Johnston on Leafs: The Kessel conundrum

The most polarizing athlete in Toronto had provided plenty of grist for the rumour mill after just five games. Paid millions to put the puck in the net, Kessel was still looking at a donut beside his name in the goal-scoring category despite 104 minutes 35 seconds of total ice time and 24 shots.

“He’s had chances,” said Carlyle.

Even though the coach didn’t seem overly concerned, many others in the city weren’t quite so willing to cut him slack. Talk radio shows seized on the opportunity to renew the debate about Kessel’s long-term place among the team and began asking listeners whether he should be traded before his contract expires at the end of next season.

The phone lines lit up.

On and on it went. On and on it goes.

There was little or no mention of the fact that less than half of NHL teams currently have a player who has been able to score like Kessel. Still just 25, the right-handed winger is one of 16 men to average at least 30 goals over the past three seasons and six of those players have a teammate on the list (see chart below).