The Lid Comes Off Phil Kessel Situation
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The Lid Comes Off Phil Kessel Situation



By Michael Miller [CC BY-SA 4.0

It is perhaps an unprecedented situation across sports. Some athletes earn immunity from criticism over years of success or community service, but no athlete in recent memory has elicited such fervent protection from fans as Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Not only is Kessel above criticism to many, reporting news regarding Kessel invites intense criticism of the reports.

This week the lid was blown off the situation and social media nearly melted.

The first report of organizational unhappiness with Kessel was courtesy of Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Matt Gajtka, on May 10. Gajtka reported decision makers in the Penguins organization felt let down by Kessel, whom they believed prioritized his consecutive games streak over the team. Read the full, original report here.

The social media blowback was stiff and immediate. PHN and Gajtka were accused by dozens (and dozens) of responders of “trying to run Phil out of Pittsburgh like the media did in Toronto,” of having an agenda, or of making it up.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

On May 23, the second report dropped. This time courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook. Cook reported the same negative sentiments from inside the organization and received a hurricane level pushback from Penguins fans (and some professional media). Here is Cook’s column.

The lid was blown off the situation the following day. The third and final report came via Penguins radio flagship WXDX talk show host Mark Madden, on his radio show. Madden expounded on the Penguins decision maker’s disappointment with Kessel and reported that both sides may welcome a trade. Not one to back down, Madden steered into the skid.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now will continue working on the story, including seeking comment from all involved. However, one thing should be clear to fans, this is a real and unfolding story which could have huge ramifications.


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  1. Ricardo58

    May 26, 2018 at 9:16 am

    How would 81 excel with the Oiler’s? 81 could lessen the load for Draisaitl’s line and the d-man such as Larsson or someone similar in return. I know of the connection with Tocchet, but Az is in rebuild phase and 81’s age may be a hinderance.
    Also could this be a ruse where the Pens mgt team is trying to light a fire under 81 with all of the trade and disappointment talk leaked through the media. I don’t think 81’s personality would respond well to this type of motivation.
    Well it does keep the offseason interesting. Go Pens!


    May 26, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Never let the fan base dictate moves for the team that is how you end up like the Toronto Maple Leafs and not win a cup in 51 years and counting.Back in the day the Leafs fan loved Tie Domi and was never as high on Mats Sudin, they drove Larry Murphy to the airport so he could win 2 straight cups with Wings. They rode Hal gil out on a rail to help the Pens win the 2009 cup.

    For some strange reason the joke of Phil being a two time cup champ has turned him into a folk hero, yet kris Letang’s three cups has earned him no respect, nor has Matt Murray and his tow cups. I hear more hate for #87 than for Phil on the hockey futures board ,there is a slew of hate for Sid every time Kessel is questioned.

    I have been a Pen’s fan for 35 years her in Canada thousand of miles away and i have never seen a more illogical fan base that in Pitt.The greattest team of the expansion era with the most cups in the last 27 years with the most scoring champs.

    Stop trying to run out the builders of your great team out of town. I remember the Bylsma era and i read many comments at the end where many expressed that they hope Dan and The Pens did not win so he could be fired. So in essence they did not want to win the cup so a new coach could come in and win the cup–HUH? Remember when Botteril went to Buffalo and fans were saying replace Jim with Jason–so in effect dump your two time winning cup GM for a rookie GM who may help you win the cup—HUH? Then you would hear all the stuff Jason did behind the scences from fan who had no idea of what happens behind the scences.

    Phil Kessel is good scorer who does not back check or even bump on the boards yet fans wanted him to win the 2016 playoff mvp even though Crosby and Malkin did all the heavy lifting so he coild score on the third line.The reason why HBK worked the first cup Is it started out as a second line with Geno hurt and Kessel bought in, it has not worked since because he refuses to buy in. Any player is tradeable on the team except for Crosy and Malkin. Do what is best for the team not for a Player who was driven out of T.O and Boston not to mention is not wanted by the national team anymore. It can’t be every coach and GM everywhere he goes.

    To ensd Phil Kessel is not a national hero he is a comic mascot so stop buying in to all the silly memems and phrases and look at things with an objective eye.

    • Mahesvara

      May 27, 2018 at 1:08 am

      This is completely ridiculous. You call fans defending Kessel “illogical” when it is clear people disparaging him and trying to run him out of town are the illogical ones and ignoring how great and valuable a player he is. Since Kessel came to the Pens he was been a key piece in winning back to back Cups including leading the Pens in playoff scoring in 16 and being behind only Sid and Geno in 17. People seem to forget that during the first half of this season when the team was struggling it was Phil that picked up the slack and was the Pens’ best player. He even finished with a career best 92 points which was second best on the team! People taking one poor playoff performance, despite all the great things he has done for the Pens, and using it as grounds to drive him away are stupid, plain and simple.

      • Dan Kingerski

        May 27, 2018 at 9:28 am

        I can assure everyone, no one is trying to run Kessel out of town except perhaps some in the Penguins organization, which if you read the stories, is from where the information came.

  3. Roger

    May 26, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    85% of thses “media” columnist are morons. I’d belive trump over madden. There us a reason why these people work for media. THEY HAVE NO SKILLS.

    • Dan Kingerski

      May 26, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      That’s how I got into radio. I flunked out of tollbooth school.

  4. Robert

    May 26, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    I like Phil as the underdog that was maligned in Toronto. I’m glad he won 2 cups. If it’s true he played through injury to keep a personal and meaningless streak alive, that’s just not okay. If he’s outworn his welcome with the team and the team wants to trade him, I’m okay with that too. It’s a team sport, after all.

    PS: Dan, nice reply to one of the most ignorant comments I’ve ever read (and that’s saying something, lol).

  5. Rob

    May 27, 2018 at 9:59 am

    To say the pens defeat this year in playoffs is all on Phil is ludicris. Not resigning Bonino for 4 mil and then renting Brassard for 6 mil might have more to do with it than anything. A lack of puck control, timely saves, commitment to assignment and shot blocking would have all changed game outcomes. Losing 25% of team from past 2 yrs, Fluery being probably biggest, is also huge. As they say everything changes. This year Pens ended up on short end of stick.

    • Zane

      May 27, 2018 at 11:41 pm

      Brassard only costs us 3 million. His contract is for 5 but vegas covers 40% the remainder of the deal. I dont think a single GM in the league would pay more for Bonino than brassard.

  6. John

    May 27, 2018 at 11:42 pm

    I think Kessel & Letang will be traded. Both 30+ years of age and that’s big $ off the books. Kessel was brought to the PENS to score goals and lift them over the top to capture a Stanley Cup. He helped the PENS win 2 Cups. Kessel’s streak probably another reason to trade him. You might remember Cal Ripken Jr. long streak with the Orioles. Popular long-time players hold teams hostage because a Coach or Manager doesn’t want to be the 1 in charge to break the streak. Usually, the player and team doesn’t have as good a season. This will be a friction type 2018-2019 season if Kessel doesn’t want to rest but Sullivan wants him to sit. Trading Kessel alleviates PENS from this distraction.

  7. Brian

    May 29, 2018 at 10:47 am

    They probably want to trade Kessel but will never get good enough return. Sam goes for those calling for a Letang trade. The fan reaction is really shocking though. I’m a little disappointed in my fellow Pens fans

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