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I'm Into Kessel Y'All

Bruce Bennett

There's a lot to love about Phil Kessel.

I know things ended sourly in Boston, but I think by now we've moved on, right? I mean, look at that face, how could you hate it?

On the surface, Phil Kessel doesn't exactly scream elite athlete, but he is. Looking more like a fan than a sniper, he's emerged as one of the NHL's premier scoring threats through a combination of speed and shooting prowess. Since joining the Leafs, he's fifth in the league in goals.

But it's not like he wasn't scoring goals in Boston. His ascension to the top of NHL scoring began on Marc Savard's wing.

Phil Kessel was so awesome here that he even had his own NESN commercial.

I still finding myself singing that one.

My affection for Kessel goes beyond his on-ice exploits though. Though maligned by Toronto media for his quiet demeanor (and being ANTI COACH), he's still pretty funny.

Here he is laughing along with being picked last at the All Star Game. No sour grapes for this man.

And here Phil is providing us with one of the few bright spots from this past season's edition of 24/7:

Whether it's laughing with him or at him is up to you. Either way, he's FUN. He's PHIL.

It's not all fun and games for me, though. I've shared my story here and the past so it probably goes without saying that I have a certain level of appreciation for all Phil Kessel's been able to overcome.

Four months after signing his first pro deal with Boston he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent treatment and returned to the Bruins, missing only 11 games. Incredible.

Steve's completely right. There's so much to Phil Kessel that sometimes we forget this fact.

He's the best thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs today and a true American. Also he did this:

If I had to suggest one fault with Phil the Thrill, it's probably his friendship with Tyler Bozak. It's not that Bozak is a bad guy by any means, but I have to imagine "chemistry" is a factor in the decision to make him the Leafs' number one center because it's certainly not the results.

Away from Bozak, Kessel sees more shot attempts for and less against - about a full attempt more for and nearly two attempts against less per 20 minutes of 5v5 play. The conclusion to be drawn from that is away from Bozak, Kessel spends more time on offense, which is when he's most fun obviously.

Somehow, playing with the Leafs' best and third best (James Van Riemsdyk) goal scorer, Bozak is eighth in points on the Leafs per 60 minutes, well behind his linemates and others.

You'd think the Leafs would try to put their best talent together but thinking hasn't been the Leafs' strong suit in recent years. Granted, some of those Summer front office hires could change things, but for now, Bozak continues to hold Kessel back and it's a shame.