Ok, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’ talk about Phil Kessel, whom the MSM is ready to appoint on our behalf as the man who is going to deliver us to the promise land. Forget for a second that the Buds have actually won a game. Before the savior arrives, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have played games against Buffalo and Montreal. So the best the Buds cold be is 3-7-2 when Kessel is rumored to appear. At worst, 1-9-2. Either way, Kessel is, at least the last time I checked mortal. The expectations by the MSM on this guy (allegedly on our behalf) is going to be insane. Can you imagine the horror if he doesn’t score a goal in his first game? Sheer panic if that extends to 2 and god help us if it goes even further.
Sportnet has the Kessel Returning? (returning? what is he returning from? He has never appeared!) story on the cover of their website as we speak. Other outlets will, if they already haven’t follow.
Now, to be clear I am not bashing the guy in any sense. We have to be realistic though. In 3 NHL seasons (yes he is that young) Kessel has never scored at a goal per clip rate. Last year was his best where he averaged .5 a goal per game (again, I am not saying that isn’t alot or an accomplishment). In those same 3 years he has never scored at a point per game clip . Last year he came close, .85 pts per game, preeeeeeeeeety damn good. Ironicaly enough if Kessel comes back when he is rumored to do so he will be able to play in just as many games as he played last year, 70. In those 70 games he scored 36 goals for 60 points.
Where would that 60 points fit in to this club? Well, I think we have to assume that Tomas Kaberle isn’t going to stay at his current pace, which would take him to just under 90 points. Hagman is on a pace to score around points. Stajan is next at around 60.
So, I don’t think there is anything wrong with hoping for the best. Hell I hope he breaks every record out there. We do have to be realistic. He is one guy on a what has all the makings of a mediocre team at best right now. Hopefully he shows up and he has the Gretzky effect; making everyone around him that much better (and no I am NOT comparing him to Gretzky). I just think we need to all cheer the guy on like crazy, but realize that he is one guy. He alone isn’t going to but this team on his back (and I never mentioned his injury) and carry them by himself. The onus will be on the rest of the team to over perform. The onus will be on the coaching staff to over perform and perhaps more importantly, the onus will be on Brian Burke to deliver the best supporting cast to this stud. Kessel isn’t the Messiah the MSM is going to make him out to be. He also isn’t going to be the goat they will make him out to be should be stumble.
I love this quote by the way in tomorrow’s Globe and Mail:
“You’ve got to have confidence in all your teammates, especially your goaltender,” Leafs defenceman Ian White said. “If you bobble a puck, you know he’ll be there to make a save for us.”
That is precisely what you have been reading here. No matter what he does short term, Vesa has lost that confidence from his teammates. They are so sure that every “bobble” is going to end up in their net that they are “bobbling” way more than normal. Gustavsson, despite his age and inexperience has earned that confidence. That tells me a ton about the psyche of the players in the lockeroom but that’s a different discussion. The truth is, this team, at least right now plays with a ton more confidence in front of Jonas then the did at any point with Toskala last season or this. That, for Brian Burke and Ron Wilson is a HUGE problem.
Ian White’s quote is from this article in the Globe and Mail