 36 goals last year in just 70 games playing mostly with one of the games top play-makers Marc Savard. This year he has 28 in 60 games (he missed first 5 weeks with a shoulder injury) playing with the likes of Mikhail Grahovski and John Mitchell. So Kessel will score goals no matter who he's playing with...he's that good. If the Leafs get a top line centre to play with Kessel or if Bozak continues to play well with Kessel he will have even more success.
What he gave up is still to be determined. With the addition of Dion Pheneuf and J.S. Giguere the Leafs have solidified their defense and have more solid goaltending (Giguere is a definite upgrade to Toskala)and the Leafs may have a late push to get them out of the lottery. And next year this team should be where I thought they'd be this year competing for that 7th or 8th playoff spot and away from the lottery pick. So likely the Bruins will get one of the top 5 picks this year plus a mid first round pick next year and a second rounder. Well worth the price for a talented and exciting player like Phil Kessel who will be bringing Leafs nation to their feet for awhile.
And as we know Burke has a talent for doing the impossible (moving Jason Blake's ridiculous contract)and he will find talent (eg. Bozak, Gustavsson) that will make up for the draft picks he traded.
The debate will go on for awhile especially if the Bruins land Hall or Seguin, but in my opinion getting Hall or Seguin this year is the only way the Bruins can come out on top of this trade after giving up such a dynamic player like 81. And even if they do get one of those two players we'll have to wait and see if they'll be scoring 30 or 40 goals in the NHL consistently.
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