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blog-0887456001345415824.jpgAugust 19th 2012 – It can happen to any professional sports team, for one reason or the other a star player wants out of the city whether it is because of the team’s issues or personal ones it is one of the most common things to happen in professional sports. Enter the Toronto Maple Leafs, long cited as one of hockey’s most storied franchises seems to have trouble acquiring and hanging onto star players. When you scan over the roster for the upcoming (hopefully) 2012/13 season we see one true star on the team and that is Phil Kessel, he has developed his offensive and defensive game every season he’s played in the blue and white to the point where he finished 6th in league scoring with 37 goals and 82 points in 82 games. Of course Phil Kessel was not drafted by the Leafs, he was acquired from Boston in the now infamous deal that sent away a 2nd and 9th overall pick and a 2nd rounder. For this reason Kessel will forever be linked to Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton and remember none of this was Kessel’s choice. He has never been pegged as a player you can build a team around but that seems to be the expectation in Toronto, which naturally leads Leaf fans to be disappointed in him when Toronto doesn’t make the playoffs come April.

But is it fair to blame Kessel? He never asked to be the guy chosen to reverse the misfortune of a once great franchise and up until this past season he didn’t have any support. Toronto has never been known as a team that drafts well and since being the only team post lockout to not make the playoffs they have become one of the first places potential free agents pass over for more competitive teams. You can’t blame a player for wanting to play on a team where he has a chance to win and not be in the eye of the media constantly. Toronto is defiantly not an attractive destination for free agents and if they can’t buy a star they better be able to produce one, but as we all know they have one of the worst draft records post lockout. Remember back in 2008 when Luke Schenn was picked 5th and immediately compared to Adam Foote and hailed as a potential Norris trophy winner one day? And after making the team his first camp those believers in him only grew. 4 years later and Schenn is now a Flyer. Nazem Kadri was taken 7th overall ahead of the likes of Zack Kassian, Chris Kreider, Ryan Ellis and Dimitri Kulikov. When Kadri was drafted he was touted as a first line talent, 3 years later and he has played 51 games putting up 19 points and while there is still time for him to develop Leaf fans are quickly seeing he is not going to be as good as once hoped.

So if Toronto can’t draft a star, or lure one to the city via free agency it seems smart to try and hold onto the only one they have. Sure Phil Kessel is soft and defensive game isn’t the best but that wasn’t why he was acquired. He was acquired to produce offensively and he has done that every season he has worn the blue and white. Kessel has 2 more years left on his contract and if Toronto isn’t a competitive team by then I wouldn’t blame him for leaving the team. Anything and everything is expected of Kessel in Toronto and it seems no matter what there is the media there to get on his back when he has gone 2 games without a goal. Toronto is going to have to figure out a way to turn the franchise around and I doubt they will find the answers as long as Brian Burke is GM but the clock is ticking, two years and their only star player could be headed out of town. The only question is could you blame him if he did?

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