Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is the "Thrill" truly gone or just beginning?

What had to happen finally happened, another poorly kept hockey secret was removed from the NHL landscape.

No, the Coyote’s are still in Phoenix for the moment, the other secret.

No, Dany Heatley actually showed up at the Sharks camp and hasn’t tried to cripple the team yet with demands for more ice time…the other, other secret.

No, Dan Kelly hasn’t come out with a tell-all story explaining why scheming and underhanded half-wits are secretly running the NHLPA…the other, other, other secret.

Phil Kessel, the guy who thought $4 million a year to play for a serious contender like the Bruins wasn’t nearly enough dough finally got his wish to play for someone else for 20% more money, 50% less chance at a cup and 100% less Claude Julien.

Phil the Thrill will be making $27 million over 5 years, at 21 tears old that’s not too shabby a paycheck.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this deal as it works out for Phil though:


He is now THE scoring star for the offensively bereft Maple Leafs; he’s the show, the poster boy, the guy on the billboards and posters.

Word has it that he bristled under the strict accountability that coach Claude Julien demanded of every Bruins player to play defense and with some degree of physical presence.

He is playing for a GM who absolutely adores him as a player for Team USA.


For a guy who everyone says is shy and unassuming, if he couldn’t handle the attention and pressure in Boston he may end up deep fried and a feature menu item in hockey obsessive Toronto.

If he thinks Claude Julien might be difficult to get along with, wait till he gets a load of Ron Wilson, a man also not known for tact, civility or subtlety and may in fact be the first generation in his family to walk erect.

He is playing for a GM who wants to mold the Leafs into a physically imposing team.

Yikes. File this in the “careful what you wish for” category.

To Brian Burke’s credit he has brought in a player that will help the Leafs achieve some degree of legitimacy and has brought a decent amount of buzz to Toronto without impacting the immediate level of ‘talent’ currently on the roster for this year.

Hopefully, for Toronto’s sake, Burke can find a way to turn some of his vast surplus of NHL ready defenseman into a set-up man that can at least approach the effectiveness of a Marc Savard, because as of now he is lacking that one component to make the Kessel move effective.

I’ve seen probably very game Kessel has played as a Bruin, so allow me to share my observations as to why Toronto fans might have some cause for concern:

Phil is a very fast skater with a great shot release (wrist shot only) and a tremendous pair of hands that allow him to frequently baffle opposing goalies, but he does not take slap shots, does not work the corners to get the puck for himself, and occasionally baffles his own defensemen with his disappearing act after the momentum shifts in the other direction. He will react to a carefully placed boot in the rear section but only if it is a VERY carefully placed boot.

If all this makes me sound bitter as to losing the 36 goals that Mr. Kessel provided last year then I’ve given the wrong impression, I’m absolutely thrilled with this deal as it stands.

The Bruins didn’t have to take any salary back in return, didn’t end up having to adopt any of Toronto’s marginal young ‘talent’ (who would have ended up in Providence anyway) and will receive TWO first round draft picks (2010 and 2011) and a second round pick (2010) for an organization that already has one of the top scouting legions in the league.

Should the Bruins decide to take a run at the number one overall pick in the next draft, they have the package to possibly put it all together to make it happen, and I don’t mean by tanking the season (a la Pittsburgh or Ottawa).

The goals provided by Phil the Thrill will be ably filled in for by a year older and stroger Blake Wheeler, a now healthy Marco Sturm, an even more terrifying Milan Lucic, a still very savvy Mark Recchi and a player that has learned his role better (along with proving that he can, in fact play two-way hockey) in Michael Ryder.

So on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we have three party’s who all have come away happy, everyone getting what they wanted.

Me included.

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