The end of the 2014-15 NHL season was anything but sunshine and roses for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs went from being in a playoff position before the new year to winning just nine of 44 games over the final four months of the season. They plummeted to the fourth-worst in the standings. The team’s stars were bound to come under fire with a winning percentage like that poor and right winger Phil Kessel was front and centre.
Kessel, one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers, found the back of the net just seven times from January to April. He ended the season with 25 goals, his worst total over a full 82-game season as a Leaf. Kessel, the fifth overall pick in 2005, wound up being unceremoniously shipped out of town in July. He was dealt to Pittsburgh with defenseman Tim Erixon, right winger Tyler Biggs and a second-round pick for right winger Kasperi Kapanen, defenseman Scott Harrington, center Nick Spaling and first- and third-round selections. The Leafs even had to retain salary to make the deal. Kessel made his return to Toronto on Saturday and the reception was more cold than warm.
But for as badly as his sixth – and final – season as a Leaf came to an end, it’s easy to forget that Kessel posted some pretty good numbers wearing blue and white. Here are his best three statistical campaigns:
3. 2013-14 – 37 goals and 80 points Kessel tied his career high with 37 goals as the Leafs attempted to return to playoffs after getting in during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Kessel’s offence had the Leafs primed to do so, but winning two of their last 14 games ruined those chances. 2. 2011-12 – 37 goals and 82 points In his third season following the much discussed trade from Boston, Kessel notched 37 goals and 82 points – both personal bests. It was all for naught. The Leafs finished with a 35-37-10 record, third-worst in the Eastern Conference and 12 points shy of the last playoff spot. 1. 2012-13 – 20 goals and 52 points in lockout-shortened season (extrapolated to 34 goals and 89 points) Kessel’s best offensive season came over the condensed 48-game campaign. He was on pace to set a career high points. He also led the Leafs to their first playoff appearance since 2003-04.