Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dispelling Myths with Phil Kessel

God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endless traine
Faerie Queen,

Faithful remnant it happened! Phil Kessel has been released from this mortal coil and he has joined the ranks of the immortals! Yes yes, but you know all this. You have lived and breathed (yucky) Phil Kessel for months now and you are just glad that it is done. However, this big splash into the serene Leaf pool has hit us like a big Burkean cannonball off the 5m. Our waters are not still, nor are the waves of our hearts calm. Some are even saying that there is something rotten in the state of Leaftopia. Yes, this disturbing of the deep water of Leafs Nation have brought forth many of the sediments of stupidity that had previously settled to the bottom. Such notions of "overpaying" and "is he worth it" have been swirling around, making it difficult to focus on the pure, beautiful truth of correct opinion.

Luckily, faithful remnant, you have us! Yes, we here at TOV continue our epic quest to rid the world of Foul Errour, much like St George killed that big snaky thing. So we have been keeping our ears to the grindstone and our noses to the grapevines and we have analyzed all of the prevailing arguments regarding this Phil Kessel trade. As is the case with all things Leafs related, it has done more to show the sheer lack of hockey knowledge of our media minstrels and has become a case study for horrible reasoning, ridiculous claims and over-all embarrassing remarks. I think David Niven said it best after a streaker ran through the Oscars--something about taking pride in one's shortcomings. Yeah.

So, we here at TOV have bundled up all of these poorly thought out arguments and "reasons" to dislike the Kessel trade and we shall, one by one, show how they are silly, and hopefully by our methods we equip you, O faithful remnant, with the tools of reason you require to fight back the agents of rational suckitude.

Drink it in, baby!

Argument 1: Two firsts is, like, mortgaging our future

Two first round picks--one in 2010, one in 2010--and a second round pick traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel. A collective groan went out from Leaf nation when it was announced: "Oh no! Not again! The leafs are giving up our future for the present and we are being mismanaged again." Many articles were dug up of horrible, horrible trades where first round picks were given up and then turned into superstars, only to have the player traded for to pinch out the stinkiest part of his career while donning the blue and white. So, yes, this is an argument based on past fact. But lets look under the hood.

Potential erroneous reasoning #1: Keeping picks = planning for the future = good team management. Trading picks = planning only for the selfish present = bad team management.

When you break it down this way it is easy to see the errour. Trading picks does not necessitate a "bad management" label. It's absurd to say "trading picks is always bad." There is no rational reason for you to say it is always bad. It's all about context baby! So for you "trading picks is always bad" I can only say: cmon now. You can't make up your mind when you only hear "first round selection traded for..."

But there are those who say "yeah, I know its all about context. I just think that trading two first round picks--essentially two good players--for a potentially great player is too risky." Ah, now this argument seems to have a bit more weight to it. Phil Kessel, the 36 goal 21 year old ball of risk vs the pieces of paper representing the ability to select unknown players in an unknown context with unknown data about what players are even on the board. I gotcha.

Often the argument goes like this (and, to my horror Bob McCown actually made this argument): "Well, dude, that's like, Schenn, Kadri and Kulemin for Kessel. Dude..."

Wow. Ok. First things first. Schenn = 5th overall. Kadri = 7th overall. 2010 pick = unknown ranking. 2011 pick = unknown ranking. This is equally as absurd and as strawmanish as saying "that's like Belak, Luca Cereda (who? exactly) and...Peter Reynolds for Kessel." Equally as unhelpful.

But to fully show how bad an argument this is, we have to demystify first round picks a bit. Post-lockout there have been many first rounders that have done well for teams--first rounders that have stepped into the lineup and matured as players faster. This is to be expected--athletes are maturing faster these days. Therefore 1st rounders have increased in value. But we forget 2 things: 1. For every great 1st rounder, there are tons who never make it past 50 games and 20 points. Tons.
2. First round picks are highly speculative and extremely sensitive to a whole butterfly-hurricane set of circumstances.

What we know of Kessel:
-dynamic goal scorer
-super young
-on the cusp of coming into his own
-will be 26 and in his prime once his contract is up

Think of what needs to happen for those 2 picks to be better than Kessel. Seriously, think about it. First, the draft has to be deep. Next years draft is supposed to be a big ball of fail. Second, the Leafs need to bomb. Always a potential, but everyone knows the Leafs are better (and therefore lower 1st round selection) with Kessel than without. This makes it even harder for those 1sts to be good. 3rd. The teams picking in front of Boston have crappy scouts. Maybe one or two teams will, but 6 or 8? Cmon now. 4th. Those players then have to pan out (or, more likely, exceed expectations) more so than a 21 year old 36 goal scorer.

Bottom line: it is highly improbable that the Leafs will lose this deal. It could happen, but Boston wasn't all that happy on this trade and mean things (*sniff*) were said about Phil when he left. The most skeptics can say is "we shall see."

So, myth #1 dispelled.

Myth #2: He doesn't have his Center anymore

This argument really makes me mad. It goes like this

1. Kessel scores lots of goals
2. If you pass the puck to a guy and he scores, you get an assist
3. Kessel scores lots of goals from Marc Savard passes
4. Savard isn't on the Leafs, so his passes are subtracted from Kessle's upcoming season
5. Kessel wont score anymore

Fo serious. This is the argument they use. "Marc Savard is a primo-setup man" they say. "We know so because Kessel has scored so many goals." Sigh...

I have yet to read an article of a Bruins fan getting nervous that Savard wont get assists because his trigger man is gone. Why not? Because they know that Savard will just set somebody else up. Fair? Ok. Then this is equally fair: someone else will get assists from setting up Kessel.

You can't win with people who hate the leafs. If you have a dynamic scorer you don't have a set up man. If you say something like "Hagman is a good set up man. I think he'll do well" they will point and say "Hagman a good set up man? But he hasn't got a lot of assists" to which you reply "yeah, we just need a dynamic scorer--you know, someone to finish off plays." "You talking about Kessel? He's only good cuz he had a good setup man."

You see what I'm getting at?

So Leafs nation, set aside your circle arguing ways and ride this tangent-pony: someone will get the puck to Kessel who, as a goal scorer, will score. Then someone can write an article saying "Stajan/Hagman/Grabovski [take your pick] isn't really a good set up man. They just are reaping the benefits of playing with Phil Kessel. Take away Kessel and they are average." Which is akin to saying "oh yeah? Well lock Hagman by himself in a room and see if he can get assist then!" Touche, Leaf hater.

My beloved friends, train your minds to seek out such errours and work diligently to rid them from your lives. You will be healthy, wealthy and true fans for it.


Stefan said...

My thoughts exactly... 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

look at phils pre-nhl stats, dude can score!

Kleric said...

While you do a great job of dispelling the freakin' out at loosing 1st rounders in the draft, I believe you may have minimize their importance just a tad.

Yes, Kessel is the best player being moved in the trade. And Yes, I believe the leafs 'won' the trade for this reason alone. But, as of right now the leafs have a full 0% chance of drafting any decent potential NHL players. (The later rounds generally do not crack the NHL. Yes there exceptions, but overal most do not make it.)

While I agree that the likelyhood of these draft picks being as good as Kessel is slim, it at least needs to be acknowledged that loosing these draft picks stunts the long term depth of the team.

This is what is bothersome about the trade.

As far as the set-up man thing goes, you are bang on. Personally, I don't see why people aren't looking at Stajan (for example) saying he got 40 assists passing to who? Blake? Poni? Stepniak? If he got 40 assists passing to good shooters. What numbers could he put up passing to a sniper?

Just a thought.

Great article as always.

Blake still nees to be traded. ;)

Matthew said...

Phil has been a highly touted sniper since he was just a kid, he didnt have Marc Savard then. Check out his goal against sweden in the WJC on youtube. It is absolutley DIRTY! I didnt see Marc Savard setting that one up either.... Matt Stajan has the most to gain with the Kessel signing, it could really cement him as a solid playmaking centre.

GBDonaldson said...

My guess is that we will have a first for the 2011 draft via trade (eventually). This draft was the sacrifice since it is shaping up to be a weaker class.

kidkawartha said...

You could argue that Kessel is worth 5 first round picks, because the likelihood of a random first-rounder making it into an long and productive NHL career is certainly no lock. All speculation.
Now we all have to do is recover two of those 3 picks through trade, and make sure Boston picks no higher than say, 18th, and we're golden.

Graham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GBDonaldson said...

Well, when you add more picks, the context changes and you would need to re-asses. 2x1sts is ok by me. 3, not so much.

GBDonaldson said...

(shoot. I'm not deleting comments. I just forgot to login when I wrote that last one)

Kleric said...

Just curious here. Who are the player(s) who can be flipped for a 1st rounder which are expendable?

MVR is questionable since the slightest wind appears to paralyze him.

Jeff Finger I doubt will fetch this on his own.

Ian White minus his Moustache of Victory will likely not fetch this either?

So who do we all think is worth the mystery 1st rounder to replenish what was lost in the Kessel trade.

Remember, Antropov only fetched a mid second round pick.

GBDonaldson said...


Anonymous said...

I doubt we'll be able to get a first rounder for the players we have to offer. That being said, I think quite a few of them can be packaged for some early second round picks.