Since coming to Toronto, Phil Kessel has not been the 40-plus goal scoring, point-per-game player that most Maple Leafs fans thought he would be. But he is close to becoming one.
When most people look at Kessel’s career accomplishments, they see one thing: success in Boston. When he played for the Bruins in 2008-09, Kessel scored 36 goals in 70 games alongside play making centre Marc Savard.
There is no doubt Kessel will be able to reach the 40-goal plateau that is still expected of him this season if Leafs’ General Manager Brian Burke can manage to work his magic and bring a top-six play maker to Toronto.
It wouldn’t be hard to argue that everyone is expecting way to much from Kessel. Playing on a young and inexperienced Leafs team that sits well out of a playoff spot, the Madison, Wisconsin native isn’t in what you would call an ideal situation. But on the other hand, most Leafs fans are not realizing how well has has actually been playing.
This season, the 23-year-old has 19 goals and 12 assists in 44 games, putting him on-pace for 35 goals and 22 assists. Keep in mind, those impressive statistics are being produced without a real play maker. Also, Kessel has been spending much of his recent games playing second line minutes, behind the surprisingly explosive trio of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur.
His current linemates, sophomore Tyler Bozak and recent minor league call-up Joey Crabb, certainly don’t have the same skill set as Savard, a three-time 88+ point scorer.
But let’s stop talking about Savard, as it seems like he is the only one people think will help Kessel become a 40 goal scorer. What about their future? Nazem Kadri, who isn’t supposed to be a play maker, could help; he and Kessel played well together at times.
It doesn’t matter whether Burke can acquire a top-six play making forward, or if a minor league call-up will help get the best out of him; Kessel is key to any hopes the Leafs have of making the playoffs in 2011 no matter what.
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