KESSEL EVOLVING INTO UNLIKELY LEADER

Matt Frattin is just three months and one day younger than Phil Kessel.

“He’s also played like five years,” said the 23-year-old Frattin of Kessel’s NHL experience. “That’s why I asked him the other day and he said he’d already played five and was on his sixth, I was like ‘You’re a year older than me and you already played that many’. I couldn’t believe it.”

Despite the very minor gap in age, Frattin – like many Leafs early this season – is following the lead of the Leafs 24-year-old sniper. Not only is Kessel producing offence in droves – five goals and eight points in three games – but he’s playing with a relatively newfound commitment and dedication in all three zones – the 200-foot player as Brian Burke likes to describe it. Winning battles along the boards, chipping pucks out in the defensive zone, back-checking with vigour, Kessel is dedicating himself to the finer elements of the game.

Teammates have noticed the evolution and are rallying around the rather unlikely leader.

http://www.tsn.ca/toronto/blogs/jonas_siegel/?id=378267


85 Responses to KESSEL EVOLVING INTO UNLIKELY LEADER

  1. leafmeister says:

    If later in the season, Kessel is on pace for 80-90 points, Reimer is a top 15 goalie in the major categories, Phaneuf is on pace for north of 50 points, as well as playing good defense, and Connolly steps up and puts up at least 65 points, along with Grabovski and Kulemin, and the roster has a dependable output from players like MacArthur, Lupul, Lombardi, Liles and maybe some breakout (30-40ish) from Kadri. Schenn would have to play at least as well as last season, probably better, same with Gunnarsson. Franson would have to step up into the top 4 role, as a good team would not have Komisarek or Gunnarsson in the top 4, and finally, if the Leafs are at VERY least in 6th place, but if all of this happens they would probably be higher up in the standings, so lets say 4th, then I would say that Morrow puts that team over the top, and could turn what would be a 2nd or 3rd round exit into a possible cup win, then it would have my stamp of approval without a seconds thought. But as of this 3-0-1 record, no.

  2. blaze says:

    Ya Morrow would be a perfect fit. Unlikely as it is for both that would have to be the best group of wingers in the league.

  3. mojo19 says:

    Phaneuf plays the right side, so he has the one-time option. I don't care if you "buy it" or not. If you watch the game you can see that the problem lies with Franson's hands. He mis-handles most passes, and that extra half second it takes for him to control it, coupled with him having to re-align his body because he's on the right side is the reason he's not able to get any shots off. This is my observation anyways, you can disagree with it if you want. I would definitely put Franson on the left side.

  4. mojo19 says:

    Forget about the ins/outs of it all, that's semantics. Bottom line is record. If we're in the 4-8th range and looking good, and Morrow fits a need, then you gotta pull the trigger.

  5. leafmeister says:

    I dont look at it as that simple. IMO its only worth it to add Morrow if there is a legit chance at the cup. Unless the team is a legitimate powerhouse, with no weak seasons from any of the most important players, then they are not a contender, and even Morrow couldnt change that.

    I guess for me it comes down to pretender vs. contender. Right now were neither, as it could be a struggle to even make the playoffs, but even if a 7th-8th finish looks likely, I would still say hold onto the young guys.

  6. reinjosh says:

    Rene Bourque might be available according to Dreger. He mentioned teams are calling Feaster and Feaster hasn't been saying he isn't available. Essentially, Feaster's listening to offers. 

    Tuumo Ruutu is also available according to TSN. 
    Both are interesting but both come with issues. Ruutu is notoriously injury prone but his game is a huge add. He's a top 6 forward who just punishes the opposition. Bourque is streaky but when he's on, he looks like a top line forward. 
  7. reinjosh says:

    It depends on what were giving up. Colborne is looking good in the AHL this year, and Gardiner is Gardiner. Plus I'm still not wanting to give up Kadri (regardless what impression I made up there, Kadri is not the player I'd give up for Morrow). 

    Other pieces I'm fine giving up. If we can use some dman like Gunnarsson or Aulie plus some other pieces then I'm down. I get the idea to hold onto picks and prospect but we don't need to fetishize them. We're not a true rebuilding team anymore. They aren't as necessary as they once were.
  8. leafmeister says:

    Well I'll consider the rebuild over when this team has a good season. Here is my main issue articulated better. What does this team lack? A #1 center. Will this team win the cup in the next 3 years (roughly how long I expect Morrow to be at the top of his game) without a top line center? No. How do you acquire top line centers? With great difficulty, but you can bet that the same players you would have to trade for Morrow would be probably be necessary. Therefore, adding Morrow would be adding a complimentary a roster that he is not good enough to properly compliment, and would possibly inhibit any further deal that would add that necessary piece.

    If we had swung a trade for Mike Richards or signed Brad, then absolutely, but as it stands, unless these prospects are being traded to address the teams #1 need, then its probably best to keep them.

  9. reinjosh says:

    Ok I get that. 

  10. mojo19 says:

    Who was Boston's #1 center? They just won the cup by scoring by committee. They didn't even have a 70 point scorer last season. Hot goaltending, team work, and strong team defensive play wins cups, not a #1 center. Case and point, Carolina didn't even make the playoffs last year.

    To me, Connolly, Grabovski, Lombardi, Bozak, Steckel are all solid options at center and bring their own qualities to the table, similar to Kreijci, Bergeron, Seguin, Peverly, etc.

  11. mojo19 says:

    And ya, I'm with you, the price would have to be right, but Morrow would turn this whole team up a notch I believe. I would argue that he's way more valuable than Brad Richards, and similar value to Mike Richards.

  12. mojo19 says:

    I've heard those Tuomo Ruutu rumours. I've always liked this guy, ever since he and Eric Daze were the young guns on Chicago. He plays with an edge like his brother, only he has way more skill and isn't prone to the bad penalties. I would take a shot at either of these guys.

  13. blaze says:

    Ok which top line center do you expect to be available that the Leafs could make a huge pitch for. Outside of Spezza, which Im sure youre not too high on it seems very unlikely any top line center could be had.

    At some point you have to stop being patient, waiting for the team to eventually be better. There is a time to be patient and there is definitely a time to be aggressive. Philly never sits around and waits and yet theyre always competitive.

    Were at the point where our first round picks are no longer impact players, to sit around and wait for for drafted stars is foolish. Say we give up a Kadri and Gunnarson for Morrow there would be little to no negative effect on the team for years and if Kadri busts or is a even a mid level support guy than there is no downside. There are players on the Leafs in their prime right now why waste there best years waiting for Kadri and Colborne to maybe be NHLers?

    I partially agree with you that yes we should be wary moving top prospect, but there is plenty of times where sometimes you just gotta roll the dice, be aggressive and not miss out on the rare opportunities that very good players become available.

  14. blaze says:

    Oh and ya theyd probably prefer Bozak, but I think theyd be under the cap. Lombardi contract would actually be alright for them to hit the cap floor and hed be a useful player that they could maybe flip next deadline.

  15. leafmeister says:

    Okay even if it isnt a center, they need a game breaking forward who will be around for the next 5-7 years. A center would be ideal, but whats important is the age here. Who knows, maybe it will someone like Parise but what is important is that they add a core, high impact forward who can be around when this team can compete. Who knows, maybe that will be Kadri or Colborne.

    Thing is, I dont want to just be competitive. I want to win a cup. Adding Morrow absolutely makes this team more competitive, just like adding Connolly, Lombardi and Lupul did. But you need to be more than competitive to win 16 playoff games; you need to be able to dominate. Adding Morrow to this roster doesnt do that.

    Best years? I strongly disagree. Kessel looks like he could be hitting a new level now, and is far from done. Kulemin and Grabovski also have plenty of good years left. The core defense should all hit their prime at roughly the same time; (Schenn, Gardiner, Gunnarsson Aulie and Franson at least, Phaneuf will obviously be a few years ahead), and who knows with Reimer, sometimes goalies have their best years post-30. So by the time those guys hit their prime (for D we will say around 27-29, for forwards 25-28, and goalies 29-33. Very rough estimates, and obviously full of exceptions, but I would say that that is when they typically play their best) a guy like Morrow will be 35 or 36, and no quite the same player we may have acquired. Whereas Kadri will be 24-25 and possibly putting up great numbers.

  16. leafmeister says:

    Morrow would turn any team up a notch, and he would make the Leafs a hell of a lot better. Maybe even better enough to win a playoff round. Whats the cup you get for winning a playoff round?

  17. mojo19 says:

    Agree to disagree. Again, saying that we're 4-5 years away from being contenders is an arbitrary number. We could be ready as soon as next year. We could be ready the following year. We could be ready the following year after that…. etc. Who knows.

    Let's say we roll the dice, deal away a young asset like Kadri or Colbourne in a deal for Morrow (maybe coupled with Aulie or something), and the deal does translate into a playoff round win. Well, first of all, this is going to make UFA's way more attractive to the Leafs. Could even be the difference in signing a Parise, Hemsky, Semin, Suter, or maybe a veteran like Doan. And an addition like that makes us a bit closer for next season, at which point maybe another trade adds another piece to the puzzle etc.

    Not saying its the "right" way to go, but if the cost was one of our top prospects I would make the trade. I totally get your point of view, but I think we'll have to just agree to disagree.

  18. mojo19 says:

    Good point about the cap. I wasn't thinking about that whole situation with Dallas.

  19. leafmeister says:

    Fair enough, but my 3-5 year number is not entirely arbitrary. Its based on the fact that I believe us to be a top line center, as well as an overall improvement in forward depth away from being contenders. Morrow would help the latter, but the center issue is far more important, and until it is addressed, I dont think the team can win the cup. You may point to the Bruins but both Krejci and Bergeron are better than Connolly and Grabovski, and the Bruins also had other forward depth, as well as Chara and Thomas.

    Now the 3-5 number comes in when you look at the possible center options. Nothing as of now is apparent, unless its Spezza but I have very serious doubts about that. Thus, I give the 3 year figure because by then, it is possible that an option will have appeared, or maybe even Colborne steps into that role. Or even if an option appears next year, it can often take a few years to develop chemistry and patch the holes in the roster. Thus; 3 years.

    For me its a simple issue of prioritizing needs.

    And dont get me wrong, I like Morrow a lot. It would be a perfect trade if we still had Sundin in his prime. Also, there is that off chance that the scenario I drew up a few posts comes true and the Leafs become a powerhouse this season. haha

  20. dumbassdoorman says:

    I know I am in the minority here but I am unsure of trading too much youth away at one time. I am trying to be open minded really, however it is hard. I think being older (I think)then some of you, I have seen it happen time and time again. I would probably rather wait the year out, especially not knowing what is gonna happen CBA wise.

  21. mojo19 says:

    Are Bergeron and Kreijci really better than Connolly and Grabo though? I would say no. Krejci had one great year in '09 where he posted 73 points, but after that came back to earth a bit with 52 and 62 point seasons. I would say he's comparible to Grabovski at this point, and in all fairness I would probably take Grabo.

    Patrice Bergeron is kind of overrated, by far the worst part of the amazing Team Canada. However, I would agree that his overall game, coupled with his durabilty makes him a hands down better player than Connolly (not by a ton, but an obvious better player.) After that you have Seguin, who was very young at the time and a 22(?) point player, who I would argue wasn't as good overall as Lombardi. Any way, you could argue any of this but I'd say our centers are comparible to what Boston had last year.

    No doubt, adding a top line center immediately changes the complection of this team, but I think we could become contenders if everyone steps up, and we add a guy like Morrow, and then maybe a player like Doan, or even better Semin, or just another impact winger capable of playing a top 6 role. Just think, if you have 7, 8, maybe 9 guys that would be considered "top 6" that's a pretty tough team to defend against.

  22. mojo19 says:

    Fair enough.

    What about Colbourne and a 2nd for Morrow? Would everyone be on board with that trade, from a risk/reward stand point? This goes out to leafmeister as well.

  23. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I hear you….but…. I have no idea what your point is anymore than you know what mine was….but it's all good. The "problem actually that is" Wilson sat Franson and put in Gardiner tonight, (half my original wish). Now if we could sit Gunnarsson for Aulie we could have a guy who could knock people down in front of our net without taking a penalty. We're at polar oppostites most of the time and I'm still trying to wrap my head around you willing to give up Kadri for Morrow? I still have hope in Komisarek and Schenn….but ,(off topic),Schenn is looking like good trade bait for a top C right now.

  24. dumbassdoorman says:

    If the team was playing lights out together, i might do that. Though I think I might rather sub in Kadri. Not because i think Colborne is a better player, but he is a big centre, they are hard to come by.

  25. reinjosh says:

    Only got to watch the highlights of last nights game but I'll make some notes anyways. 

    Kessel loves that high slot and damn does he play well there. Whether its shooting or opening up room so someone else has a shot, he's plays it well. 
    What the hell was Schenn doing on the Burmistrov goal?
    Lupul has some serious offensive talent. Is he playing himself into anyone else's long term plans or is that just me? He just plays well with Kessel. Sure a big banger would be nice but you can't beat chemistry and the pair have it off the charts. Kessel now has 41 points in the 33 games Lupul's been with the Leafs. Lupul has 35 points in 33 games since being a Leaf. Anyone still doubt that Kessel needs a top line center? I've said it before and I'm going to say it again. Kessel only needed a player that had top 6 offensive instincts and had chemistry with him. He doesn't need top line linemates to make him better, he makes top 6 linemates better. The Kessel that needed a top line center stayed with the Bruins. He's grown as a player now and the rest of the NHL should watch out. 
    Grabovski line is a little disappointing but it hasn't been terrible. This line goes with Grabovski and he's a notoriously slow October player. Once November comes around he should light it up and then we will have some scoring depth.
    So Frattin plays with the USSR line tonight? Kadri plays third line time?
    Reimer makes saves when the team needs it. That's the type of goaltending we've been lacking. So far so good…
  26. reinjosh says:

    Honestly, I'd wait a little before trading either. I'm softening up on the idea of trading Kadri but I'd like to see what either can do this year. Colborne is playing pretty well in the AHL and I think Kadri needs to be given some time at the NHL level before we can safely trade him. 

    Now if we get the chance at a top line guy, sure. 
  27. reinjosh says:

    Not going to lie, the idea of offering up Schenn for someone crossed my mind last night too…

  28. dumbassdoorman says:

    This is exactly why I said wait a year to the next CBA, who knows who will be out there? Like I said though I think Colborne is a centre and big body, less physical then Kadri, but a centre. I really would love to see them together in the AHL for a while. I just hope Kadri doesn't sulk about being sent down. Playing a ton is by far the best thing for them. If they start to play well together, it bodes nothing but good things for us. Gardiner played AWESOME last night BTW. I think Komi and Schenn should draw starws to see who sits lol….never thought i would say that about Luke.

  29. leafmeister says:

    I would be wary of it. From a risk/reward stand point I think its pretty easy. Potential reward? IMO Morrow makes this team better, but not better enough. Risk? We lose a 6'5 potential top 6 center, and a 2nd in a strong draft.

    I wouldnt be entirely heartbroken, as I know what Morrow would add to the team, but if I had the choice, I would probably stick with Colborne. I have a good feeling that he is gonna be Kessel's center.

  30. leafmeister says:

    Even if he isnt the top line center.

  31. dumbassdoorman says:

    Good assessments from only the highlights…errrr lowlights. It wasn't only Schenn, but I here you. I think he might sit before Komi, though if he does, it to me easily makes Komi a target to sit out. Kessel is playing lights out I hope he keeps up his level of intensity. The points are not the part that even excites me, it is the 200ft player he is becoming and the passion he is showing. I think Kadri and frattin switch up through the game pending on how it all plays out.

  32. reinjosh says:

    It was more one or two highlights (lowlights) and the previous seasons haha. 

    Yeah that is a good point as well. Kessel has the points but he has taken his game farther. He's actually playing more than the offense.
    And thats a smart idea. Give them both time, see what each does with it and go from there.
  33. mojo19 says:

    No you guys. Not Schenn. I'm not down for that. He's not even playing that bad, Wilson needs to adopt a Gito Gaston approach here and just let Luke play through it. He will thrive with more ice time. Komisarek needs to play less minutes. Playing him up around 20 minutes he's going to get exposed, but he can be effective in around 12 minutes.

  34. mojo19 says:

    I see a lot of blame to go around on Burmistrov's goal. Schenn was soft in front, but worse was Liles who watched Antropov skate behind the net, and just stood in front beside Schenn. Liles took no one, he should've stayed tough on Antropov behind the net, instead big Nik was able to make the exact pass he wanted to, uncontested.

    Anyway's I also want to point out how Antropov was hands down the Jets player last night. Ladd was barely noticeable, Bryan Little was pretty good, Burmistrov was involved, Kane had a few good shifts, Wellwood was invisible, and the Thorburn/Slater line did well but didn't play much.

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