Cornwall - Oct. 30, 2011 - Ten days ago, I wrote a column with a tongue-in-cheek headline called Kessel on pace to put up Gretzky-like numbers. I projected Kessel’s start over the first five games across a whole season but was quick to state that we all know it is unlikely to that he will keep that pace.
The column generated a lot of interest. Three hockey writers from well-read sports sites commented on how crazy I was. Greg Wyshynski, Editor of Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy called me hyperbolic on Twitter and sighed at my headline. Brian Stubits of CBS Sports was also cheeky when he wrote about us Leaf fans. Daniel Wagner of The Score referred to me as overenthusiastic about the early season scoring streak.
I have always been a regular reader of Wyshynski and now I will add Stubits and Wagner to my bookmark list. Admittedly, those of us who are members of Leafs Nation are starved for something to be excited about. It has been a lot of miserable years and you can’t blame us for enjoying this start…at least a little.
Kessel’s next five games saw a slower pace, but he still registered another six points. Today, he leads the NHL in scoring with ten goals and 18 points over the first ten games. Projected out over 82 games, this would leave Kessel with 82 goals, 66 assists for 148 points. While these numbers are no longer “Gretzky-like”, they would be the highest for an Art Ross winner since Mario Lemieux posted 161 points in the 1995-96 campaign.
If he could keep his goal-a-game pace, his 82 goals would rank him 5th all time behind Wayne Gretzky (81-82, 83-84), Brett Hull (90-91) and Lemieux (88-89). After last night’s game we are 12% of the way through the Regular Season. Again, I don’t think Kessel will notch 82 goals, but I do believe that he has a legitimate shot at 50 plus.
Kessel’s previous career high goal total was 36 in 2008-09 as a member of the Boston Bruins. Last season, he registered his highest point total of 64 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. If he can stay healthy, he is on pace for a career year. How are Tyler Seguin’s numbers looking?
In my last column, I had hoped that the Leafs could play .500 hockey in a stretch that saw them play Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh. The Buds picked up six out of a possible ten points and now sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-2-1 record. They have three games in hand on the Conference leading Penguins.
Tonight the Leafs travel to Ottawa to take on the Sens in the Battle of Ontario. They are in New Jersey on Wednesday and travel to Columbus on Thursday. Next Saturday they host the Boston Bruins and on the following Tuesday they host the Florida Panthers. I don’t see any reason why the Leafs can’t go .500 for the next five games and that would leave them with 20 points after 15 games. Time will tell.