Author Topic: So, about Phil Kessel...  (Read 45706 times)

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Online CarltonTheBear

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So, about Phil Kessel...
« on: March 27, 2015, 09:48:29 AM »
It's been almost 24 hours since we've all argued about Phil Kessel, so I figured I'd throw some more wood into the fire (and actually have the discussion in a proper thread for a change :))).

Darryl Belfry posted some very interesting thoughts on Kessel this morning. For those of you who don't know, Belfry is one of the most well-known performance coaches in the league. His camp, Pro Playmakers, has worked with Crosby, MacKinnon, Kane, Tavares, Duchene, and even David Clarkson! Full disclosure, he was also hired by the Leafs as a Skill Development Consultant in December. You could consider him biased if you'd like, but he breaks down and discusses loads of NHL-related stuff on his twitter account so it's not like the Leafs have a muzzle on him. His handle is @belfryhockey for anyone wishing to follow him. Anyway, this is what he said about Kessel:

Quote
The sustained losing phenomenon I find as fascinating as sustained winning. I meant to post this when TOR81 was embattled with the Toronto media with respect to challenges to his/and the teams collective perception of a lack of effort/work ethic.

As sustained losing elongates through the season the effect on your top players is most fascinating. If you take a player like TOR81, who is among the elite snipers of his class and has made a living scoring goals because of perfect reads of the timing of the pass and when to engage his blistering speed down the right side and snapping a rocket instride ... what happens to him when the team struggles is fascinating.

The fascinating part is his compensations to get the puck. When you are in sustained losing, your team has the puck significantly less than when you are winning, same with chains of successful passes and sustained individual possession times. A skilled scorer like TOR81 goes shift after shift defending in his own end and not getting the puck at all. The coaches are exploring him to play with more structure, the fans want to see him chase down loose pucks or force turnovers, but his instinct is manufacture a chance in direct alignment with his instinct and asset base. He reads the game from a different perspective. However, when the team is in prolonged losing, the collective trust and confidence of the group bottoms out and the game all of a sudden feels faster and the plays are now rushed, the checking feels suffocating and the little passes that came so easy are now nearly impossible.

What does TOR81 do? Rather what should he do? Should he play with more structure and patiently await a chance to occur from a defensive posture? Does he chase some pucks down and look to force a turnover? Does he default to his instincts?

TOR81 tries desperately to default to his instincts, so he reads the game for chances to time a rush, but the collective group isn't capable - so pucks go off the glass, passes get lost & pucks get turned over. So now as he defaults to his instinct he misses chances to jump because he loses trust the puck is coming, so he hesitates and the chance is lost.

When the shift is over, he realizes that all he did was defend in his own end - or worse stand around waiting for a chance to jump that never came, and the chances he did have, he missed because he doesn't trust that the puck will get to him. In the back of his mind he hears whispers of staying instide the team structure, so now he worries if he jumps and doesn't get the puck he has blown the zone early.

What does he do? He must stay disciplined to executing the right play regardless of result. To feel the game from his instintual perspective. If he doesn't do that, he falls out of habit, loses his timing and further detaches himself from his habit base.

The inner conflict is fascinating as these players navigate their way through sustained losing, their character is actually revealed in their stubborness of their habit base. Therein lies the disconnect and why he is exacerbated when his work ethic is called into question. From the press box all you see is a player floating around ... from the bench, you see a guy distracted from his defensive responsibilities, but from the eyes of the player, you see over concentration and hesitations that manifests into frustration.

This is why players like TOR81 are at odds, he isn't the type of player who drives offense on his own, he specializes in timing which is dependent on certain recurring reads ... that have all of a sudden become less recurring.

For players lower on the depth chart, none of this really applies, they don't have to adjust their game in any way, but for an elite goal scorer - who relies on reading off others, this is one of the more fascinating studies of mental toughness and the number of variations that toughness is interpreted... depending on perspective and understanding.

For TOR81, I'm certain he can articulate all of this much more eloquently and with greater detail than I, but his willingness ... well that comes back to trust.

Now, I'm not excusing Kessel's play over the past couple of months, I just think that this provides a bit of insight into how a player like Phil thinks and sees the game when he's playing in this type of situation, and why in general it's difficult to properly assess/judge players (star players in particular) in a losing environment.

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So, about Phil Kessel...
« on: March 27, 2015, 09:48:29 AM »

Offline Potvin29

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2015, 09:53:17 AM »
Thanks for that.

*Grabs popcorn*

Offline TML fan

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2015, 10:12:27 AM »
I give this thread two weeks to reach 90 pages.

Offline Nik Bethune

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2015, 10:23:11 AM »

A ton of that went over my head but this bit stuck out to me:

Quote
For players lower on the depth chart, none of this really applies, they don't have to adjust their game in any way, but for an elite goal scorer - who relies on reading off others, this is one of the more fascinating studies of mental toughness and the number of variations that toughness is interpreted... depending on perspective and understanding.

This seems, and forgive me if I'm misreading this, to sort of connect to the Mike Brown joke I make in the MOTM thread. Leafs fans seem to fetishize a kind of hard work among their players. The hard work that looks like the hardest work or the kind that leaves the most bruises or whatever.

We see this all the time, when the team is good or bad. Tie Domi, thrower of bodychecks and knuckles, is a hero while Robert Reichel, almost certainly a better player in all aspects of the game, was "soft". We have a rosy view of Mats Sundin now but there were an awful lot of people who would call into the radio and say, seriously, that they thought Gary Roberts would be a better captain. How many times did people say Tomas Kaberle should be moved off of D because of his lack of physical play?

For a fan base that as far as these things go is pretty smart I think this is the collective blind spot. I understand it, when the Leafs won their cups it wasn't because they had the Hulls or Howes or Beliveau's or the best players of their day. They had gritty players and won with toughness.

So I understand the impulse and everything but boy does it manifest itself in some stupid ways.
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Offline Potvin29

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2015, 10:33:56 AM »

A ton of that went over my head but this bit stuck out to me:

Quote
For players lower on the depth chart, none of this really applies, they don't have to adjust their game in any way, but for an elite goal scorer - who relies on reading off others, this is one of the more fascinating studies of mental toughness and the number of variations that toughness is interpreted... depending on perspective and understanding.

This seems, and forgive me if I'm misreading this, to sort of connect to the Mike Brown joke I make in the MOTM thread. Leafs fans seem to fetishize a kind of hard work among their players. The hard work that looks like the hardest work or the kind that leaves the most bruises or whatever.

We see this all the time, when the team is good or bad. Tie Domi, thrower of bodychecks and knuckles, is a hero while Robert Reichel, almost certainly a better player in all aspects of the game, was "soft". We have a rosy view of Mats Sundin now but there were an awful lot of people who would call into the radio and say, seriously, that they thought Gary Roberts would be a better captain. How many times did people say Tomas Kaberle should be moved off of D because of his lack of physical play?

For a fan base that as far as these things go is pretty smart I think this is the collective blind spot. I understand it, when the Leafs won their cups it wasn't because they had the Hulls or Howes or Beliveau's or the best players of their day. They had gritty players and won with toughness.

So I understand the impulse and everything but boy does it manifest itself in some stupid ways.

I think it's a Canadian hockey fan in general type thing - I hear it all the time when I go to watch the Soo Greyhounds play (you know, the #1 ranked team in the country).  Every couple minutes someone from the crowd yells for a player to "hit him!"  Every player has to have that physical edge or they get some criticism - you can hear in the crowd the unease if they team circles back to reload a play rather than dump it in and be safe.  There's like a deep-rooted belief in this prototypical Canadian hockey player who scores goals by basically willing them into the net - with hard work, hitting, grinding, dumping and chasing.

Offline Frank E

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2015, 10:43:26 AM »
I think most successful teams have different contributions from different kinds of players.  Fans can get behind the Kessels and Reichels of the game if they're scoring goals.  If they're not scoring goals, but they're playing a more gritty game that's entertaining from a physical perspective, they get a pass.  If they're doing neither, then fans get on them.  A guy that scores goals and plays a gritty game is a fan favourite.

People appreciated Mike Brown because he'd go out there and throw himself around hitting people, and that was entertainment.   

Offline Nik Bethune

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2015, 10:43:58 AM »
I think it's a Canadian hockey fan in general type thing - I hear it all the time when I go to watch the Soo Greyhounds play (you know, the #1 ranked team in the country).  Every couple minutes someone from the crowd yells for a player to "hit him!"  Every player has to have that physical edge or they get some criticism - you can hear in the crowd the unease if they team circles back to reload a play rather than dump it in and be safe.  There's like a deep-rooted belief in this prototypical Canadian hockey player who scores goals by basically willing them into the net - with hard work, hitting, grinding, dumping and chasing.

I think you're probably right that it's not as limited to Toronto as I put it there. I don't live in Ottawa or Vancouver or Montreal so I don't know if, say, fans  in those cities had similar issues with Alfredsson, Naslund or Koivu. Montreal, which is probably the fanbase I'm most familiar with, seems to have less of that(and a history of winning with skill) but I couldn't say for sure.
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Offline Nik Bethune

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2015, 10:49:55 AM »
I think most successful teams have different contributions from different kinds of players.  Fans can get behind the Kessels and Reichels of the game if they're scoring goals.  If they're not scoring goals, but they're playing a more gritty game that's entertaining from a physical perspective, they get a pass.  If they're doing neither, then fans get on them.  A guy that scores goals and plays a gritty game is a fan favourite.

I think the point I'm making though, and this applies probably the least to Kessel out of all of these guys to be fair, is that hitting and physical play tends to "get a pass" despite it not really being a reflection on the contributions being made. Take Reichel for instance. He wasn't just a goal scorer. He was a really good defensive centre but did it through smarts and positioning rather than hitting people. So even if he wasn't scoring goals he was doing more to help the team win than someone like Domi.

Also I don't think we're just talking about entertainment value. My point was that what guys like Domi and Brown and the like do looks like it hurts more and we conflate that with effort and hard work whereas the guys who don't throw their body around get accused of not trying as hard.
Nothing can have value without being an object of utility
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Offline Joe S.

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2015, 11:41:28 AM »
I wonder if he thinks that this is fascinating.

Offline Bullfrog

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2015, 12:11:22 PM »
or if he could really articulate it with more eloquence (though given the mess of that quote, it wouldn't be that difficult.)

Online herman

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2015, 02:07:11 PM »

Offline princedpw

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2015, 03:05:03 PM »
would have been interested to see that ... it is blacked out in the US.

Was there a serious fist fight?

Offline Potvin29

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2015, 03:05:49 PM »
would have been interested to see that ... it is blacked out in the US.

Was there a serious fist fight?

No.

Offline Chris

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2015, 03:09:31 PM »
I'm in the U.S. and was able to see it here:

http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2015/3/27/8300569/phil-kessel-vs-david-booth-literally-maple-leafs-news

Looks like Booth took exception to Kessel being a little physical...which kind of makes sense, since Kessel is never physical against other teams.

Can anyone make out the audio, someone can be heard saying something about "again" (sounds like "tell me again") but maybe it's unrelated to the scuffle.

Offline Potvin29

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2015, 03:17:08 PM »
I've seen Kessel do that with other teams tons and tons of times.  But nice try.

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Re: So, about Phil Kessel...
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2015, 03:17:08 PM »