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Burke: Kessel is a ‘first violin’

12.03.09 at 7:46 am ET
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Maple Leafs Hurricanes Hockey

Former Bruin Phil Kessel (center) celebrates a recent goal with his Maple Leafs teammates. (AP)

With Phil Kessel set to return to Boston for a contest against the Bruins on Saturday night, there is little doubt he has gotten off to a fast start with his new team in Toronto. The ex-Bruin has eight goals and five assists in 14 games.

“We were looking for a dynamic, explosive offensive player and Phil has delivered on that,” Toronto general manager Brian Burke said during a phone call with WEEI.com this week. “We paid a very high price. Peter Chiarelli drove a hard bargain. But we were happy to pay it. He has delivered exactly what we hoped to get.”

As for any purported deficiencies in Kessel’s game, Burke, who built a Stanley Cup-winning team in Anaheim, has an interesting analogy as to why a team needs a variety of playing styles and strengths.

“I use the analogy of an orchestra, I think you need a first violin and you need a guy on the drum,” said Burke, no apologist for players who lack grit or passion.

“Everybody talks about how I like big teams. My teams are big, but my teams are also highly skilled. I’ve had plenty of players who didn’t fit this profile that people think I want — of cave-dwelling, hard-nosed guys. My philosophy is very simple: I build top-six [forwards], bottom-six [forwards]. Top-six forwards is where I love skill and speed, my power-play unit comes from that group. My bottom-six guys are more pick-and-shovel men.

“Phil Kessel is a first violin,” Burke said.

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