On the way into work today I was thumbing through my twitter timeline and noticed Phil Kessel’s name popping up more often than usual. Tuesdays are rec hockey night in the Pizzo household so if something happened after the Leafs blew two different leads against the Islanders, I hadn’t seen it yet. With a little digging I saw what sparked all the Kessel talk was an article in the Globe and Mail written by Jeff Blair in which he talks about the “Fire Burkie” chants heard last night at the Air Canada Centre. For the record, I enjoyed the article and think Blair is a very good writer, however it’s the way the article started that got people all riled up:

He has no goaltender, his leading scorer is a milquetoast, Tom Thumb guy who shrinks even further in front of the cameras and nobody knows for certain whether his team captain has credibility in the dressing room.

Let’s skip the goaltender/Phaneuf talk and get right to Kessel. The shrinking in front of cameras part we knew, but I am not ashamed to say that I needed to jump on dictionary.com to find out just what the hell milquetoast meant, it’s defined as: a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated.

Before I add my two cents, let me state for the record that all season I have said two things about Phil Kessel:

1)      He may very well be the worst interview in the history of sports

2)      The guy is a great hockey player

I realize I basically told you that water is wet, and the sky is blue, but given the circumstances I thought it was necessary to let you know my opinions. I only bring up the fact that he is bad in interviews as a way of saying that I don’t enjoy hearing the words “I’m standing here with Leaf forward Phil Kessel” when I’m watching hockey. It usually means I can head to the bathroom or grab some food and won’t miss anything important. However, to lump that shot in between the Leafs goaltending issues and the captain’s credibility seems unfair.

What is a hockey players job? To play hockey. Kessel has fulfilled his job requirements wouldn’t you think? Sure the Leafs are in a free fall that sees them booking tee times for the offseason; but Kessel spent a chunk of the year on top of the NHL scoring list. He presently sits fourth in the NHL with a career best 76 points and has matched his career best with 36 goals. Are we really going to take a shot at Phil Kessel because he is…shy? Players are required to speak to the media, but correct me if I am wrong, where does it say that they are required to be funny/entertaining/witty?

A quick peek at the top 10 scorers in the NHL will show not one player that would cause you to get excited to hear “up next with our very own (insert interviewer’s name here)”.  Evgeni Malkin is apparently funny (from what his teammates say), but I haven’t been witness to it. Stamkos? Giroux? Crosby? No one rips these offensive powerhouses for their boring interviews.  Kessel does what he is paid to do: put up points.

Yes, he is a terrible in front of a camera or microphone, and you know what, who cares? At least he is not a terrible interview because he is trying to be rude to the media like say: the teams former coach and present general manager.

******

Let’s head to the links

Guess who will be at Predators practice this morning (Pro Hockey talk)

Tyler Seguin is looking for a booty call so he texted….all Bruins fans? (Day’s of Y’Orr)

Patrick Roy doing his best to shoot down rumours that he will be the next Habs coach (Puck Daddy)

Speaking of the Habs, Jesse Spector of the Sporting News has a five step plan to help the team (and no, none of the steps involve Patrick Roy) .

Are the Habs going to buy out Scotty Gomez? Is he heading back to New Jersey? (The Fourth Period)

Yesterday I actually had to take a walk becasue this news made me SO ANGRY.  I’m still so sickened by it (CBC)

Tyler Myers has done his time (Buffalo News)

It was  ho-hum 400th goal for Ilya Kovalchuk (Fire and Ice)

Glen Sather says that he wants to re-sign Mats Zuccarello (Blueshirt Banter)

Score Nation takes  look at Brian Burke’s mess in Toronto

Paging Brendan Shanahan

Comments (5)

  1. Milquetoast? What rot. I mean, full credit for busting out a great vocabulary, but Kessel gets to where he needs to be to score goals and has the hands of a surgeon. But by all means, toss him right overboard, Toronto media. Keep fantasizing about all the players you don’t have instead of the guys you could build around, that you already have.

  2. When you have one of the youngest teams in the NHL and your “best” player would rather turn the puck over then get body checked, as if the check would disintegrate him into a million pieces, that is a problem. On a nightly basis, Kessel shows every young guy on the team that it’s ok to refuse to back check, it’s ok to never go into the corner for the puck, and most importantly, it’s ok to get the puck as far away from you as possible the moment an opposing player breathes on you. Until, the Maple Leafs change the attitude and style of their best players, we are going to get destroyed by every physical team on the planet.

  3. I believe Pizzo misjudged Blair’s criticism of Kessel. Blair thinks Kessel is a weak-willed player and a reticent interview subject; Pizzo is right to judge the latter criticism as irrelevant to his ability as a hockey player.

    It’s not surprising that Pizzo had trouble reading/interpreting what Blair said, given that he didn’t know what “milquetoast” meant until yesterday.

  4. The only thing I can think is the Toronto media wants to run Kessel out of town with the rest of the Americans (Wilson, Burke). There is simply no other cause for antipathy based on what Kessel has done this year and who he’s done it with.

  5. @Jordan

    Kessel, according to NHL.com, turns the puck over about once per game. Getzlaf, Thronton, Spezza, Malkin and Hall also turn it over about once per game, and Kovalchuk leads the league with 108 turnovers in 69 games. These guys also score goals (not so much for Joe) and put up points. The top 30 in giveaways among forwards is filled almost entirely by guys who play plenty of minutes and are expected to put up points (for which you need plenty of touches). Shawn Horcoff is about the only guy on that list that hasn’t hit 50 points the past couple of seasons.

    Would it be better if Kessel didn’t give up the puck so much? Yes. But as a Leafs fan, I’m much more concerned with the team being in the bottom 10 for SV% since the 2006-2007 season.

    Heck, Kessel would be about a +18 on the season if the Leafs had average goaltending.

    http://theleafsnation.com/2012/3/21/what-is-this-a-goal-scoring-competition-phil-kessels-defensive-game

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