Kessel wants to score 40 goals next year – Can he?
On a team historically bereft of big-time scorers, Phil Kessel believes he can achieve what only one Maple Leaf has been able to do in the last 15 seasons.
That’s topping the 40-goal mark.
“I think I can score 40. I could have had it last year if I’d have scored (consistently). I had a lot of chances, plus I missed quite a bit of games,” said the 22-year-old winger as he passed through town for the unveiling of Dion Phaneuf as Toronto’s captain and Tuesday’s opening of Real Sports Bar and Grill, MLSE’s playpen beside the Air Canada Centre.
“I’m going to improve on last year. Hopefully, I’m going to be a better hockey player,” Kessel continued.
Since Dave Andreychuk potted 53 goals during the heady days of the 1993-94 season, only Mats Sundin has managed to crack the 40 plateau. He scored 41 twice, in 1996-97 and in 2001-02, so it’s not like Toronto is known for its red-light district.
“My role on the team is to score goals and make plays so I have to do that. If I can contribute in that way, hopefully we win some games,” said Kessel.
So how ’bout 50?
“Oh, I don’t know. You never know,” he said coyly. “Like I said, we’re here to win games. I’m going to score as many as I can.”
As rare an accomplishment as it’s been in this city, for Kessel to project himself as a 40-goal man is not that big a stretch.
He scored 36 in just 70 games with Boston two years ago and finished last season with 30 despite missing the first 12 games as he recovered from shoulder surgery. He then played the last half-dozen games with an abdominal muscle/rib injury. That bookended a campaign in which during one stretch, he managed only two goals in 21 games.