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Arizona Coyotes Need Phil Kessel to Contribute More

Phil Kessel

When the Arizona Coyotes and general manager/President of hockey operations John Chayka pulled off a trade to add Phil Kessel to the roster it seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked in the Coyotes favour.

Phil Kessel Had a Down Year

Years in Boston

The Coyotes had to be excited to add a veteran like Kessel to the lineup. Expectations may have been set too high as to what he could contribute to the team. There’s no doubt that his past record while with the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Pittsburgh Penguins are admirable as a forward and offensive threat.

While on the Bruins Kessel didn’t really come into his own until his third season. He had been selected fifth overall in the 2006 draft. He tallied an impressive 36 goals, 24 assists in 70 games. Prior to that, he had only accumulated 29 and 37 points in his first two years of his entry-level contract. Kessel was offered a four-year $16 million contract to stay in Boston but turned it down. Instead, he was awarded a five-year $27 million contract to play in Toronto.

Years in Toronto

Over Kessel’s six-year career in Toronto, he scored 181 goals, 213 assists for 394 points in 446 games. Phil also threw in 52 power-play goals. He signed a huge eight-year $64 million contract in October 2013. What is amazing is that during his stint in Toronto he led the team in scoring every season.

It had to be difficult to trade him with that success he displayed. Yet, in the end, it comes down to money, and Toronto wanted to unload his contract and move in another direction. According to team president Brendan Shanahan, “Phil’s certainly a very talented player, but we knew changes had to come,” Shanahan told reporters in Toronto Wednesday.”This is about a recognition on our part that what we’ve been doing here and the group that we assembled here wasn’t getting the job done. We are here to build a team that is capable of winning the Stanley Cup and there are no shortcuts to go around doing that.”

Years in Pittsburgh

Then on July 1, 2015, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins by Toronto with Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs and Pittsburgh’s 2nd round pick (previously acquired, Pittsburgh selected Kasper Bjorkqvist) in 2016 NHL Draft for Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Pittsburgh’s 1st round pick (later traded to the Anaheim Ducks – Anaheim selected Sam Steel) in 2016 NHL Draft and the New Jersey Devils‘ 3rd round pick (previously acquired, Toronto selected James Greenway) in 2016 NHL Draft.

Over Kessel’s four years in Pittsburgh, he again showed off his stellar offensive talents. He had 110 goals, 193 assists for 303 points. He had 36 power-play goals to add to his resume. It was why Pittsburgh pursued him. Of course, playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can always elevate your level of play.

Off to Arizona

Then on June 29, 2019, Kessel was traded to Arizona by Pittsburgh with Dane Birks and Pittsburgh’s 4th round pick in 2021 NHL Draft for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

Arizona FINALLY got their scorer… or did they? Every fan of the Coyotes was elated to be getting a proven scorer and power play special teams specialist. Except, Kessel’s play didn’t measure up to expectations. Phil’s welcome in Pittsburgh was running jagged and Pens’ head coach Mike Sullivan had thrown in the towel on keeping Kessel around. Alex Galchenyuk was a huge disappointment after just one season in Arizona and the deal went down.

When you examine Kessel’s points per game statistics you see that his current season totals are lower than his first three seasons in the NHL. While with Boston, his points per game average were 0.57. In Toronto, it skyrocketed to 0.88. Finally, in Pittsburgh, he had his best total of 0.92.

What Can Get Kessel Going Again?

He has been teamed up with different linemates to see where he can fit and contribute the most. For some reason, the magic Kessel had in his stick has not appeared much during this season. His 14 goals, 17 assists for 31 total points is just very surprising taking into consideration his past scoring prowess. He is still lethal on the power play gathering nine man-advantage tallies. So, why can’t he score 5-on-5?

In games, you’ll see that he looks tired, and shoots wide more than he should. Is his age catching up to him? Does his lack of scoring have anything to do with not being surrounded by players like Malkin and Crosby? Perhaps.

Most fans and analysts following the game seem to be as puzzled as Kessel as to what is going on with his scoring drought. Everyone thought that with the relationship Kessel has with head coach Rick Tocchet that he would be able to provide much more offensive firepower than he has exhibited. If Tocchet can do some Phil Kessel whispering and see what he can do to put the scoring cap back on Kessel, we may perhaps see the old Phil. The guy who lights the lamp and puts fear into the opposing goalies, which is something the Arizona Coyotes could desperately use.

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