Fantasy Land: Would the Maple Leafs Consider Trading Phil Kessel? Part 1

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Inarguably the number one past time for Canadian men is sitting around with a few good buddies, a couple of beers and a hockey game on the television. A close second comes when the game is over or when your team falls behind by a few goals early in the third with no comeback in sight. “We need to make a trade” someone pipes up, “think we could get Eric Staal…”

Fantasy trades are something that have run rampant on message boards for years and now with the growth of Twitter have become even more prevalent among hockey fans. Often fueled by ”insider” segments during intermissions about GMs looking to fill a hole, or that guy needs a change of scenery. Usually talk like this comes from a place of discontent, something that is never more prevalent then when you’re talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs fan base. No Stanley Cups since 1967, one playoff performance in the past decade – we all know the drill. Guys in the media know that all it takes is the simple phrase ‘Toronto Maple Leafs’ in their trade rumor article to send Twitter into a tizzy. Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri and even Dion Phaneuf have been mainstays on the rumor mill for a couple years now. One name that we haven’t seen (and for good reason) is Phil Kessel. Coming into this season only Claude Giroux had recorded more points that Kessel had over the previous three seasons. He is a top five winger in the NHL and far and away the Leafs best player. All that being said, one question that often pops up in Toronto is ‘Can you win with Phil Kessel as your best player?’ The answer to that really depends on what you mean by “best player”.

Phil Kessel is the Patrick Kane of the Maple Leafs. By fact the most pure talent on the team, but can’t carry the burden of thing the face of the franchise and the guy who carries the heaviest burden. In Chicago that player is Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane is by far the most talented offensive player Chicago has but the team would not win without Toews. And this is the crux of the Leafs problem. They have their Kane, but don’t have their Toews and seem a long way off from finding that player. This brings us to the next question. If the Leafs feel the same way many do, that Phil is the perfect complement to a player they don’t have, is it conceivable that they trade the all-star sniper to reload to build a team around different pillars?

Now most people (including the fan inside my brain) would say this idea is crazy but hear me out. The Maple Leafs are stuck in a state of mediocrity and they have been for the past decade. Too good to get the draft picks necessary for a proper re-build and too bad to be any sort of real contender. When Brian Burke took the job as General Manager he made the claim that the fan base in Toronto didn’t have the patience for a ‘five-year rebuild’. Well it’s now six years later and Leafs Nation is looking for their Delorean to go back in time and tell Burke to shut up and re-build. With Burke gone the Leafs are now Brendan Shanahan’s team to shape and one would have to believe it’s only a matter of time before he decides which direction he wants to take this team.

Now here’s where things get fun. If I were Brendan Shanahan I would call Dave Nonis into my office and tell him to get three teams on the phone and let them know that Phil Kessel is available; Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Click here to see part two to see why I’ve selected those three teams.


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