When rumours first surfaced that the Leafs were interested in Phil Kessel there seemed to be three big concerns:
- Would the Leafs overpay (Kaberle and Kadri);
- Was Kessel's above average goal production the result of playing with Marc Savard; and
- Was his shooting percentage sustainable?
The charge that Savard was the catalyst for much of Kessel's production was pretty much dismissed when Kessel potted 10 goals in his first fifteen games. A comprehensive video review of each and every one of Kessel's 2008-09 goals by Arhimedies over at Leafs Blog Pension Plan Puppets also punched a pretty big hole in any suggestion that Kessel was dependent on Savard.
The third concern, unfortunately, has emerged as a real issue at the half-way point of Kessel's first season with the Leafs.
In Kessel's breakout year in Boston, when he notched 36 goals (pro-rated 42G/82GP), his shooting percentage was 15.5% and his goals scored per 60 minutes was a very impressive 1.97. On average, he directed 3.1 shots per game at the opponent's net, and hit the net 71% of the time.
In his first 38 games in Toronto (small sample, I know) Kessel's on pace for 28 goals (pro-rated 32G/82GP) his shooting percentage is 8.7% and his goals scored per 60 minutes is down to 1.2. On average, he's directed 4.5 shots per game at the opponent's net, and he's hitting the net 68% of the time.
Also of note: Kessel is averaging 3 minutes more ice time per game in Toronto, yet his production has declined.
Or cleaned up in and put in a boring old chart, it looks like this:
|Shots on Goal||154||117|
There are many possible explanations for Kessel's numbers in Toronto to be trending down:
- His teammates aren't getting him the puck in prime scoring areas like Savard may have;
- The lack of depth among the Leafs forwards means teams can key in on and defend Kessel;
- His production on the power play has always been minimal. He's averaging 3:37 a night on the PP, that's 1:10 more perr game than he played in Boston and that extra minute is entirely non-productive ice-time;
- He missed the first 11 games of the season recovering from off-season shoulder surgery;
- Some combination of the top 4 plus others than I'm not clever enough to think of.
One way to get Kessel jump started might be to re-allocate his ice-time.
Kessel is so unproductive on the PP it seems to me he should skip the PP and take extra shifts at evens (or at least move to PP2).
**Based on a couple of emails this post generated, let me be clear here: I am not questioning Kessel or saying he's a problem or part of a problem. I honestly find these stats interesting, I was genuinely surprised when I pulled the numbers this afternoon. I really hope he puts up huge numbers in the remaining 32 games of the season and well into the future.**