PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)- The biggest Phil Kessel critic might be Toronto Sun Columnist Steve Simmons.
His parting piece about Kessel after he was traded to the Penguins is still generating buzz - especially considering how well Kessel has played.
Simmons joined "The Cook and Poni Show" on Tuesday to talk about Kessel and the Penguins, who are one win away from their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
So, is Simmons shocked by what he has seen thus far from Kessel in these playoffs?
"In a way, yes," Simmons said. "He has been a big game player for the most part. My criticisms of Phil were never about his play it was about how he carried himself and how as the most important player on a team, I believe, let the team down over and over and over again."
Simmons admits that he did think Kessel played well in the one year he went to the playoffs with the Leafs. Although, it lasted just the one round. He also thinks he played well as a young player with Boston and gave him credit for being the leading scorer for Team USA in the Olympics.
But, as the face of the Maple Leafs he didn't always come through.
So why is everything clicking for him in Pittsburgh?
"I think he fit in perfectly in Pittsburgh, where he hasn't had to be the face of the franchise and hasn't had to be the guy everybody relied on," Simmons said. "And in that third line role with Bonino and Hagelin, that's been the dynamic line for all throughout the playoffs and Kessel has been, if not the best player than one of the top three players."
So, does that mean he would consider Kessel as his Conn Smythe pick should the Pens close out the Sharks and win the Stanley Cup?
"It tends to go to the best player in the Final, not the best player in the playoffs and for me, the best player in the Finals has been Sidney Crosby," Simmons said. "I just love the way [Crosby] has played. I love the intensity which with he has played and I love the leadership he has shown and I think he has been the most important Penguin."
Simmons does have Kessel in his top three along with goalie Matt Murray.
You can hear the exact order and his thoughts on why this Stanley Cup Final has been tough to watch by listening to the full interview:
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