Well, I've had a number of people pestering me to weigh in on the Kessel trade since I've been pretty mum about it (on the blog at least) and so here goes. I think Kessel is a very good player and there is a part of me that is excited for him to be a Leaf. However, I don't think that he's "two firsts and a second" good and I admit that I'm a bit choked with Burke over this trade. What Burke is banking on is that the Leafs are going to do far better this year and next year (which they very well may) and thus those two first rounders will be late draft choices. However, as much as I think the Leafs will be a better team this year (and if the pre-season is any indication, they will!), will they be a top ten team? I highly doubt it. Thus, I think Burke has traded away a big chunk of the future in order to get an injury-prone forward who won't play until November and who has been known to disappear when the pressure is on. And in the NHL, the Toronto hockey market is the definition of pressure. This move screams "we're going to make the playoffs come hell or high water" and, to me, contradicts all of his talk about the slow building of the team and thinking long-term rather than short-term. However, I hope Kessel proves me wrong and I'll be pulling for him, even if I am not a big fan of the trade.
On the opposite side of the coin, I think it was wise of Burke/Wilson to send Nazem Kadri back to junior for more experience, ice time, and strengthening. He had a great camp and his future in Toronto looks bright (provided they don't trade him away). He's wily, quick, has great hands, is a fantastic skater, and has some pretty sweet moves (based on his shootout goal against Pittsburgh). I look forward to seeing him up with the big club in the next couple of years!
As for what this season holds, it's tough to tell. The Leafs had a great pre-season, The Monster and Toskala both looked good, and even thinking about the defensive corps gives me bruises! The question mark is going to be whether we're going to be able to fill the net or not. The addition of Kessel should help that, but is there any guarantee that he's going to stay healthy?
Some predictions: Will the Leafs make the playoffs? Yes. Will they be the eighth seed? No. Will Phil Kessel stay healthy? No. Will the Leafs spend a lot of time in the penalty box? Heck yes.
I'm looking forward to the season opener against the Habs tonight...