What Mr. Irrelevant Means for the Leafs

Nobody wanted to be the last pick in the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft. Sure, you would be an All-Star and get all the attention you could ask for all weekend long, but you would also be the most embarrassed player sitting on the stage, even if that meant being given a free car and $20,000 to donate to a charity of your choice.

As it turns out, Toronto’s Phil Kessel was the unlucky guy that was chosen last. It really wasn’t that surprising, even considering players like David Backes and 34-year-old Patrik Elias went ahead of him.

Backes, 26, has 16 goals and 21 assists for a total of 37 points. That’s three less, six more and three more than Kessel’s totals of 19 goals, 15 assists and 34 points. Elias, on the other hand, has 13 goals and 24 assists for a total of 37 points in one less game than Backes and Kessel. Elias’ totals are six less, nine more and three more than Kessel’s totals.

So, does Kessel really care that much? Probably not. Should he feel bad? Leafs fans should be hoping so.

Maybe this will be a wake up for Kessel, who is currently riding a seven-game losing streak. Known as one of the streakiest players in the entire league, Kessel’s hot streaks seem to give his team a boost both offensively and defensively. With the Leafs sitting 14 points out of the playoffs and doing just two points better than they were at this point last season, his Leafs teammates could certainly use some help from him.

Perhaps the players most in need of some help from Kessel are line mates Joey Crabb and Tyler Bozak. Crabb, who had a great start to his NHL season—coincidentally while Kessel was on a hot streak—after being called up from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, has slowed down a lot. Bozak, who has been struggling all season long with just eight goals and 12 assists, could also benefit from a Kessel resurgence.

The line of Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, which was also doing extremely well at the same point in time that Kessel was, has also slowed down somewhat, although they continue to be one of the Leafs’ best lines. MacArthur and Grabovski have both gone three games without scoring a goal, while Kulemin has gone eight games without scoring and five games without registering a single point.

Perhaps the only player has who has not followed Kessel lately is captain Dion Phaneuf. The 25-year-old has been under heavy criticism all season long for inconsistent play and lack of heart. However, over the last week or so—likely in response to the Leafs’ recent struggles—that heart appears to be alive and strong again. There is no doubt Phaneuf’s recent play is good for a team that sits 14 points out of a playoff spot with just 33 games remaining in the season.

So, what might Kessel being selected last in the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft mean for the Maple Leafs? In an ideal world—and don’t count this out—it would mean that Kessel feels like he needs to pick up his game a little and begin to play well, which sparks other Maple Leafs players, eventually creating a domino effect.

However, it likely means absolutely nothing.

Follow me on Twitter @LukasHardonk for more Maple Leafs coverage, including rumours and game updates.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mid-Season Awards: Maple Leafs Style | INSIDE HOCKEY - January 30, 2011

    [...] poorly when Kessel is playing poorly himself. He also appeared to be up-beat about being chosen last in the Fantasy Draft, as he went up to the stage laughing and smiling. This serves as a wake-up call for the Maple Leafs [...]

  2. Reed Review: 2/2 | INSIDE HOCKEY - February 2, 2011

    [...] to happen to the person picked last?!?!” It got to a point that when Toronto’s Phil Kessel was Mr. Irrelevant, the fans immediately had a field day, laughing hysterically at the misfortune. Following suit, the [...]