3. Will Phil “The Thrill” be better in 2020-21?
It is fair to say that Phil “The Thrill” Kessel didn’t live up to his nickname in 2019-20, with the forward a huge disappointment in his first season with the Arizona Coyotes.
Acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Alex Galchenyuk and prospect defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph on June 30, 2019, Kessel was meant to be the catalyst to spark a real turnaround in Arizona.
Instead, Kessel was the complete opposite of a thrill last year, putting up 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points in 70 regular season games with a plus / minus rating of -21, while flaming out in the postseason with just 4 points (1 G, 3 A) in nine games.
It was the first time that Kessel had failed to hit at least 50 points since the 2007-08 season, his second year in the NHL, and also the first time in 12 seasons that he failed to reach the 20 goal plateau.
It is a hard one to try and work out because the Coyotes do appear as though they are on the cusp of pulling the trigger on a rebuild, with Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson trying to create a way out of the franchise back in the offseason, while Derek Stepan was traded to the Ottawa Senators with Free Agent signing Derick Brassard effectively his replacement.
Given that Brassard was the only real notable offseason addition, coupled with the fact that there is no Taylor Hall either, there isn’t really a lot of quality around Phil Kessel, so he could be facing a very similar situation as he did during his debut season in the desert.
He’ll have to hope that someone in the ilk of Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak or Barrett Hayton steps up to give him a legit outlet on the top line, and then hope that they can help Kessel unlock his elite offensive abilities.
If not, then it could be another long year for the Arizona Coyotes who are stuck in the West with heavyweights such as the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights, and Phil Kessel could find himself on the trading block come the Trade Deadline should he fail to get things going with the Yotes for a second straight year.