Stories tend to follow Phil Kessel. The most famous is probably the infamous hot dog story that came out after Kessel was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Toronto Maple Leafs. More recently, before coming to the Arizona Coyotes there were rumors that Kessel wasn’t getting along with his coach and wanted out of Pittsburgh.
In a recent story with The Athletic, Rob Rossi spoke with Evgeni Malkin in Russia. The story is largely about Malkin and his mindset after a down year last season, and of course Phil Kessel came up. It’s a fantastic article that takes you into the mind of Malkin, and it makes you empathize with him.
But probably most important for Coyotes fans is the insight that the article gives into one of the newest members of the team. I’m not sure if anyone needed anything else to confirm that Kessel wasn’t happy in Pittsburgh, but this all but confirms it.
This is really terrific on Evgeni Malkin, and @Real_RobRossi might be the only guy in hockey media that could have written it, given his history with Geno. This passage is https://t.co/PprJ0zpc6f pic.twitter.com/gS8Ohc004x— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 10, 2019
Clearly Malkin and Kessel weren’t going to work on the same team anymore. It’s interesting that Malkin felt like he was caught between Sullivan and Kessel, and it speaks to how deep this rift was between player and coach. The fact that it spilled over into Kessel’s linemate speaks to how bad the situation was and how Kessel being traded was probably the best for everyone involved.
Although everyone seems to be keeping mostly quiet about it, it’s clear that Mike Sullivan and Phil Kessel had a bad relationship towards the end. Why that is we will probably never know, but it seems almost toxic at this point.
So after an offseason of excitement should this make Coyotes fans worried about Phil Kessel? I don’t think so.
If Kessel just wants to pad his stats that could prove to be a problem for the Coyotes, but it’s impossible to know if that is how he feels or if that was just the perception created by a bad working relationship. Kessel’s relationship with Coach Rick Tocchet is much better, and Tocchet was the primary reason that Kessel wanted to come to Arizona. Hopefully the problems can be chalked up to a clash of differing personalities, one that won’t be repeated with Kessel in the desert.