When Phil Kessel came over to the Penguins in the off-season, the belief was he would be lighting up the league on a near nightly basis and chasing down the first 40-goal campaign of his career. Instead, Kessel has been streaky, scoring 23 goals and on pace for his lowest full-season goal total since his sophomore season.
Now, to go along with his worst offensive production in eight seasons, Kessel, 28, has the dubious honor of being selected as the league’s most overrated player in a poll conducted by Postmedia. And, unfortunately for Kessel, this is a trend. This marks the second straight season his fellow players, 28 of which anonymously voted in the poll, have picked him as the most overrated player, and he landed nearly 30 percent of the total vote.
Last season, in the first annual Postmedia NHL Player Poll, Kessel tied with teammate Dion Phaneuf for top spot among the overrated players, but that was with only three votes each. Phaneuf stayed at three votes this season and was the second-most overrated, per the poll, but Kessel picked up an additional five votes somewhere along the line and sits alone atop the overrated pile.
It’s not hard to understand why Kessel would draw a large number of votes. His move to Pittsburgh was supposed to make the Penguins an offensive juggernaut this season. There was strong belief Kessel would be one of the top scorers in the league, and the thought of Kessel playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had Penguins fans salivating.
Instead, there’s a possibility Kessel might not score 25 goals this season and 30 is a definite long shot. He’s gone on separate goal droughts of six, seven and eight games, and, as colleague Matt Larkin pointed out in last week’s THN.com Roundtable, Kessel has been predictable on the attack and defenders seem to have gotten wise to it throughout the campaign. However, he is in his first season with Pittsburgh, the Penguins have gone through a coaching change and Kessel has scored at a points per game pace above his career average since Mike Sullivan came aboard. Those are all good things and signs he’s moving in the right direction.
If Kessel can keep trending upwards, maybe he bucks the overrated moniker in Postmedia’s third annual poll.
As for other “awards” dished out by the anonymous players, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane was voted to have made the biggest impression, with Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid finishing only one vote behind Kane.
But there were also less favorable distinctions handed out. Consider Boston Bruins winger Zac Rinaldo, who was voted the dirtiest player in the league. That’s a selection some AHL players may even agree with after he received a suspension with the Bruins’ affiliate days after being suspended by the NHL. But while Rinaldo is dirty, he wasn’t the most frustrating to play against. That honor went to Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry.
(Poll via Postmedia)