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Let's Stop Asking Kapanen About The Kessel Trade


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In a media scrum after practice today, someone asked Leafs' new prospect Kasperi Kapanen if he's worried about being compared to Phil Kessel. The frustration on Kapanen's face was evident. He paused for a moment and sighed. "I don't know how many times I have to answer this question. I'm me. I'm Kasperi Kapanen. I mean, I was in the trade, but there were a lot of people in the trade, so I don't think you need to compare us. If you want to, that's fine, but I'm here to be me and to play my style of game, and if I'm good enough to stay with the Leafs, then I am."

He's right. Enough is enough.

For nearly six years, former Leaf Phil Kessel had to be asked time and again about whether or not he compares himself to Tyler Seguin. Perhaps the questions changed subtly, but so many were in the same vein. Over time, questions like this inevitably frustrated Kessel, and really, it's understandable. This is the type of thing that can poison a player's relationship with the media, and certain members of the Toronto media certainly wasted no time making a story of Kessel's reluctance to talk to them. In the words of Lucille Bluth, "they turn you into a monster and then they call you one".

There isn't anything to be learned by comparing Kessel to Kapanen or Seguin to Kessel. They are all different players, and anyone hoping to understand the way they play is better off watching practices and games more carefully.

Adding pressure to young players by comparing them to All-Stars can't help their confidence, and the All-Stars probably don't feel great about the idea of a younger player overtaking them, either. As a reporter, why push these angles?

As fans, we can debate whether or not a trade was a good one, but comparing the overall value received in a multi-player trade is entirely different from comparing the playing styles and potential of one individual player.

For his part, Kapanen had a lot to say in his press scrum that could support other stories.

What other stories?

For starters, he's happy to be playing in North America this coming year. He says that he has been focusing on becoming stronger and faster, working on all aspects of his conditioning. "In the NHL it's 82 games and hopefully some playoff games ... so you have to have good conditioning. I think I'm in good shape right now and I feel good."

On his production rates: "the goals will come. I'm not worried about that. ... I've got to get better in the defensive zone. I know that there were a couple of the goals last night, they were kind of my fault, so I've got to work on that." Humble words from a kid who comes so highly touted by scouts.

So far, he has nothing but good things to say about the coaches in Toronto, pointing out that they explain what he did wrong and how he could have done it differently.

More good news for Leafs' fans is that Kapanen feels that the has some chemistry with William Nylander. "Well, he's a great player, and the chemistry is just there. I don't know really how to explain it but it feels good being out there with him. Hopefully, I'll get to play with him a little more." He goes on to say that although they have been enemies in international competition, at this point they're "buddies", and that certainly helps playing together.