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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Phil's Alright by @Nick422

It's the offseason so that means there's trouble abound in any fan base.  You'd think that would be hard for the team that just won two Stanley Cups in a row but here we are trying to chase Phil Kessel out of town.  And why?

Multiple (dubious) sources are out here saying that Phil Kessel is a coach killer.  He doesn't get along with the staff, beats to his own drum, and with Rick Tocchet gone he'll become a nuisance in the locker room.

This franchise clearly has no experience in dealing with any players like this hypothetical Phil Kessel.

Is Phil unorthodox?  There's no doubt about that.  His physical game isn't good, eh?  On a team built on speed and chipping away at the opposition it's easy to see how that's in contrast with the wishes of team personnel.  However being good for over 20 goals per year makes up for that.

Can he be opinionated?  It sure seems like it.  We all remember this moment from the playoffs:

Animated, demonstrative, and emotive on the bench.  Largely ignored (you can see Chris Kunitz laughing at Phil) it seemed to work for Kessel as he would go on to score the only goal that game and win it for the Penguins.

You'll note that Kunitz is the first to greet Kessel with a hug after the goal.

Any rumors of tension in the locker room?  Seems ridiculous given what we see on and off the ice.

All empirical evidence suggests that Phil's pretty beloved in the room.

As far as his play, should there be some signs of warning going forward?  Perhaps so.  He's still playing every game but his shot per game totals were as low as they'd been in almost a decade.  His 23 goals were as low as he'd been since that same time frame (all adjusting for the lockout shortened 2012-13 season).  Despite that he still managed to have one of his highest point producing seasons in the past half decade.

Looking at the playoffs, too, shows him ranked first overall in production on many boards over the past two seasons, including leading both playoff years in power play goals.  Even in rough regular season years Kessel has always excelled in playoff/tournament formats.

A game built on speed with fewer shots as he's getting older may not be the recipe for a long term success when it comes to the $6 million plus the Penguins are paying Phil Kessel, especially coming off a year when he posted his worst possession numbers in years.  However Phil Kessel was brought on board for the win-now Penguins.  On that he's a resounding 2-for-2.

Is it conceivable that Phil Kessel will be traded at some point down the line?  Absolutely.  If there's still a tenable window and Kessel hasn't held up his end of the bargain in goal scoring or playmaking (with a deeper Penguins team, his shift to a playmaker and no longer a sniper may not be too far off) it would hardly be a shock.

For now he's loved in the locker room, he's producing at a star's pace, and there's really no harm in letting him continue to play his own game.  By all accounts Mark Recchi has a solid relationship with Kessel and if there truly could be issues behind the bench, it should even it all out.

However all parties are professionals and want to win.  Mike Sullivan is smart enough to overlook some potential concerns as long as Phil contributes.  For the near future, none of that should be a problem.  Which makes all of those saying Phil should be shipped out of town just as bad a Phil's breath.

The Phil's alright and he'll be a Penguin for the near future.  Anyone saying otherwise is just looking for clicks.

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