Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs are bad at a lot of things. Anybody who has watched the team in the past, well, five decades can tell you that. The team has always found a way to be aggressively bad, or finish their season in catastrophic disappointment.
But man, if they’re good at anything. It’s honouring players. Even the nobodies. If you play for the Leafs and you come back to the ACC with another team, you better believe that you’re getting a tribute on the scoreboard during one of the first couple of TV timeouts.
Unless you’re Phil Kessel, apparently.
From Damien Cox during Headlines on Sportsnet last night:
The Leafs plan to do nothing. This is a bit of a change from Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello. They’re not going to do that stuff. No insult to Phil Kessel, but they aren’t going to be, at this point, offering or doing any kind of tribute.
My issue with this is pretty simple; we’ve sat through way too much of this crap to stop before getting to the last guy worth honour for a while. I mean, last year we had to sit through this 1000 games ceremony for Eric Brewer, who came here to be sub-par for a few weeks:
Technically that’s not a “you were here and now you’re gone” tribute, but this team has seen a lot of those too. Carl Gunnarsson got one. Luke Schenn had one. Jason Blake had one, and nobody in Toronto liked Jason Blake. Tons of other bottom sixers, last pairing, occasional goaltending roster member received them.
Could I do without them on the whole? Probably. Should you draw the line now? Probably not.
Kessel is, for all intents and purposes, the only player truly worth celebrating and remembering from the post-Mats Sundin era. Yes, there are current members of the organization who I feel will fit that description in due time, but Kessel’s time here was an era of its own.
When push comes to shove, Kessel played 453 regular season and playoff games for the Leafs, never once missing an appearance after his debut. Out of the endless list of players to play in the organization in the past 98 years, he ranks in the top 25 in goals, assists, and points. Adjusted for era, you can argue him as the best Leafs winger in our lifetime, all while having very limited support at centre. His time in the playoffs was admittedly limited; but his teammates did him no favours in getting there, and he was less than two minutes away from having three-game winning goals in the infamous Boston series.
Yes, the trade to acquire him will probably leave fans arguing for another hundred years. Yes, he was standoffish at times with the media. Yes, he probably could have handled the whole salute-gate thing better. But for six years, Kessel was the one player that would guarantee you a sense of excitement in watching every game, which is an incredibly valuable commodity when your team sells you long-term misery.
Besides, it’s not pushing this tribute program for another year opens up any massive floodgates. The only other players from last year’s team playing regular minutes on opposing rosters are Cody Franson (Buffalo), David Clarkson (Columbus) and Mike Santorelli (Anaheim). I could do without tributes to these guys, but even then, none of them left Toronto guns blazing, and the former two grew up fans and would probably appreciate it.
Ultimately, it’s a little thing. I’m not going to lose sleep over Phil Kessel getting a minute long video on the new scoreboard during a TV timeout. But it would’ve been nice, is all I’m saying.
In the meantime, I’ll watch this and pretend that Game Ops couldn’t decide how to trim it down.