Any time that a coach gets fired, it makes for a tough and awkward time in the locker room. Players have to deal with the insinuation that the firing was their fault, and usually the players that are targeted are the best of the bunch. Alexander Ovechkin has dealt with insinuations that he is uncoachable every time the Washington Capitals fire a head coach.
It stands to reason, especially in a media hotbed like Toronto, that the best player on the Toronto Maple Leafs would be targeted. Phil Kessel is not known as a big talker by any stretch of imagination. He has one goal in the last five games, but he has 18 goals and 23 assists on the season which is tops on the team.
Toronto Star reporter Dave Feschuk boldly asked Kessel today if Kessel felt that he was difficult to coach. He then insinuated that it played a part in Randy Carlyle’s firing.
For the video-free, here is the transcript of the exchange from ProHockeyTalk:
Feschuk: “It’s been suggested…that you’re a difficult guy to coach. Is there anything to that?”
Kessel: “I don’t think so. You know, that’s a weird question for you to ask though, on a day like…your coach gets fired.”
Feschuk: “You’re the best player on the team, and if the coach just got fired…”
Kessel: “You think it’s my fault? Is that what you’re saying? Is that what you’re saying?”
Feschuk: “I’m asking you a question…are you a difficult player to coach?”
Kessel: “I don’t think so. I play. [turning away from Feschuk] This guy’s such an idiot here. He’s always been like this here.”
That exchange didn’t need to happen. Did Feschuk actually expect Kessel to say “Why yes, Dave, I am difficult to coach. I believe that fact played a direct part in the coach’s firing”? No player will say that. No one who is uncoachable probably realizes that fact, because admitting that you are means that you recognize that you have a problem. That isn’t to insinuate that Kessel is uncoachable, because unless you’re one of his coaches, saying that is entirely opinion – and one that Kessel doesn’t want to hear. He already has such a great relationship with the Toronto media; what would prompt him to entertain this question as a serious one?
There are so many problems with a currently underachieving Maple Leafs team that Phil Kessel’s “coachability” shouldn’t be the focal point. Perhaps looking at the bigger picture of how the team was assembled or why Carlyle was employed for so long should be topics for discussion instead. Considering Ron Wilson’s opinions of Kessel, there could be an issue with his play (which could’ve been the catalyst for Feschuk’s question), but one player isn’t going to get a coach fired. There are a myriad of reasons for both Wilson and Carlyle being shown the door.