Toronto Maple Leafs: Should Phil Kessel Have Received a Tribute?


After six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel played his first game in Toronto with his new team. Although he did not contribute on the scoresheet he was still a major talking point as he usually is with the media and fans

Oct 31, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel (81) skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

When former Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins back in July many had last Saturday circled on their calendar for many reasons.

It was reported a couple of days before the game that the Leafs had no plans to have a tribute video for Kessel. In year’s past players who had long tenures with the team would receive a video tribute when they returned to Toronto since either being traded, leaving as a free agent or retiring.

Sportsnet reported that the Leafs would not be doing tributes anymore, a new policy introduced by President Brendan Shanahan and GM Lou Lamoriello.

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While Kessel was an elite offensive player in Toronto the constant criticism about his work ethic and his relationship with the media always followed him. No matter how well Kessel produced on the ice it was not enough to get the Leafs to the next level.

When his trade was announced there were many who expressed outrage for the Leafs not getting enough value, especially because they retained salary, while other people were glad to see the Leafs move on.

However, the Leafs decision to not acknowledge Kessel is like seeing a friend that you have not talked to in a while. If you do not know what to say and simply avoid them, then they, or someone else, will have something to say, especially if the last time you saw them did not end on good terms.

In this case the Leafs tried to avoid the Kessel situation and unfortunately it did not look good on them. The worst part was when Kessel told the media what he expected from the fans upon his return.

Kessel was not wrong as he was greeted with boos when he touched the puck, which is disappointing to hear considering the fact that Kessel never wanted to leave in the first place.

Pension Plan Puppets summarized the Kessel situation best saying that the Leafs failed Kessel, not the other way around. One of his current teammates Kris Letang had this to say about the Leafs not doing a tribute for Kessel received.

Feb 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Former Toronto Maple Leafs player Darcy Tucker (16) is introduced in a pre-game ceremony honoring alumni players against the Winnipeg Jets at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Jets 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously the Leafs do not care what Letang thinks, especially being on the opposing team. However, if this is what a player on another team thinks, what does the rest of the NHL think?

Considering the reputation that the Leafs have it probably would have been a good idea to keep a tradition of honouring players that have made a positive contribution for the team.

There is no denying the production that Kessel had. 394 points in 446 games and representing the Leafs at three All-Star games is nothing to sneeze at. Looking at players who have had tribute videos in the past it surprises me that Kessel would not receive one.

The team honoured Darcy Tucker and Tomas Kaberle, two players who were not of the same caliber as Kessel and did not win a Stanley Cup with the Leafs, but were deserving of tributes and an ovation from the fans.

Then there is the situation with Mats Sundin where he refused to waive his no trade clause when the Leafs wanted to get something in return for their best asset yet.

Now Sundin and Kessel were totally different players. Sundin was the captain and an elite player, he deserved to have a tribute. Kessel on the other hand represented a tough time in Leafs history, and while the team’s problems were not entirely his fault, he was the player that had to be the whipping boy.

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  • Even if the Leafs are no longer doing tribute videos maybe acknowledging him would have been enough. Instead nothing was done, and fans unnecessarily booed Kessel, especially given the way the game turned out.

    While fans have the right to boo whoever they want it does not look good when fans boo a player who produced in every season he played for the team, never asked to leave, and in return he gets an undeserved reaction.

    It shows that in the end Toronto still did not appreciate what they had because the media painted Kessel as the problem. It was not the fact that management could not build around an elite winger who thought signing David Clarkson, Jeff Finger, Mike Komisarek and Tim Connolly would help not the team turn the corner.

    Hopefully some fans can still appreciate what Kessel did in Toronto and not be so critical with things beyond his control.