Friday, September 18, 2009

Point/counterpoint: The Phil Kessel trade

News is breaking tonight that the Leafs have acquired Phil Kessel from the Bruins and signed him to a 5-year, $27M deal. The trade will apparently cost the Leafs two first round picks and a second rounder.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure how to feel about this one. Good deal? Bad deal? There are some good arguments on either side.

So in an effort to work it out, I've invited my optimistic side and my pessimistic side to debate the issue in this special guest post.

Optimism: Well, clearly that's a lot to give up. The Leafs are rebuidling, and dealing three high picks for one player is a very risky strategy. But Phil Kessel isn't just any player -- he's a potential franchise guy. He's a stud, he's immediately the best player on the team, and he's still only 21 years old. What's not to like?


Optimism: Dude, take a deep breath. Count to ten.

Pessimism: (Rocking in fetal position.)

Optimism: OK, let's look at the draft picks. Sure, two first round picks seems like a lot. But if Burke is right and the Leafs are a borderline playoff team, those picks will be in the teens. And the next two drafts are supposed to be weak. Are two firsts in bad drafts really that much to give up?

Pessimism: Maybe not... if the picks are in the teens. What if they end up being higher? Burke can talk playoffs all he wants, but this team still isn't all that good.

Optimism: The chances of the picks ending up being high are pretty slim. Rememeber, the Leafs never finished with a higher pick than seventh even when the teams were built by JFJ. With a guy like Kessel, not to mention the new blue line and various improving prospects, what are the odds that these picks will end up being top five?

Pessimism: Slim. But they could be, if they end up being lottery picks. It all depends on how the balls bounce around.

Optimism: But think of it this way: Kessel looks like a 40-goal man for the next decade. How many first round picks actually amount to that?

Pessimism: If the Maple Leafs draft them? None.

Optimism: Exactly. Aren't you always complaining about how bad the Leafs draft record is? So who cares about trading picks away? The Leafs would have wasted them anyways.

Pessimism: You're using my powers against me.

Optimism: Just remember: 40 goals.

Pessimism: Here's another stat: six hits. That's how many Kessel had all last year. Do you have any idea how hard it is to go through a whole year with only six hits? That's only six more than me, and I didn't even play.

Optimism: Sure, but the Leafs have a dozen guys who can hit. That's why they're there, to make room for skill guys like Kessel.

Pessimism: Glub glub glub...

Optimism: What the... are you drinking again?

Pessimism: No shir.

Optimism: Put that down. You promised mom you wouldn't do that anymore.

Pessimism: (belch)

Optimism: Look, this trade is a risk. There's no question. But every trade is. Do you want a GM who always takes the easy way out and never takes a chance? Who doesn't have the guts to ever roll the dice? Because if so, you should ask Senator fans how they're enjoying Bryan Murray.

Pessimism: Ouch.

Optimism: This is Brian Burke we're talking about. He knows what he's doing. Have some faith.

Pessimism: Faith...

Optimism: You can do this.

Pessimism: I can do this.

Optimism: You believe in Brian Burke.

Pessimism: I believe in Brian Burke.

Optimism: You believe in Phil Kessel.

Pessimism: I believe in Phil Kessel.

Optimism: The future 40-goal man.

Pessimism: The future 40-goal man... with a huge contract, a bad shoulder, zero toughness, no defence, and a terrible attitude.

Optimism: ...

Pessimism: But he does have one good year to his name.

Optimism: Pass the bottle.

Pessimism: Bottoms up, my friend.


  1. I'm listening to McCown now who's saying this is basically Kessel for OLAS, Kadri and a 2nd.

    Then again, the next two drafts mean that's basically 2 2s and a 3.

    Yeah, pass the liquor.

  2. Count me among the pessimists.

    Everything in this deal will have to break for the Leafs in order for it to work out in their favour.

    Kessel has health/durability issues - advantage Boston.

    Kessel plateaus as a 25 goal man - advantage Boston.

    Leafs picks are top 10/lottery - advantage Boston.

    But what's your great tagline? Brutally realistic about the present. Grudgingly optimistic about the future.

  3. He seems like he got his contract based off of one solid offensive season

    I'm a definite pessimist. If this guy comes back and doesn't pot at least 25 goals I'll go apeshit on Burke through my laptop.

  4. My laptop erased a little bit of my post.

    It got rid of the part where I said that he seems a lot like Jason Blake two years ago.

  5. You know what ALWAYS works? Trading picks for players that have a long one year history of good stats. *cough*PENNER*cough*.

    Hey, at least Burkie didn't sign him to an offer sheet. Because THAT would have been embarrassing. Right?

  6. Here’s how i look at it. Kessel is a 5th overall pick like Luke Schenn. To get a top five pick, a team gives up a first, a second and a third. The reason this is a better deal is becuase the guy is NOT a prospect. He is a young NHL sniper.
    So lets say you wanna trade for a Brayden Schenn type prospect. The asking price if rumors were correct was Kaberlae (1st rd pick easily in a trade), and the 7th overall pick plus some more stuff. This is a prospect who might never make it to the NHL and the price is two first Rounders. I think two firsts and a second is about equal value while keeping in mind that the next two drafts are supposed to be crap after the high picks. IMO Burke did not overpay but he did not get a steal either and this is a good trade for both teams.

  7. He's had a good year in Boston.

    So did Andrew Raycroft.

  8. @ Sparrow13 - my sentiments exactly. This is Jason Blake territory here...

  9. I dunno. He is better than a handful of what if's but still...he is soft,he was playing with Savard...and why is that every sports source claimed Kessel was looking for a deal in the 4-5 mil range yet we sign him for 5 and a quarter...oh,also...he's american. coupe for us anytime soon.

  10. Comparing him to Jason Blake "two years ago"? Seriously?!? That's awesome. Two years ago Jason Blake was 33 and had (very obviously) reach his peak. Phil Kessel is TWENTY-ONE years old, and has already scored 66 goals in the NHL, and has shown improved offense in each of his three seasons. I'm no Kessel fan, but to compare Jason Blake to Phil Kessel is so retarded, that Life Goes On is going to call you when it is time for the reunion show.

  11. Anonymous 9:58pm

    You just killed 1000 strangers with that comment

  12. If comparing him to Jason Blake in a very similar scenario doesn't cut it for you Fred, then Anon's post at 9:58 should do it.

    Either way, it's gross overpayment for a player that had one good season playing with one of the league's best playmakers.

  13. No one-ball jokes, I'm shocked. Also, Kyle Wellwood is fat.

  14. What about Patrick Marleau then. He plays with the best playmaking center in the entire league and hadn't scored 40 goals yet and he's gonna be 30. And what about all the guys who've played with Crosby in the penguins. He's one of the best passers in the league and most of them are not scoring large amount of goals. You can play with the best passer in the world but if you can't finish you are not gonna score 40 goals. Snipers are a rarity and at 5.4 mil for a 22 yr old, kessel's a bargain.

  15. Kessel was a 5th overall pick, and even then he was considered to have slipped in the draft. This isn't like trading for a 134th overall pick who won the Calder as a goalie two years prior on a strong defensive team, wasn't good enough to play in Europe during a lockout, and then came back and stunk the joint out and ended up 3rd overall on the depth charts and a healthy scratch almost every night. It's also NOTHING like signing a 33 year old winger coming off an obvious career year to an absurdly long/large contract.

    This is NOT like trading Schenn, Khadri (as Howard Berger would have you believe) for Kessel for a variety of reasons.
    a) Schenn and to a lesser degree Khadri are known quantities at this point.
    b) It is extremely improbable that the 2010 and 2011 1st round picks will be better than 5th and 7th overall.
    c) Even if the picks ARE 5th and 7th overall, or better, there is still a very good chance you don't end up with two players the equal of Schenn and Khadri.

    Find me a player drafted since 2006 who has more goals in the NHL than Phil Kessel, no seriously, go, I'll wait here.

  16. I completely agree with what Mike is saying.

    MF37 - Kessel plateaus as a 25 goal man? Really? You believe that? Even though he scored 36 goals last year in only 70 games? 25 assists......maybe, but also not likely. Where did you even get that idea from? This isn't a 30-something player that had a career year in a contract year with no previous track record. This is a 5th overall selection who is coming into his 4th NHL season (which most people agree is when many 1st/2nd/3rd rounders make big jumps in their careers).

    This is also a message for anyone writing "this is jason blake all over again" - there's a reason that you're commenting on a blog, and not making the deals themselves. Just think of that the next time a deal happens and you want to opine about it.

    And for those comparing this to Raycroft; he thrived under a defensive scheme which usually helps the numbers of goalies. While Kessel - a forward - thrived in a similar system under a different head coach, which isn't exactly designed to promote players shooting the lights out like they do in Detroit.

    While I agree that Kessel, like most snipers do, needs someone who can give him the puck. It is possible to have that happen here. It's really simple actually, we just need Grabovski to stop weaving through the neutral zone and then making ill-advised drop passes once he crosses the blue-line.

  17. as a sens fan, id say, this is bad news for us.

    also, leafs suck.

  18. Now, we should re-acquire Steve Sullivan and play with a Masterton line:

  19. So whats he next shoe to drop, the leafs are now overloaded at Centre?

    Who gets traded for what, say maybe some second round picks?....and how long do the Leafs wait to move them, is it just till there is an injury on another team?

    Think about that question and realize what a change from a year ago.

  20. No one-ball jokes, I'm shocked.


  21. The Blake comparisons are not that unfounded--they both have blond hair and have battled cancer. Plus, they both are wingers and play professional hockey. Additionally, both men are Americans by birth and played college hockey in the USA.

    Both skate really fast when not receiving chemotherapy, and both are chippy little bastards. Kessel learned a thing or two from Mark Savard.

    Seriously, this is a good trade and Leaf fans should be happy that Burke is taking a shot. Plus someone can make "Monorchid" jerseys featuring Kessel's number on them and make a lot of money.

  22. I wouldn't refer to our centre situation as 'overloaded'.

    Burke got his 1st line winger, he's got some stud d-men. The two glaring holes are in net and up the middle. Hopefully Khadri/Bozak fills that #1 centre role in a couple years (let's be serious, you aren't winning a Cup with Grabovski as your #1 centre), otherwise Burkie will have to flex some of that FA spending muscle he's got.

  23. Everyone's forgetting the best part of this trade. It completely silences the pro-tanking crowd for not one, but two, seasons.

    Seriously, Berger just lost two-thirds of his material.

  24. Now, we should re-acquire Steve Sullivan and play with a Masterton line:

    I say we should acquire Saku Koivu and play with a Chemotherapy Line.

    I'm listening to McCown now who's saying this is basically Kessel for OLAS, Kadri and a 2nd.

    Or, you could say that this is basically Kessel for, say, Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, both of which were also first-round draft picks. Of course, we already made that deal and got only Lee Stempniak.

  25. Count me among the optimists. People are forgetting that 1st rounders are not created equal. For a 1st rounder to pan out, you need the perfect storm: good scouting, a good draft position, the teams ahead of you drafting for their needs and hopefully their needs are different than yours, some draft pools are deeper, others--like the one coming up--drops off after the 4th or 5th.

    Think of it like stocks: lets say you need cash now to make a big move. You have some shares that have made gains, but lots of people are speculating that they will gain even more in the future. Trouble is, is that you need now. So you sell, take your Kessel and say "it COULD have been better for me to wait and see, but this player NOW outweighs the COULD."

    Saying it is like trading Schenn, Kadri and a 2nd is sensationalist, irrational and irresponsible thinking which is why McCown is behind the mike and not behind a front office desk. Not all 1st round picks are created equally.

  26. I've tried to read everything I can from the big horse's mouth on this, and I have to say that I trust Burkie. He knows this kid, period. Kessel is over-the-edge excited to come play not only for Burkie and Wilson, but in TORONTO. Let me repeat that, the American-born leading scorer on a Stanley Cup- contending original 6 US team is positively delighted to come play for us.
    I think we are going to get some spectacular effort and energy and seasons from this kid, because he is motivated, big-time. And we're all learning in a hurry that Burkie suffers no laziness or fools.

  27. i wish you guys luck with him. do you have a fantastic passing centre who can find kess anywhere on the ice? this kid is a great player BECAUSE of marc savard. unless you have a marc savard, you just grabbed yourself another project in the works. kessel's also a very selfish player who wouldn't pass the ketchup to his gramma. and well to be me and use foul language, he's a pussy. i seriously doubt those 6 hits were hits, even though i'm sure i saw them. he likely just ran into someone on the other team cause he had his head down. but hey! good luck! :D

  28. Everyone's forgetting the best part of this trade. It completely silences the pro-tanking crowd for not one, but two, seasons.

    Funny, before coming here I just made the exact same point on twitter.

    Tank Nation is dead. That alone is good news.

  29. Maali-
    And that's why you're an internet commenter and Burke is the GM of the biggest hockey franchise in the world.

  30. Just a thought ... Phil Kessel's big goal scoring year was fueled by a career high shooting percentage of 15.5%. The previous two years, his shooting percentage 6.5%and 8.9%. A big jump like that probably isn't sustainable, and he'll likely regress back to his career average with his goal scoring totals dropping.

    See also: Blake, Jason

  31. Phil Kessel would have been a top 3 draft pick with Ryan and Crosby if he was eligible for it.

    This isn't a Penner situation because Kessel is GOOD. It's not 1 year of good stats that make that people.

    Hat tricks! Hat tricks, what?

  32. i'm very confused as to whether i like it or not. i guess i'll just let time tell. but i am considerably scared that he is a byproduct of marc savard.

  33. Isn't the old adage "who ever gets the best player wins the trade". Who got the best player? Kessel has 6 more hits than anyone else involved in the trade. Leafs win.

  34. I have yet to talk to one single Bruins fan that is upset with this trade, (unfortunately I know a few). You would think that if this guy was such a stud, I could find one fan of that team upset with the deal. It was a bad trade plain and simple.

    And to everybody that thinks they definitely won't finish as low as they did last year, think again. Last year's crappy result was a function of terrible goaltending more than a lack of offence. In other words, if Leafs don't get better goaltending this year, they could and probably will be worse than last year, (given the amount of penalties that come with truculence).

    Bottom line is that if you are giving up that much you had better be getting someone you can build your team around for foreseeable future. I just don't believe Phil Kessel is that guy.

  35. James - yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Kessel plateaus as a 25+ goal man.

    His shooting percentage in the past was single digits and he has to recover from and play with a surgically repaired labrum and rotator cuff.

    His goals for dropped by 40% when he wasn't on the ice with Savard last year and it's not like the Leafs have a premier set-up man.

    Add it all up and it's easy to project him struggling to get back into the 35 goal range.

    I hope he notches 50, I just think there's a lot of room for doubt in this deal.

  36. Am I the only one disappointed that Grabbo switched his number to #54?? Why isn't this talked about more?

  37. It takes big fucking balls to pull what Murray did with Heatley this summer.

    It takes big balls to fails all summer to make a deal, pay out $4M of your owner's money, then finally trade a guy for 80 cents on the dollar to the team he wanted to go to all along?

  38. uhhh yeah it does. You would have to be a major hater to discount how difficult it is to make a good trade when everyone knows he wants out.

    It took huge balls to bring him back to camp. And w/e you Leafers want to believe, the return was pretty decent. Unlike you guys, we actually have a good scouting staff, so that 2nd might mean something (nothing like the 3 picks "the saviour" just sent for a guy who looks like he's 45 years old...)
    Taking on Cheechoo sucks and he definitely looks nothing like a 56 goal scorer, thusfar, but Michalek is a nice pickup and is the total package---maybe minus the elite level scoring. Otherwise, he's got the size, speed, grit, and skill to play in any top-6 in the league.

  39. and Heatley was a guy that I wanted out all last year. While other Sens fans were bashing Spezza (somewhat deservedly so) I was busy losing my mind about Heatley. If nothing else, I'm just glad to see him gone. Good riddance. Scoring or not, his hearless, gutless, stick-work instead of using the body, stick-in-the-air waving, cap-eating self was more aggravating than a thousand sweeps by the Leafs (ok maybe thats an exaggeration...)

    In reality, he wasn't a scorer in the playoffs and scored a TON of meaningless goals. I can't pretend that he didn't score a few beuts or score a few key game winners, but he was given entirely undue praise in this city and I couldn't be happier that he's gone.

  40. In every Kessel article I've read since the trade, I see the same thing in the comments section: "He's American! And Komisarek's American! Boohoo!!!"

    I'm Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, and couldn't give two sh!ts if the guy is from Papua New Guinea, as long as he can play hockey!

    If your hockey team, whichever it may be, wins the Cup, is it going to be worth any less because of where your players are from?

  41. Annonymous said - Unlike you guys, we actually have a good scouting staff.

    You mean that vaunted scouting staff that in your 16 year existence has yet to draft a player who has won a Cup?

  42. Actually Clark, I was talking about the newly assembled scouting staff that, in the past 2 years, has got us arguably 4-5 first round picks with only 2 actually picks in the first round.

    I'm talking about the staff that in only two years has completely undone the terrible mess created by Muckler's staff's ineptitude. Six years under Muckler was like 40 years as a Leaf fan.

  43. So in other words, you want to project the historical shortcomings of Toronto's scouting department onto Toronto's current scouts, yet you want to discredit any similar argument that could be made about the scouts in Ottawa?

    Hi Leg Warehouse? Annonymous here is looking for something to stand on. What's that, you're all out? Kthxbai.

  44. I have to admit it's going to be funny when San Jose gets swept in the first round because of the Thornton to Heatley connection coming up FAIL in the playoffs.

  45. - Because being 33 is the same as being 21. Ask any 33 year old.

    - Because all cancers are the same.

    - Because Minnesota is the same as Wisconsin.

    - Because scoring 36 goals at 21 is the same as 40 goals at 33. (Kessel/Blake)

    - Because signing a 22 year old 5th overall draft pick to a 5 year contract is identical to signing a 33 year old undrafted player coming off his career year to a 5 year contract. (Kessel/Blake)

    - Because a 25 year old coming off a 29 goal, 45 pt season is the same as a 21 year old coming off a 36 goal 60pt season. (Penner/Kessel)

    - Because Burke trading 2 firsts and a 2nd for a player has ever worked out for him before. (Pronger/Cup'06).

    - Because signing an offer sheet, having Boston match it, losing 3 picks and having nothing to show for it, is the same as getting the player you want.

    It's clearly obvious that Burke has no idea how to build a contending team and has lost his mind.

  46. "...but Michalek is a nice pickup and is the total package---maybe minus the elite level scoring."

    Is a package really the total package if it is missing something? Maybe the Sens fan-bashing on this blog is justified, if their logic skills all function like this Senator fan.

    He's a Hall of Famer, except for the part where he's not in the Hall of Fame.......

  47. Leafs fans should be happy that players still want to go play there and are excited about it. See Edmonton vs Dany Heatly.

    Kessel is less of a gamble then Blake just purely due to age. True one year does not make the player - See Horcoff/7Mill - EPIC FAIL!!! The Leafs fans might do well to remember you can't get much unless you give much.

    So for the remote possibility that the draft picks turn out to be some freakish high picks OR flukey ones like Detriot to get a chance to bring a young player out to a be a future star?

    Why not? Who cares if he hits, where he comes from - if he comes out and bang in 40+ this year?

    Just cause there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel doesn't mean that its always an oncoming train.


  48. "Anonymous said - Unlike you guys, we actually have a good scouting staff."

    "Ah, the Ottawa Senators won't be happy with this- the Ottawa Senators really wanted Nazem Kadri, they don't get him, Brian Burke beats them to the punch-"
    Burke- What do you want to do?
    Murray- Well, I'll flip you...
    (cuts Murray off)
    Burke- (with hands on hips) Kadri's, Kadri's the kid were gonna take- is that the kid you want?
    Murray- Yeah.
    Burke-Well, we're going to take him, so...
    Murray- (with arms crossed) Ok, yeah.
    Burke- Ok, thanks. (turns back to Leaf table) All right, lets' go.

    From youtube, the draft-

  49. I'm confused. Are you saying you actually believe Murray wanted Kadri? Are you saying he answered a point blank question honestly to a direct competitor? If so, you will be unpleasantly surprised to see both Cowen and MPS establish themselves as legitimate NHL stars while Kadri struggles to legitimize himself. I like him, btw, but I would never have passed up the other two for hiim----neither would I have passed on Kulikov. Kadri was a poor selection in that draft position.

  50. I said "maybe" Mike Griffin...maybe without the elite scoring. He was, after all, taken 6th overall in the best draft of the last 20 years. Is he an elite scorer now? No.
    Is he the total package of point production plus all the other things I listed? Yeah he is.

    Its always amusing when people feebly attempt to poke holes in the logic of an argument and overlook the specifics to do so. Well done, champ.

  51. oh yeah and Clark:

    I'm not projecting anything... I'm looking at your present drafting record and it remains largely unchanged. On the other hand, my Sens drafting has been impecable over the past two drafts.

    You guys don't have a sincle player in your system (assuming Schenn has graduated from the rank of "prospect") who is even comparable to most of our 1st and 2nd round picks from 08 and 09.

    -Karlsson has pretty much the best offensive game you can expect from a prospect.
    -Cowen has pretty much the best defensive game you can expect from a prospect.
    -Lehner already looks too good for the CHL.
    ...all three have legit potential to be franchise players.
    -Wiercioch put up a ppg as a defenseman in his rookie year in the NCAA.

    I was also clearly not overlooking the pathetic drafting record under the Muck. And our scouting department has been revamped, since...

    *oh, hey legs! Let me just hop on up there.*

  52. "Karlsson"


  53. I don't know how you can call your drafting record "impeccable" over the last two drafts, when they've played a grand total of 1 game in the NHL to date. It's far too early to tell whether anybody's 09 or 09 drafts were any good.

    And you're right, the Leafs have just drafted horribly lately. That's why 4 of the first 5 picks from 2006 are vying for spots on the Leafs this season.

    That's why our 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th round picks from 2007 are all continuing to develop in the AHL this season.

    That's why our 1st round pick from 2008 is already on our top defensive pairing.

    Heaven forbid any team have that kind of record.

  54. I love to see Sens fans flopping and gasping when it comes down to defending their team.
    They should be renamed "FlounderNation".
    Of course, Mr. Anonymous hasn't been watching Kadri in the pre-season, because his doctor told him to avoid situations where his head would explode.
    Here's hoping Cowen's leg stays in one piece for the future so he can bolt the Sens for any other option when he becomes an RFA.

  55. Oh god that Raycroft comment is good.

  56. Slim chance the pick wil be top 5? LMAO!

  57. Thanks, Burke! Thanks, Kessel!

    Kessel for Seguin, Knight and Couturier...thanks again, Burke!

    Peter Chiarelli