Image by Getty Images – The Sporting News
Here’s a quick question, who had more regular season points last year, Sidney Crosby or Phil Kessel? If you guessed Sid (as I would have)… you’d be wrong. Oh, well… Crosby must have missed time with injuries that you forgot. Nope… Crosby played every game in the season for the first time in his career.
Oh yeah… you’re surprised, too. Kessel also set a career high in points. Not bad for a guy often relegated to the third line most of the season. Imagine if he had played with a playmaker of Crosby or Makin’s ilk. Heck imagine how much larger his career high in assists would have been with finishers like those two, Hornqvist, and Guentzel on his line instead of Brassard, Sheahan, Sheary, and for God’s sake KUHNHACKL. (I’m not slagging Kuhnackl. Love him on the team – just not with a world-class talent like Kessel.)
So given all this information, I’m sure you would expect the Pens to be counting on Kessel as a building block for their return to the Cup finals next year. Except that doesn’t appear to be the case. See… we haven’t discussed the playoffs.
After routinely elevating his game in the playoffs throughout his career, Kessel scored only one goal and eight assists in twelve games. No one knows for sure to what extent Kessel was injured but clearly he was not the large human with soft hands, a wicked shot and a flair for the dramatic, who sped by other players throughout his career as if they were standing in line at a donut shop.
Something was wrong.
So now he is being aggressively shopped on the trade market. His playoff performance not withstanding – this is a terrible time to trade Kessel. He is one of the best offensive players in the game and typically elevates his defense in the playoffs as evidenced by a +23 in 83 playoff games versus being a -67 in 914 regular season games.
Also his value has never been lower after his off performance in the playoffs not to mention rumors about his personality. A player of his caliber should fetch a king’s ransom coming off his best year and still relatively young at 30. Instead he may be given away for much less.
Kessel has been rumored to be in Coach Sullivan’s dog house; it has also been said that “Kessel whisperer” Rick Tocchet is the reason for the “fall off.” That is patently ridiculous. He set career highs in points and assists. This was arguably his best season. Clearly he was hurt and, due to the strange NHL injury reporting, – it was not reported.
It is my hope that the Penguins realize the playoffs were a blip on a world-class career and not a trend. Kessel needs to be in Pittsburgh for them to have the best chance for a third cup in four years.