Should the Leafs explore breaking up Kessel/JVR?

Yes. Here's why:

Don't get me wrong. I love the Kessel and JVR combination. It definitely works. Both players are great complements to each other.

But let's not forget the type of player Phil Kessel is. He's an incredibly dynamic player. He's no longer just a threat as a lethal goal-scorer. He's shown that he also has great hands and vision to not just shoot the puck on net, but also pass the puck to team-mates for scoring chances.

He's also had previous chemistry with both Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin.

Exhibit A, Nik Kulemin:



I give you the proof with Kulemin during their brief appearance in the 09-10 season.

Kulemin Bozak Kessel - 2009/2010 Season (via KesselySnipes)

Kulemin went on to have a semi-breakout season, where he finished 16 goals and 20 Assists for 36 points. Which was decent considering how much the Leafs struggled overall that year.

The magic happened in March of 2010 when former Leafs Coach Ron Wilson put him together with Phil Kessel, where he racked up a total of 5 goals, and 10 assists during the span of 16 games, including a 13.2 overall shooting percentage.

The following 10-11 season saw Kulemin excel his game further with his 30 G, 27 A campaign. (Although, he spent most of that season with MacArthur and Grabovski).

But the proof is in the pudding. Kulemin and Kessel had proven that they had chemistry together. Given the right circumstances, Kulemin can definitely put up points!

So why not? Kulemin is definitely more talented than his current stat totals have shown. But, Carlyle has diminished both his ice and PP time.

It certainly says something about his overall talent however, that Team Russia is planning to place him on their first line, after snubbing him in the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Since his those two great production years, Kulemin has struggled to tally similar numbers or improve upon them. He's seen his skills diminished from being a featured 1st liner, to more of a role playing defensive winger.

Of course then there is Exhibit B, Joffrey Lupul:



These two had obvious chemistry in the 2011/12 season, where both players were eventually featured as Eastern Conference All-Stars:

Phil Kessel & Joffrey Lupul | 2011/2012 Dynamic Duo (via Epic Leafs Hockey)

Lupul went on to have his career year that season, finishing out with 25 G, 42 A for 67 points in just 66 games.

Since then, like Kulemin, while Lupul has had some success his numbers haven't translated the same. This season, he's gone from being nearly a 1.0 PPG player to a .62 PPG player.

But the proof is in the pudding. All of them: Lupul, Kulemin and JVR are good enough players to play with Phil Kessel, who's really just a remarkable talent overall. He has proven(with maybe a couple of exceptions) that he can play with anyone, and have success.

That's why the Leafs should consider divesting the Kessel/JVR duo, in order to garner more consistent secondary scoring beyond just being so reliant on the 1st line to produce points and scoring chances consistently.

It seems it would make more sense for Carlyle to promote Lupul or Kulemin and move JVR back to the 2nd line. Why not? It's at least worth a try.

To be certain, I have no issues with the JVR/Kessel duo. It's a fantastic combination. It's highly successful. It clearly gives the opposition the fits on most nights.

But in the NHL, as the season wears on, the competition will only become tougher as the season progresses. In the playoffs, these same weaknesses will be exploited by the opposition.

It's clearly evident there are multiple puck possession issues with the team. Since the Leafs are consistently being out-shot by a wide-margin on a nightly basis. What those problems are, and how to fix them, who's to blame...are still up for some discussion. I believe a possible fix is to re-arrange the depth.

Carlyle will most likely continue to be very stubborn. It's clear he won't make appropriate changes until he fails several times over. But, investing in club depth to increase secondary scoring isn't a passive option at this point if the Leafs want to remain in the thick of the playoff race.

Of course, there may be other options available as well. But looking at re-uniting Kessel with either Lupul or Kulemin shouldn't be something to ignore. 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

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