When you’ve covered former Boston Bruins winger Phil Kessel in your hockey writing career, you get a feel for the kind of professional athlete he’s been for the balance of it. Kessel was the kind of player that would get hand directions to the weight room from head coach Claude Julien when they bumped into each other in the Bruins dressing room at their old practice facility at Ristuccia Arena. That is to say, he wasn’t exactly a workout warrior during his early Boston Bruins years to the point where his head coach felt like he needed individual directions to the workout area.
That doesn’t even get into the ridiculous hot dog stories that popped up in Toronto during his star-crossed time with the Maple Leafs, or the battles he used to engage in with the Bruins coaching staff about the particular sticks he played with in Boston.
So, this humble hockey writer has long waited to read somebody attempt the “Phil Kessel is in the best shape of his career” story, and now we have it courtesy of the excellent Arizona Coyotes Insider Craig Morgan out in Arizona. Apparently, Phil the Thrill was embarrassed by the terrible season he had with the Coyotes last year and stuck around in Arizona to actually work out hard for perhaps the first time in his NHL career.
“Last season was awful,” admitted Phil Kessel, who had 14 goals and was a minus-21 while looking like he was getting close to the end in 70 games last season. “It couldn’t have been worse for me. I just wasn’t very good, to be honest. I had some injuries (a groin injury was one) but I don’t want to blame those. I didn’t feel good last year, body didn’t feel great, just wasn’t there, bad year.”
Credit to Kessel and the work he’s done as a big factor behind a strong start with three goals and a plus-1 rating in two games for the Coyotes. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to keep up that pace and that’s really where the conditioning is going to come in over the course of a condensed 56-game schedule for a 33-year-old player entering NHL middle age.
Either way, it’s nice to see that Father Time finally forced Kessel to put in the kind of work that most of his other teammates were doing the entire time. Time has a way of humbling all of us.
Now on to the puck links:
*The Boston Bruins have exactly zero even-strength goals in their first two games, both of which went into overtime, and that’s a recurrence of the same problems they have experienced in the last couple of years. History appears to be repeating itself for Boston. (Boston Hockey Now)
*Here’s a nice little tribute to recently retired defenseman Johnny Boychuk from MSG Network’s Shannon Hogan during the first Islanders game action of the season. There’s no overestimating the kind of joy and light-heatedness that Boychuk brought to NHL dressing rooms during his career, not to mention the bar he set for toughness and playing through pain.
*Jason Spezza was on waivers in Toronto with the Maple Leafs as they made some roster maneuvers for the taxi squad. (Toronto Sun)
*NBC did a big piece between the periods about Zdeno Chara’s move to the Washington Capitals and it still feels absolutely weird to see the longtime Boston Bruins captain in a Caps uniform.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) January 17, 2021
*Pretty awesome to see Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle scoring a goal while keeping his iron man streak going after he won a bit of a power struggle with Panthers management. FOH (Friend of Haggs) George Richards has the story from Sunrise. (Florida Hockey Now)
*FOH Frank Seravalli has some bold predictions for the NHL including some predicted landing spots for Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine as he continues to be the subject of trade whispers. (TSN)
*For something completely different: They are making an NBA Jams documentary? Hell yes to that and I want a half-hour dedicated to my go-to combo of Drazen Petrovic and Derrick Coleman. (ComicBook.com)