The Old Debate: Tyler Seguin or Phil Kessel?

Tyler Seguin or Phil Kessel?

Ask that question at any self-respecting sports bar in Toronto and order a few more rounds, ‘cause guess what. You’re in for a long night.

Although, it is of my belief, that no amount of beverages in the world could provide any hockey fan with the true clarity needed to distinguish the victor in the trade that sent Kessel from Boston to Toronto and a couple draft picks the other way. That’s because I honestly think two great hockey minds came to a dead even deal.

It was back in September of 2009 when general managers Brian Burke and Peter Chiarelli got together and finalized a trade that sent a young winger, Phil Kessel, from Chiarelli’s Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In exchange Burke relinquished two first round picks─from 2010 and 2011─and a second rounder, which Boston used to select Seguin (second in 2010), defenseman Dougie Hamilton (ninth in 2011) and forward Jared Knight (32nd in 2010).

Although Hamilton and Knight have yet to make their big league debuts, Seguin has already made quite a splash during his first two seasons, sparking the perpetual debate about who got the better of one another in the trade. However, to settle my argument of equality I believe you first have to travel back in time to 2009 and address one thing: circumstance.

The Bruins won the Eastern Conference in 2009. They finished with 116 points, 35 more than the Leafs. Needless to say, Boston had a pretty good squad and was in a position to sell some of their assets. The perennial basement dweller Leafs and their new GM were looking for some young core talent. So late in the off-season, the trade was made.

Now, critics of the trade believe that Toronto gave up too much to acquire Kessel. My argument here is simple. That was the price for Kessel and there’s no way around it. Burke agreed on the offer and so far it has paid off quite nicely.

Since coming to Toronto, Kessel has three straight 30+ goal seasons and has bettered his point totals every year. It’s not like he’s an old man, either; the dude just turned 25 earlier this month. He has been the main ingredient in the re-structuring of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a bona fide lethal scoring threat that has manufactured offense besides the fact that he’s been surrounded by mediocrity.

Although Kessel’s presence has yet to influence his team’s overall standing in the East, his arrival has provided a glimmer of hope to a fan base desperate for something to be proud of.

Last year, Kessel was a point-a-game player, finishing with a personal best 82. He also collected 45 assists, only the second time in his career he finished with more helpers than goals. You know what that means? When he’s playing with a couple of other guys who can score, Phil can dish the puck as well.

Basically the guy is pretty good at hockey and so if Seguin didn’t look like the second coming of Ron Francis we wouldn’t even be having this argument. Except that Seguin is also good at hockey and he’s just 20 years old.

In Seguin won the Stanley Cup on his first try in 2011. Last season he led the Bruins in scoring with 67 points and also went plus-34. He’s also only 20, so it’s understandable that people are a little ticked off he’s not wearing blue and white.

Let me ask you this, though: would Tyler Seguin have led the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup in his first season in Toronto? That’s almost laughable. Could he have been a +34 player on last year’s Leaf team? Unless he’s also a magician, I strongly doubt it.

Seguin inherited a pretty good team, so naturally his accomplishments thus far may be a tad inflated, yet he could very well finish with 100 points the next time they decide to play hockey. I think that’s what people find so intriguing about Seguin: his unknown potential.

That’s exactly what I believe it boils down to potential versus importance. Kessel is obviously invaluable to the Leafs─he’s led the team in goals every season since being traded─while Seguin has already shown the qualities and ability to be one of the league’s top all-around players. As of 2012, I don’t think you can make a stronger case for either side.

Each team received a young talented hockey player. One (Kessel) is a step ahead at the moment and another who’s primed to break out on one of the best teams in the NHL. How Hamilton and Knight progress could clearly sway the deal one way down the road, but as of today I see it as two fantastic hockey players involved in a genuinely great trade.

Tyler or Phil? Can I just have them both?

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