Phil Kessel is mired in a ten game goalless drought. We take a look at the root causes while pondering if he breaks the funk tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.
Six assists, a league-leading forty-two shots, zero goals.
That is Phil Kessel's stat-line through the Toronto Maple Leafs' first ten regular season games. At the same junction point just one year ago, Kessel had already racked up ten of his career high thirty-seven goals -- with an additional eight helpers -- leading the Maple Leafs in scoring.
But in 2013, Kessel has struggled mightily, suffering through a prolonged goalless drought, something which hits close to home as it happened to Blake Wheeler last season. While the number of games played pile up, one wonders what is plaguing Toronto's American sniper.
Is it simply puck luck or are there mitigating factors at play?
Well, there's a good chance that it's both.
While mired in an 0-42 shooting slump is as unlucky as it gets, Kessel has lost some of the comfortability he enjoyed in 2011-12 without his usual running-mate, Joffrey Lupul, who is out for the sustainable future; sidelined indefinitely with a fractured forearm. It was alongside Lupul -- a player whose 2011-12 season was also a career best -- that Kessel exploded offensively to the tune of 1.00 point per game.
Now, it's not as though Kessel has been completely ineffective for the Leafs. As his six assists indicate, he's at least producing goals, though not on his own accord. New linemate James van Riemsdyk leads Toronto thus far in goals, some of which can assuredly be attributed to playing alongside Kessel. Furthermore, he's still measuring well as it pertains to the advanced stats, dictating that success could be in the near future.
The bad news for Winnipeg Jets' fans is that "the near future" might be tonight. Outside of the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres -- both divisional rivals of the Maple Leafs -- there is no other NHL team who Kessel has scored on more frequently than the Jets (though two other teams are tied).
Considering Winnipeg's consistency is as malleable as Play-Doh, tonight is a great opportunity for Kessel to rip the monkey of his back and bludgeon it mercilessly with his stick.
Will Phil Kessel score his first goal of the year tonight? Let us know in the comments section!