Phil Kessel doesn’t often speak with the media, but when he does, it’s usually a memorable experience.
Over the weekend, however, the Toronto Maple Leafs star winger took some heat when he told a reporter to “get away from me” after a disappointing blowout loss to the basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres Saturday.
On Monday, Kessel spoke with reporters after his team’s practice.
“Obviously you don’t want to lose like that to anybody in this league,” Kessel said. “After a loss like that you’re never happy…. I don’t have too much to say after losses like that.”
Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle acknowledged that Kessel and all of his players should make themselves available as often as possible.
“It’s the player’s responsibility and our organization’s responsibility to make sure everybody’s available to the media,” Carlyle said. “When you are called upon, you are to be made available.”
Kessel is in his ninth NHL season — his sixth with the Leafs — but doesn’t view himself as a vocal leader.
“I don’t say a whole lot, but I try to lead on the ice,” Kessel explained.
The 27-year-old is regarded as somewhat of an enigma, in part due to his reluctance to open up to the press, but this has also added to his appeal and increased his popularity.
Whether it’s admitting to not skating often throughout the summer or simply showing up to a Toronto Raptors game, fans are interested in what Kessel says and does — even if the player shies away from the spotlight.
“I don’t know how well you want to know me. My answers aren’t always that great,” Kessel said. “I think you have the responsibility to talk [to the media], but I don’t think you need me every single day.”
Regardless of how he acts with the media, Kessel’s on-ice performance has been just fine. Through 18 games this season, Kessel leads the Leafs in goals (11), assists (11) and points (22).
In other Leafs news, David Booth was a full participant in Monday’s practice. The forward hasn’t played since breaking his foot blocking a shot in a pre-season game. Joffrey Lupul, who is nursing a broken hand, could return to practice as early as next week.
The Leafs will attempt to snap their two-game losing streak Tuesday when they host the Nashville Predators.