Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Phil Kessel is the player of the decade

With the decade coming to an end we take a look at the top players from each team moving on to the Toronto Maple Leafs and why Phil Kessel is the choice.

After years of frustration, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally seemed to turn the corner this past decade, the only problem is that it took a really long time to achieve any sort of stability.

While many are putting together their All-Decade Team, I have decided to start by looking at the top players from each Toronto sports team. First I started with Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors, now I will explain why Phil Kessel was my choice for the Leafs.

When looking back at the past 10 years, there is a strong list of players to choose from and while some people would be quick to run towards players like Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner but it’s tough to give to them because they just started their careers in 2016.

Kessel might be the most underappreciated player from this past decade considering the team’s lack of direction and the issues surrounding his trade. Look past what the Leafs gave up in the trade to Boston (it wasn’t his fault that Brian Burke paid what he did) and how terrible the supporting cast he had to work with.

In 446 career games, Kessel scored 181 goals, put up 213 assists and totalled 394 points in the Blue and White before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. At the time many were conflicted about Kessel’s impact in Toronto considering how it ended and the way the media wrote about him at times.

What did he end up doing upon his departure from the Leafs? Win two-straight Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure he didn’t do it alone but it would be hard to think the Penguins could have done it without him.

There aren’t many players that could score like Kessel could and considering how he was tasked with going up against the top defenceman on a nightly basis, you have to credit him for being able to put up the numbers he did.

He led the team in scoring in all six seasons in Toronto including three straight 30 goal seasons and four overall (he had 20 during the 48-game lockout season). After missing the first12 games of his first season in Toronto because of off-season shoulder surgery, Kessel didn’t miss a single game.

Imagine if he was on this current Leafs team or played earlier with a player like Mats Sundin who could have taken some of the pressure off his shoulders? Unfortunately, we probably won’t get a chance to know but that doesn’t mean we should toss aside what Kessel was able to accomplish.

Next: Getting through Mikheyev's injury

What are your thoughts on Kessel’s time with the Leafs? Does he not get enough credit for what he was able to accomplish? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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