Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Not being intimately familiar with the details of the Phil Kessel(notes) negotiations over the past few months, I suppose that it's a little unfair to just start tossing around accusations of foolhardiness and hypocrisy coming out of Brian Burke this week.
But I'm going to do it anyway.
Kesselgate officially ended this weekend when Burke and his new prized possession got up in front of the Toronto media and pledged their undying devotion to each other. Then started spinning like a couple of tops on an all-night crystal meth bender.
"I never asked to be traded," said Kessel. Sure, I get that. Instead, all he did was demand a salary not befitting his stats that he knew the Bruins wouldn't be able to afford without clearing significant cap space that could be better used on players that aren't lazy, resistant to criticism, have an acute allergy to the defensive zone and milk injuries.
But no, he never asked to be traded because saying, "I know you can't afford this exorbitant number so do with that what you will," is not technically demanding a trade.
Players like Kessel certainly have a role in the NHL -- anyone with a wrist shot like that would -- but at the same time, Burke is shelling out a lot of money for a lot of question marks and going against his own policy to do it.
(Coming up: Erik Johnson(notes) kicks it old school; Saku Koivu(notes) goes all Ponce de Leon; Adam Foote(notes) accentuates the positives; Niklas Hagman(notes) and Artem Anisimov(notes) jockey for Play of the Weekend; the Islanders buddy up with Young Hov; Carey Price(notes) still isn't very good; and a Trade Proposal of the Week that was selected on title alone.)
First is the issue of his goal production. Kessel's goals per game have improved significantly since his rookie season, from 0.16 to 0.23 to last year's impressive 0.51, which was top-10 in the league behind guys like Alexander Ovechkin(notes), Jeff Carter(notes), Zach Parise(notes), Alex Semin and Tomas Vanek. ‘Course putting up 36 goals in 70 games alongside Marc Savard(notes) ain't so hard either. As Bitter Leaf Fan notes, Kessel's goal production (GF/60 minutes) drops 40 percent without Savvy running his line.
Then, and I think this is the most important part, is Kessel's shyness with the media. He could barely handle the quote-unquote media crush in Boston. His string of clichéd, one-sentence answers wouldn't go over like a lead balloon with the jackals in the Toronto media if he was just some kid on the team, but now that he's the Leafs' highest-paid player by close to a million dollars? Hoo boy, they're going to grill him. And he's going to pout about it.
His immaturity is also somewhat legendary among the Boston media types. Elliotte Friedman had a blog post a few weeks ago detailing just how immature Kessel was, complete with damning quotes from anonymous Bruin teammates. Given all the truculence and grit and anger in Toronto now, it doesn't seem very likely that Kess gets the kid-glove treatment he got in Boston. How he'll cotton to that will go a long way toward figuring out just how quickly Toronto has to move him to somewhere no one cares about hockey.
Third is, obviously, his shoulder injury. He has a torn labrum in his lead shoulder that will hold him out for at least 20 games or so this season and Kessel is well-known for not wanting to play at anything less than 100 percent. So that might be a problem as well.
All that being said, I don't think this was a bad deal for Toronto. For the price of a couple first-round picks and a second, they were able to steal away a 36-goal scorer from a division rival who's going to be just 22 years old by the time the season starts. He will be able to mature (ha!) alongside the club's other young stars-in-waiting like Nazem Kadri(notes) and Luke Schenn(notes) and so on.
And while Boston now has seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2010 and 2011 entry drafts, it's not as though Toronto is hurting for young talent. Tyler Bozak(notes), Christian Hanson(notes) and Jonas Gustavsson(notes), all free-agent signings this offseason, are probably better than most guys you can get in the middle of the first round, so hanging onto the picks wasn't and shouldn't have been of the utmost priority to Burke.
But what he did in signing Kessel to a $27-million, five-year deal was go against his own gripes about paying inflationary salaries to restricted free agents. Sure, he made a trade rather than extend an offer sheet, but the deal was made under threat of one, and effectively shorted the Bruins a third-round pick that they would have gotten in RFA compensation (not that they mind terribly, I'm sure).
More to the point, he was able to box out the Nashville Predators, who reportedly offered Boston a more attractive package but were disinclined to give Kessel the money the Leafs could and, eventually, did. Even if Boston had been willing to take their deal, they weren't going to trade for him only to trade him away or lose him to an offer sheet.
As for whether or not Kessel is worth $5.4 million a year, the answer, even ignoring all the question marks, is "probably not."
Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Corey Perry(notes), Simon Gagne(notes), Mike Green(notes), Martin St. Louis(notes), Marian Hossa(notes) and Carter all make less than that against the cap every year and they have a couple years' of production to support their salaries.
I'm not saying Burke is going to regret this deal, I'm just saying Kessel has a higher chance of failing than succeeding in Toronto.
What We Learned
We're back to full strength.
Atlanta Thrashers: At the tender age of 37, Slava Kozlov(notes) is likely to keep playing beyond this season. Said Don Waddell: "He's a guy that's going to play a number of years. I don't want to put the horse before the cart, but if he has any kind of year like he did last year there is no reason we wouldn't want him back." Keep in mind that Kozlov, unlike future Hockey Hall of Famer Rich Peverley(notes), put up 76 points last year despite only getting an average of about 4:30 of ice time per night with Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), almost all on the power play.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are now officially all about "accountability." So now they know exactly where to point fingers at when they miss the playoffs again. (Note: This rule does not apply to Sabres coaches or general managers.)
Carolina Hurricanes: Avangard Omsk is saying they signed Anton Babchuk(notes) (the link is entirely in Russian by the way). Boy did Jim Rutherford screw that up. He offered the kid, who scored 16 goals last year, $1 million and would not, apparently, be moved. You couldn't get a forward that scored 16 goals to sign for a million.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks announced that they plan to honor Jeremy Roenick(notes) on Nov. 15. The first 1,500 fans in attendance will receive a copy of NHL 94 for Sega Genesis, and a blue star that lights up under their feet and follows them around.
"We have a lot of young guys and it's exciting to start this way," he said. "I don't want to sound like I'm trying to sell the game, sell the team, but to see young guys like (Ryan) O'Reilly, Duchene and (T.J) Galiardi do well is exciting for me."
He then added, "So come see these exciting young players as the Avs get walloped 5-2 every night this season. Go to coloradoavalanche.com to get your tickets now!"
He picked up a concussion, obviously, but his CT scan was clear. He was very lucky.
Dallas Stars: Brad Richards(notes) is already stumping to stick with the linemates Marc Crawford gave him for Dallas' first preseason game, James Neal(notes) and Loui Eriksson(notes). That trio would score a lot of goals together, and indeed they scored all four in Wednesday's preseason opener (though one was the shootout winner) and another on Saturday night. But being that this is a Marc Crawford team, you know he'll find a way to fumble this one.
Detroit Red Wings: This Mike Babcock quote lets you know the Red Wings' goaltending situation is a disaster, but everything else about the team is unfairly excellent: "We need 25 wins out of our backup." Sheesh.
Edmonton Oilers: Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) won't play anywhere near 70 games, so the Oilers' chances of making the playoffs rest on the shoulders of -- wait for it -- Jeff Deslauriers(notes). Despite being the Oilers' No. 1 goaltending prospect for, oh, the last seven years, he's finally getting the chance to stay in the NHL all season. Maybe.
Florida Panthers: Randy Sexton is likely to remain the acting GM in Sunrise, at least for a while. I don't know how long he can last though; he hasn't made any bad personnel decisions and he's had the job for an entire summer. I don't think anyone is used to the Panthers operating like that.
Los Angeles Kings: In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the Kings sent Oscar Moller(notes) to the AHL. Moller played 40 games for the Kings, scoring 7-8-15, last season. The Kings, it appears, prefer Teddy Purcell(notes) for the second-line left wing gig.
Minnesota Wild: Martin Havlat(notes) was impressive in his first game in a Wild sweater last night. He scored twice in Minnesota's 3-0 win over Chicago, including the game-winner which, according to Russo, was gorgeous. Judging by all those Tweets this summer, I doubt he was lacking for motivation headed into this game, eh?
Montreal Canadiens: Well, sure, things are going to go both good and bad in the month of September. But still, Carey Price probably didn't want to give up four goals on 16 shots to a Senators team that had scored just three goals in its three prior games. "It's going to take a little while to get back to mid-season form," Price said. Which means he'll cut that number down to three goals on 20 shots by Oct. 15 or so.
New Jersey Devils: Brendan Shanahan(notes) is doing something pretty bold in pushing the Devils' younger players to ask questions about Paul Kelly's dismissal. Of course, he also has very little to lose considering he's 40 and won't be in the NHLPA after his current contract runs out.
New York Islanders: Here's a bombshell from Chris Botta: If the Lighthouse Project falls through, the Islanders might move into that Brooklyn arena the Nets are building. There's a lot to it, and frankly it's too big to summarize, so just go read the whole article.
See? (And you'll also see why this wasn't the Play of the Weekend soon enough.)
Ottawa Senators: Alex Kovalev(notes) is making a hell of an impression in Ottawa already. He stepped on the Sens logo in the center of the dressing room floor, which, if you've spent any time in one, you know is a HUGE faux pas. He was fined $1,000 for the infraction. When you're covering a team on a regular basis, one of the great pastimes while waiting for quotes before and after games is seeing which clueless reporters will mistakenly step on the team logo and get yelled at by a trainer. It never stops being funny.
Philadelphia Flyers: Nothing says "cash grab" like announcing you won't hike ticket prices, then hiking ticket prices. The Flyers increased the price of about 1,000 tickets for 12 games on the schedule, part of the so-called dynamic ticket pricing trend across the NHL. Those tickets that are affected saw their prices rise about 28 percent on average (near as I can tell). And you thought the Flyers were only jerks on the ice.
Phoenix Coyotes: Some Coyote news that doesn't involve the coach ducking out on his team or the BlackBerry guy trying to buy it: Grant Fuhr got 86ed from his duties as goaltending coach, and replaced with Sean Burke(notes). No, that's it. That's all that's happening with the organization. Honest.
San Jose Sharks: Dany Heatley(notes) had only played one practice with his new linemates, Joe Thornton(notes) and Devin Setoguchi(notes), before the Sharks rolled him out in an exhibition game against Phoenix on Saturday. He played well in the offensive zone, but turned the puck over and helped spark a Phoenix comeback when the Sharks were up 3-0. Get used to it, Sharks fans.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Yeah, I think the Maple Leafs will be pretty fun to watch this year:
Washington Capitals: In Sunday morning's Boston Globe, it was reported that Chris Bourque(notes) is likely to be traded if he doesn't make the Caps out of camp. Bourque, though, has denied that story.
Play of the Weekend
You can keep your Artem Anisimov goals, because Nik Hagman went off Saturday night.
Gold Star Award
What years of ill feeling? Mike Comrie(notes) was not a well-liked figure in Edmonton, and I guess you have to give credit to the Oilers organization for having the guts to bring him back on short money even if it would probably upset the fans. Well I guess they don't have to worry about anything now, since he picked up three assists on Friday night and had the fans in Rexall Place chanting his name.
Minus of the Weekend
Y'know, it seems like everyone was on their best behavior: unless you count the Tootoo thing as being his fault (it wasn't), in which case feel free to put him in this space and imagine that I was outraged by it: and I can't fault anyone for being outwardly terrible since it's September and no one cares.
No minuses this week, you lucky ducks.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
Without even clicking on the link, I knew this one would be a winner. It was posted by a user named "Cleatus," and the title included the word "threesome." How could I not pick it sight unseen? And yes, it lived up to the hype.
- Brian Burke