Yeah i saw it just like everyone else but i did not like it one bit. Of course I'm talking about the 2011 NHL Fantasy Draft in Raleigh. Don't get me wrong i loved the new format with the draft and all and i also enjoyed the skills competition and the all star game but the Fantasy draft really annoyed me. If you didn't watch Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs, my favourite player from my favourite team, was picked last but that was only part of it. He and Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche were the last two remaining in the Fantasy draft and you could see Kessel was a bit nervous.
This is were one thing happened that really irked me. Eric Staal's team had the next pick and Staal announced the selection: "Since there's no hockey market in Toronto, we're going to take Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche. I understand the all star game is suppose to be "fun" and i have absolutely no problem with that, in fact i enjoyed the fun atmosphere around the all star game. My problem is with Eric Staal announced his selection. He could have simply said "with our final pick we take Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche, sorry phil" and at the same time give Kessel a friendly smile. That would have been so much simpler and the fun would have been still there. Why in the world would Eric, a Thunder Bay Ontario boy use that opportunity to take a jab at the greatest hockey market in the world and a jab at down-to-earth, shy, but deadly goal scorer in Phil Kessel, even if it was in a joking matter? There was absolutely no need for that and I don't think he cares and I don't care if he does but Eric Staal lost a lot of respect from me for that remark.
Now on to another thing that pissed me off. Ironically enough this time it was the other captain, Lidstrom, who i had a ton of respect for and still do but my respect for him diminished a bit. The problem i had with Lidstrom was how he handled the whole "last pick situation". James Duthie from TSN, who was a great, great host by the way, asked Lidstrom at least 5 times to make the selection of Phil Kessel, "the last pick". If you saw it live or if you watch the video on youtube ( *i will post a link) you can see Lidstrom does not budge whatsoever! He does not move! He has no interest in picking Phil Kessel. After James Duthie finished asking Lidstrom for the 5th time, Lidstrom simply said "ok" and did not budge to the Mic. Instead Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks made the selection. Lidstrom hung Kessel out to dry. Totally unacceptable. A real classless move by a once classy player in my opinion. Props to Kessel who handled the whole situation extremely well. He had a smile on face the entire time but no one except for Phil himself knows what he really was thinking on the inside. I loved the new format of the Fantasy draft for the all star game. I thought it was a great idea and should definitely be continued in years to come but they really need to change the format of "last pick(s) for future games so players don't get hung out to dry like poor Phil did.
So now what does this mean for Phil from here on in? He has got to realize that everything that happened to him at the Fantasy Draft in Carolina has a deeper meaning to it. He has got to realize that the league and the players around it have a "hate" for the Maple Leafs Franchise and anyone that plays for them, so that includes Phil himself. Fact is that both the Maple Leafs and Kessel have to start getting better before they get any respect in this league. For the Leafs and Brian Burke, they have to realize that building through the draft is success formula for gaining respect around the league. Trading away draft picks will never help you win, it rarely does. All the successful franchises today, The Penguins, the Capitals, the Red Wings have built through the draft. As for Phil himself he needs to start becoming a less predictable player and a more dynamic player. He needs to make the team and the players around him better. How can he do this? Focus on the defensive aspect of his game. You could see it at all star game. This was Phil Kessel's type of game, all offense, no defense, but correct me if I'm wrong Phil Kessel did not register a single point. A reason for this is because Kessel just doesn't play defense. He sort of plays like me (no wonder hes my favourite player!) when i partake in sports. He just waits in the defensive zone, just standing there, waiting for a pass instead of going to where the puck is and aggressively taking it out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone. Imagine if Kessel focused on his defensive game as much as he focused on his offensive game. He would be more of an unstoppable player then he is currently. Phil Kessel playing defense would also help the Toronto Maple Leafs a ton 1) it would give them a greater chance of clearing the puck during times of an offensive onslaught by the other team (far too many seen in recent years) 2) it would help create chances for the Leafs and Phil Kessel himself. Think of it this way, if Kessel plays defense and strips the puck he can easily take it the other way with the speed he has and turn the play into a odd-man scoring chance for the Maple Leafs. So i guess you could say there is a third thing: 3) Creates more opportunity for Phil Kessel=more goals=more points= maple leafs winning=maple leafs in the playoffs=happy Leafs fans =).
Sure it's easy for me to sit here and say how Kessel needs to improve. I'm not the one playing in the tough NHL everyday, but he is my favourite player and i want him to be the best he can be. After all, he is only 23 years of age so there is lots of time for improvements for both Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Feel free to comment, hope you enjoyed my post
*Here the Lidstrom link i was talking about earlier (from 0:35-0:50)