Archive for March 12th, 2012

Philling the defensive void

- March 12th, 2012

SUNRISE, Fla. – Say this for Randy Carlyle: he is being very patient with Phil Kessel, especially on the defensive end.

Kessel has received some heat over the airwaves in the past week for his sometimes sloppy defensive play, especially after his failure to get the puck deep led to a Pittsburgh goal during the Penguins’ come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Carlyle’s Leafs last Wednesday at the Consol Energy Center.

But if you expected Carlyle to react with a bombastic “in-your-face” tirade, well, that’s not the path the new Leafs coach has opted to take.

During subsequent practices, Carlyle has taken the time to be very patient with his high-priced sniper, choosing to go the teaching route rather than tearing a strip off the 30-plus goal scorer by yelling at him.

Will it work?

Let’s be honest here. Kessel will never be among the frontrunners to win the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler have nothing to worry about on that front.

At the same time, Carlyle knows scoring goals is Kessel’s forte, not preventing them. If he can at least tweak Kessel’s game by getting the smooth skating winger to limit some of those ugly turnovers he often is prone to, it will be a positive step moving forward for the Maple Leafs.