For those who have been following the recent success of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you’ll know that they have been on a tear thanks to Phil Kessel, the current NHL point leader. Kessel’s 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in only 5 games have pushed the typically struggling Maple Leafs to a 4-0-1 start this season.
Does Kessel really have what it takes to continue this type of play, leading Toronto to a spot in the playoffs? Or is he destined to sink once again, letting down fans and the management team who traded for him?
Let’s keep in mind that Kessel is still young, he turned 24 a few weeks ago. He has not even entered the prime of his career, which typically occurs between age 26-31. His career production thus far has been modest, averaging about 60 points per season over the past three seasons, but the potential cannot be denied.
Kessel’s history may haunt him, however. Leafs fans won’t forget a similarly hot start last season. The team began October with a 4-0-1 record while Kessel picked up 6 points in those games. From there, the trainwreck began. The Leafs managed only 3 victories in the month of November, with Kessel tallying only 5 points in those 13 games. The Maple Leafs never recovered, and missed the post-season by 8 points.
Now, Kessel has another season under his belt. He’s got another year of experience, he is a stronger and more mature hockey player. It’s showing already through his early season production. This year will be different for Kessel. He’s good enough to battle through brief lulls in production, and will easily beat his career high in points.
His production, as we’ve seen so far, often translates into wins and points for the Leafs. The team has a better foundation, a solid netminder, and behind the leadership of Kessel, could be poised to make a post-season run. If Kessel leads this team back to the playoffs, their first since the 2003-04 season, he will be placed on a pedestal as the savior Toronto’s management thought he would be when they traded for him in 2009. Any future failures on his part and fans will be calling for his head. But if the production continues, and playoff appearances continue, Phil Kessel goes from your average highly regarded prospect, to the face of a franchise and a legend in the city of Toronto.