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Channeling Costanza: Should Toronto trade Phil Kessel?

Mar 16, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Two fascinating bits of Canadian commentary converged to formulate a wacky thought. Should Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke channel the contrary streak that George Costanza once rode by trading Phil Kessel?

Before I delve deeper, here’s the video behind the reference:

Now, the National Post’s Bruce Arthur compared the Maple Leafs to that classic Costanza bit because they won right when it seemed best to lose. (Toronto might be at the point that they should concede its playoff run and tank for a better draft pick.)


… Yet, when you think about it, the comparison actually might extend to Damien Cox’s rabble rousing claim that the Maple Leafs should trade their high-scoring winger Phil Kessel.

To Cox’s credit, he does describe his suggestion as a “terrible choice” that Burke should make. The logic is simple: as good as Kessel is, he’s not the “leader” that the Maple Leafs need – he’s not “a Carlyle player” – so why not “cut bait” now?

Moving Kessel wouldn’t signify “blowing up” the blueprint. It would simply be an acknowledgment this player doesn’t embody what the club requires at this stage. All the other young assets acquired in recent years can be retained and prospects and/or picks secured in a Kessel trade would be valuable pieces.

Burke can’t afford to insist that Kessel is a foundation player when he obviously is not, at least not for these Leafs, and he certainly can’t afford to make another huge financial commitment to him.

Another terrible choice is upon the Leaf hockey boss. He waited too long to make the first one and it cost him. He can’t make that mistake again.

It’s an interesting perspective, but I’m not sure if the Richards/Carter parallel makes sense. The Flyers had Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere and other quality forwards to fill the void; is there any one on Kessel’s level in Toronto? The best immediate answer would probably be Joffrey Lupul, whose renaissance has a lot to do with his chemistry alongside Kessel.


Still, there’s no doubt that if the Buds did want to sell high on Kessel, now would be the best time to do so. With all that in mind, what do you think? Should Toronto stick with him or provide an ode to Costanza’s bizarro strategy and trade him away?

  1. zach28 - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    haha F**K that

  2. govtminion - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    So they gave up a king’s ransom to the Bruins to get a player that, two solid All-Star caliber years later, they should get rid of and start over again? Because he doesn’t fit the style of the head coach you just hired a couple of weeks ago?

    Toronto fans, please be honest with me, what is it exactly that keeps you from forming pitchfork-and-torch mobs outside the ACC? Really, if any team has reason to riot, you guys should be it.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      True, we are given good reason to riot year after year. I guess we’re just a cut above the fans in Montreal and Vancouver.

  3. bcisleman - Mar 16, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    It is true that Kessel is not a leader or a player to rebuild around. That much should have been obvious BEFORE Burke traded for him. He is the kind of player a contender adds for some more firepower, NOT the sort of player a rebuilding team makes its core player.

    The arguments can be made either way about trading him, but they are irrelevant. Burke will never trade Kessel because it is against his nature as he is tempermentally unsuited to a bottom up rebuild and to admitting that he was wrong.

  4. zabala81 - Mar 16, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Damien Cox is an idiot

    • mathieug79 - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      if I could like this more than once, I WOULD!!!!

      • haterzgonahate - Mar 16, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        absolutely. they guy only writes BS like this to get a rise out of people. he’s nothing but a waste of skin

  5. reachers87 - Mar 16, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Trade him to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan. Boudreau can work with Kessel and Carlyle would love having Ryan back.

  6. velocirapist - Mar 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Can we interest Damien Cox in a Luongo? Or how about a Ballard? Maybe a Raymond and a Schneider?

    Why does everyone hate a young forward who scores 30+ goals? It’s like a homeless guy throwing his cart in a ravine and setting his box on fire, the Leafs have nothing going for them.

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 16, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    This doesn’t make any sense. The guy is our leading scorer, top 5 in the league. He’s not a cancer or a useless player or anything of that nature. This offseason Carlyle needs to drive it into his head to backcheck more and play some better defense.

    • hawknuts - Mar 16, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      he hasn’t played defense or backchecked his entire life, its not going to start now. sorry but that is the sad truth. he is good at what he does and not much else. one trick pony.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM

        Trading him still doesn’t make a lot of sense. He’s still only 24 years old, I’m sure he could figure out how to at the very least not be a defensive liability.

      • hawknuts - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:40 PM

        yeah that is very true and if it comes down to it they can put him on a line with 2 other forwards that are good in the neutral zone as well as defensively to cover up any inadequacies kessel brings in those zones. the other 2 guys need to be able to pass the puck to him as well.

  8. mathieug79 - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Just a thought: obviously not going to happen, but imagine Kessel playing alongside Jason Spezza, Big Joe, Claude Giroux, ect. Get him someone that can feed him the puck. Not to say bad things about Lupul, but he’s more of a scorer than a playmaker. If Burke would open his eyes for once and look at the big picture. Kessel is doing at 24 years old, with no “real” playmaker on his line. God knows what this kid could do with a “real” playmaker alongside him, 40-50 goals?.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      Burke and every Leafs fan would like nothing more than to get an elite playmaking guy to centre Kessel. That’s a lot easier said than done though.

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