There’s something bothering Phil Kessel, and the last thing the Toronto Maple Leafs want to do is let the world in on the secret.
Kessel was on fire in October, looking more explosive than ever as he recorded 18 points in 14 games to go along with a plus-seven rating. However, since the calendar flipped to November, Kessel has struggled, only managing to produce three goals with zero assists in eight games and a minus-three rating.
Earlier in the week, it was revealed that Kessel was battling the flu, as he was told to stay home and skip practice with the team preparing to play the next day. Kessel suited up for the game the following day and lead the Maple Leafs to a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders with two goals. Despite the two-goal effort, Kessel didn’t appear to be a 100 percent, as his mouth hung open at times as if he was struggling to properly breathe through his nose.
The other issue plaguing Kessel is the mysterious tape around his wrist that has popped up after the back-to-back series with the Buffalo Sabres. It’s unclear if something happened against Buffalo to cause a wrist injury, because when Kessel has been asked about the tape, he’s denied talking about it.
Regardless of what is bothering Kessel, there’s no doubt that something is wrong with the talented sniper. He’s played under 16 minutes in Toronto’s past three games, and it’s the first time he’s played such few minutes in consecutive games in his Maple Leaf career. For a player who normally plays close to 20 minutes a game, coach Randy Carlyle wouldn’t be leaving him on the bench if he didn’t know something was ailing his superstar winger, especially considering how shorthanded the team has been lately. With injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland, along with Nazem Kadri having recently served a three-game suspension, it’d be expected that a coach would lean on his best player to play more minutes, not reduce his ice time.
No coach in the NHL would limit his best player’s minutes when the team was already without their top three centers. Something is definitely wrong with Kessel, and instead of talking about it, the Maple Leafs are hoping to brush the situation under the rug and hope he gets better before anybody figures out what is really going on.