Where Does Phil Kessel Rank Among Maple Leaf Greats?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel can fill the net, but where does he rank among Toronto's all-time greats?

Phil Kessel is the league's most unwanted superstar.  Since arriving in Toronto five seasons ago, he's scored 121 goals and added 138 assists in 287 games, or .902 points per game.  He's 21st in the league in points per game over that timeframe, yet if bloggers didn't exist, the average fan would think Kessel is a miserable failure, unable to deliver on the high expectations and pressure of the Toronton market.  Kessel has been maligned as invisible, tradeable, fatfat and tradeable, derided for being shy, heaped upon for staying out of the limelight.  All the while, Kessel continues to pile up the points.

Mention Kessel's place in the storied history of the Maple Leafs and gentlemen in the links above would likely choke on their press box pastries as they raced to outdo each other's guffaws.  But Kessel has scored at rates that very few Leafs ever have, and the numbers prove that out.

The table below contains the totals of each of the Maple Leafs' all-time leading scorers, normalized for comparison by assuming an average of three goals per team per game throughout the history of the NHL*.  The games and points listed for each player are their totals while wearing blue and white.

Player Games Adj. P Adj. P/G
Charlie Conacher 326 399 1.224
Mats Sundin 981 1065 1.086
Doug Gilmour 392 414 1.056
Syl Apps 423 436 1.031
Phil Kessel 287 288 1.003
Busher Jackson 432 430 0.995
Darryl Sittler 844 804 0.953
Norm Ullman 535 457 0.854
Lanny McDonald 477 407 0.853
Frank Mahovlich 720 611 0.849
Ted Kennedy 696 590 0.848
Dave Keon 1062 850 0.800
Rick Vaive 534 415 0.777
Max Bentley 354 256 0.723

Using this methodology, Kessel ranks 5th in points per game in Toronto Maple Leafs history, ahead of all-time greats like Busher Jackson, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Max Bentley.  Kessel is neck and neck with Syl Apps and Doug Gilmour and only Mats Sundin and Charlie Conacher are clearly ahead of Kessel as a scorer.

While the numbers won't compel the men in the links above to stop obsessing over Kessel's understated approach to dealing with sports writers and the public and his appearance, the comparisons above demonstrate that if a sports writer does have a personal problem with Kessel, attacking Kessel's on-ice play is a fool's errand: he's one of the greatest Leafs in history.

Imagine if he didn't have to carry Tyler Bozak around the ice every shift.

*Methodology introduced by Jonathan Willis in an attempt to find comparables for Sam Gagner.

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