Not to stir up this debate yet again, but Phil Kessel comes to town tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Bruins at TD Garden. Since Kessel was traded two years ago, Bruins fans have taunted the sniper relentlessly. Last year, they started chanting “Thank you Kessel” any time Tyler Seguin, who was drafted with one of the picks acquired for Kessel, did anything remotely positive.
During his first two seasons with the Leafs, Kessel scored 62 goals and added 57 assists and earned a spot in the NHL All-Star Game last season (though he was the final pick in the all-star draft). This year, he seems to have taken a step toward finally being an offensive superstar, leading the NHL with 7 goals and 12 points through five games.
Now I’m not saying I would not have traded Kessel, as he did not want to be in Boston and has yet to live up to the contract he has signed with the Leafs. However, there is a certain irony to Kessel coming back to Boston tonight. The Bruins are strong defensively, in goal, on face-offs, and with defensive forwards. The one glaring area of weakness?
What does Kessel do best?
Again, I am not saying Kessel is the answer to Boston’s goal-scoring problems. The reality is he is such a liability defensively (minus-21 over the past two-plus season – including a plus-7 this season) and was such a disruption in the locker room (at least according to most reports back in 2009) that he likely would not be of any value to the Bruins.
That being said, the Bruins may at some point have to make a move for a guy who can put up 30 goals. Seguin may be that guy, but he is likely another season away from hitting the 30-goal plateau. Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic do not look like they are sure-fire 30-goal scorers either, so a move for a Jerome Iginla-type might be necessary in the coming months.
Here’s a trade scenario: unload a young, underperforming forward for a veteran guy who has proven he can score and wants desperately win a Stanley Cup. I know I have been hoping for years that the Bruins would make a run at Jarome Iginla, but why not now? Why not trade Lucic, who all of a sudden thinks he is a goal scorer who can bruise a bit instead of the other way around, for a guy who, even at 34 is a better player than Lucic will likely ever be. He has 10 straight seasons with 30-plus goals (which were preceeded by two seasons of 28 and 29 goals) and is a proven leader. Plus, he is probably tougher than Lucic as well.
Yeah I know it’s a pipedream. Calgary would probably never make that deal. But, hey, why not ask? They may want a young western Canadian to sell to its fan base, and Boston would get the veteran goal scorer it needs.