Earlier today we brought you a clip in which Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs responded rather indignantly to a question from Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star.
He asked Kessel if he’s a difficult guy to coach. Kessel felt it was a “weird question.” Feschuk doubled-down by pushing the idea that Kessel was a reason why Randy Carlyle was fired, to which Kessel asked, “You think it’s my fault?”
Maple Leafs PR called it a day for Kessel, and he then said Feschuk is “such an idiot” and “has always been like this.”
The banter continued, however, as the CBC News cameras chronicled. Kessel then said no other reporter in Toronto disrespects the players in the organization like Feschuk does. Which, if you know the Toronto media, means Feschuk must have done everything but defecate on his mother's pillow in Phil’s eyes.
As expected, this led to the usual Toronto media vs. fans kerfuffle over how reporters interact with players and players’ responsibilities and yadda yadda yadda. The last time we went through this was also Kessel related, as he refused to talk to the media after a particularly embarrassing two games and was slaughtered for it.
Like I said then: Kessel’s frosty relationship with the media has actually endeared him to fans. And I think that continued today in this throwdown with Feschuk.
This isn’t just some random reporter asked Phil Kessel, essentially, if he killed his second coach in Toronto. This is a guy who has written in the last two years that:
- The Leafs should trade Kessel while his value is high. Also, David Clarkson had “a Bruins-worthy heaviness and has scored 30 goals in a season.”
- The Leafs might not be able to win with Kessel; or as he wrote, “Can the Leafs win anything of significance if their pudgy designated goal scorer happily sports multiple chins in a league dominated by gluten-free, goji-berry-favouring fitness nuts? Can the Leafs win if their best player, the fastest skater on the team when there’s a goal in his sights, becomes a slow-as-anything laggard when coach Randy Carlyle asks for extra effort near the not-so-merciful conclusion of a long practice?"
- Having exhausted his “the Leafs lose because Phil Kessel is fat” ammo, Feschuk used an anecdote told by assistant coach Steve Spott as a coaches’ clinic to paint Kessel as an un-coachable prima donna.
So yeah, there’s a little history there. We imagine Kessel’s comments today are as much about getting his shot in on a guy who believes his "multiple chins" are a factor in the Leafs' lack of playoff success as they were about refuting the notion that he contributed to Randy Carlyle’s demise.
And we imagine anyone who wonders how human beings, who happen to make their living playing hockey, can bite their tongues when a reporter's tossing bombs at them will find this refreshing.