Phil Kessel: In Brian Burke We Trust- Draft Schmat Take 2

And there you have it. The big deal is done, and now all that is left to do is play the games. It says here that the pressure on the team just got turned up a few notches. No more tank nation that’s for sure! This team has to make the playoffs for this deal to make any sense whatsoever. Below is a list of the early returns on the deal, there isn’t much right now, so we’ll do it again tomorrow night. Here is my thought. Most of us believed in Burke when he got the job. We can’t think that over night he got stupid. We have to faith that he knows what he is doing. I hope that he can recover some semblance of these picks in moving some of his surplus defencemen and forwards too:


“The drama surrounding Phil Kessel has finally come to an end as the Boston Bruins have traded their disgruntled sniper to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a first and a second round pick in 2010, and a first round pick in 2011. Kessel and the Maple Leafs then quickly agreed to terms on a new five-year, $27 million deal. The trade ends a saga that began during the lead-up to the NHL Draft when Kessel originally appeared to be headed to Toronto in exchange for defenceman Tomas Kaberle and a draft pick. However, the deal was scuttled at the last moment due to a miscommunication over the pick.”

That’s all you need to know in a nutshell.

The Star:

“The trade represents a possible change in strategy for Burke. Up until now, he’s been content to stock up on draft picks and defenceman, but has done little to bolster the Leafs’ thin offence. While giving up three high picks is a big price to pay for Kessel’s negotiating rights, the Leafs also have several promising rookies in Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, Nazem Kadri and Christian Hanson, all of whom have scored during in the team’s first two pre-season games.”

The pressure on these young kids to perform just got much greater don’t you think?

The Globe and Mail:

“The Leafs could have signed Kessel, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet at the cost of a first, second and third-round pick. But Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli stated he had ownership’s backing to match any offer sheet, therefore retaining the rights to the player. The University of Minnesota product was diagnosed with testicular cancer in his rookie season on Dec. 12, 2006. He missed 11 games to recover from surgery, played in a two-game in the AHL and scored once before returning to the Bruins. Later that season, he was given the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

In Burke we have to trust. I think that Burke looks at the college kids has found draft picks. Perhaps he thinks that he can dip into that well again next year for younger players.

The best article this evening (the Boston papers don’t have a word on the deal as of yet) belongs to the National Post and Bruce Arthur:

“Sure, the Leafs general manager risked ridicule by proclaiming he wanted to trade for the No. 1 pick in the draft and then failing to do so, but that didn’t exactly saddle the team with long-term liability. It just meant he swung, and missed. “I have no problem with failing publicly,” Burke said last week, “as long as out fans know we want to hit home runs.” Phil Kessel, however, could be different. Phil Kessel could be a home run.”

It’s a hell of a price for a could be. Draft Schmaft got a certain former GM in a bit of trouble. Burke seems to be saying the same thing here.

“Why Kessel? Well, he scored 36 goals last season, he was a point-per-game player in Boston’s last two playoff runs, and he can flat-out fly. And did we mention he is 21 years old? For a Maple Leafs team whose forwards could best be described as a mixed and unappetizing bag, Kessel is a top-end sniper in the race to rebuild.”

Indeed, the upside is huge. Should the leafs be a lottery team this year or next, this is a disaster.

“And yet Boston refused to fit him into its admittedly jammed salary structure. Which seems odd, until you hear the whispers about Kessel’s inability to get along with teammates, or the way he and coaches tend to disagree when he is criticized, or his distaste for extra work.

There is a passage in Gare Joyce’s recent book, Future Greats and Heartbreaks, which details Kessel’s disastrous pre-draft interview with Columbus. All the Columbus guys said was “Teammates,” and Kessel said he didn’t understand. But after an uncomfortable silence, Kessel started to blurt out answers. “I don’t have a problem with my teammates,” he claimed. “I don’t have a problem with Jack Johnson,” he added. On and on he went. Apparently, he didn’t come across as a bad kid; just as a socially vacant one. And as badly as the interview went, after Kessel walked out, one of the Columbus guys said, a little dreamily, “Kessel’s a hell of a talent.”

The pressure on one Ron Wilson is much greater for next year isn’t it. His team has to win and win now. No more nice efforts. This team has to make the playoffs this season. Burke is betting that Wilson and Co. will be able to get Kessel to the next level. If not, who do you think goes overboard first, Kessel or Wilson?

“Eye of the beholder, indeed. If Kessel really is a media-shy problem child – well, this is not the right place for him. The most essential characteristic a Toronto Maple Leaf has to have is mental fortitude. The pressure in this hockey-crazy town can crack you; the celebrity can soften you like a lobster on the boil. Similarly, the two most essential characteristics a Toronto Maple Leafs general manager are simple. One, they need the ability to tell who can and cannot deal with this environment. Plenty of players are happier in the relatively calm climes of the United States, where nobody bothers you when you eat.”

One has to hope that Burke has done his homework on what he just bought. If the media pressure is too much for Kessel, we will know very quickly. The problem is there just isn’t enough veterans on the team to help him out. Who is going to show him the ways? There are a few guys, I guess. Enough??? We shall see.

“However the Kessel experiment goes, we will learn something about Brian Burke that we did not already know. If Kessel is a star who manages to fit into Ron Wilson’s program, then Burke’s vision will be proven to extend beyond whether a guy can make somebody else pick their teeth out of the glass. This could be, as we mentioned, a home run.

But if Kessel cracks, then the questions start. The road to perdition has traditionally been paved by GMs too willing to part with draft picks, in this town. Has Burke, like too many of his predecessors, been rendered overly impatient by the blue and white beast? Naturally, Burke insists that isn’t happening. We believe him. But we’ll see.

“Just started the first of five years,” Burke said in an informal gathering with reporters last week. “I’m not going to succumb to instant response. We’re going to stay on the long-term plan, but we think we’ve short-circuited it. We think we took a shortcut.”

Kessel is a shortcut, all right. The question is to where. ”

The last trade we made with the Bruins I believe was for a guy named Raycroft. That one didn’t turn out so good. Kessel had one good year in Boston. Much like Raycroft. Here’s hoping and betting that Kessel turns out better than Raycroft.

Berger of course is steadfast in his opposition to the deal. His last two blogs have told us why he doesn’t think this is a deal that the Leafs should make.

Mccown basically said today that if the deal was for a first and second pick he would do it in a heartbeat. He wasn’t sure after that.

Hanky??? This was not one of his best days. He missed on this one big time. All of his posts today had Kessel either going nowhere or to Nashville. Not the finest moment for hockey’s most infamous blogger.

Cliff was famous for draft schmaft. Burke has in essence said the same thing hasn’t he… In Burke we trust. His team has to not be a lottery team the next two years in order for this deal to survive basic scrutiny. If they are….look out.



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