It appears we are in for a summer of Phil Kessel trade rumors and speculation. So congrats for taking the mantle from Evgeni Malkin who has held the title for like a decade. Matt Gajtka is reporting the following
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, at least two Eastern Conference teams that missed the playoffs in 2017-18 have made initial trade proposals for Kessel. The source characterizes the Penguins as being interested in what these East also-rans are offering, although it should be noted these discussions are in their early stages.
That leaves us with Florida, Carolina, Islanders, Rangers, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, and Buffalo. How many of those teams are on Phil’s eight team list? Who knows? I know that despite being treated like rubbish in Toronto he wasn’t actively pursuing a departure. So don’t expect Phil to drive his own bus out of town.
This is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but it is a lot easier to find people who do what Mike Sullivan does than Phil Kessel. So if that is one of the thorns in this situation it needs to be remedied. The aura of Mike Sullivan was built when the Penguins bulldozed their way to their 2016 Stanley Cup. The team played great and caught some lightning in a bottle with HBK. They were a dominate force and deserve all the praise in the world. The next year was luck based with a generous helping of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. The underlying numbers of the 2016-17 team were really bad. Not everybody is willing to admit that. Some cannot multitask by enjoying the winning while also looking at the how’s and why’s of what happened. This year’s team was good, not great. A reason why it was good can be traced to Evgeni Malkin, Phil, Kessel, and Sidney Crosby being who they are. It was a top heavy team with bad shooting percentage. Now here’s where it gets fun because some people are going to want to have their cake and eat it to. Either Mike Sullivan was doing something wrong to tank the Penguins shooting percentage for most of the year or he doesn’t really have much to do with that. You would then have to apply that logic to the 2016-17 playoff run where Pittsburgh was on the PDO heroin.
The only problem with winning championships is that it can cloud the ability to be critical. Many give a free pass for an arbitrary amount of time after championships. The rest of the league isn't going to do that.
The NHL is a talent driven league. The hard part is acquiring talent. Mike Sullivan is a good coach, but if the rumors are true about his frustrations with Kessel I would argue that it is on the coach to find a way to make it work. As the great Mr. Miyagi said
“no such thing as a bad student, just bad teacher”
You coach based on the roster you have and your job is to maximize that. If you can give Tom Kuhnhackl the benefit of the doubt I’m certain you can do the same for a much better player.
It’s OK to be perturbed about the Kessel consecutive games streak stuff. The streak definitely played a role in his willingness to take time to heal. However, you are still dealing with a player who should have won a Conn Smythe award in 2016 and followed it up with another monster playoff campaign and had a career high in points during this regular season. He finished the regular season with seven points in four games. He had nine points in 12 playoff games. Mildly annoyed is as far as I’m willing to go with the consecutive games streak saga. The general manager and coach should be working in concert to squash whatever potential friction there is in this working relationship.
If you think Phil Kessel’s quality of play is going to fall off a table and you want to get out of the contract before that happens, that’s a worthy discussion to have. Trade rumblings because grown adults allegedly have some relationship irritation is something that should be sorted out like adults.
The Penguins are in a win-now situation and Phil Kessel is in the ultimate win-now part of his career.
Thanks for reading!