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Andy Brickley D&C: Phil Kessel ‘was just a really immature kid’

11.30.11 at 9:42 am ET

NESN analyst Andy Brickley joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly appearance to discuss the Bruins’ upcoming two-game series with the Maple Leafs that starts on Wednesday night in Toronto. The teams will square off in Boston in the second game on Saturday.

The Leafs lead the Northeast division with 30 points, while the Bruins are right on their heels with 29 points in second place. Boston is already 2-0 against the Leafs this season, though, winning the latest game on Nov. 5 in blowout fashion, 7-0. Brickley explained that the Bruins match up well with the Maple Leafs.

“I like the match-ups. I think Boston matches up pretty good against Toronto,” Brickley said. “It’ll be a little bit more difficult here in Toronto because of the change situation so you’ll see a little bit of chess match tonight trying to get [Zdeno] Chara basically and his partner out there tonight against Phil Kessel and his line. I think that if you’re able to keep that line, especially Phil Kessel off the scoreboard, and then you match up the three forward lines against each other’s D-pairings, it favors Boston. That’s generally the way it goes and I think Boston has a huge advantage in goal.”

As Brickley pointed out, the Bruins will need to contain Kessel, who leads the NHL in both points (31) and goals (16). The former Bruin has flourished in Toronto since being traded from Boston in 2009, while the B’s drafted Tyler Seguin with one of the picks they received from the Leafs. Brickley said that Kessel had maturity issues during his team in Boston and that he wanted more money than the Bruins were willing to pay.

“I think he was just a really immature kid,” Brickley said. “He had some baggage, personal baggage when the Bruins first drafted him and they were well aware of that. The immaturity factor, expectation level, not only by the Bruins organization but from Phil himself. I don’t think he was prepared for that. Could not handle criticism. Could not handle you have to earn your ice time.

“When you add a breakout year when he scored a bunch of goals, you saw how much money everybody was making across the league. Based on those numbers, and he wanted that money right then and there, and the Bruins weren’t prepared to pay him.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On if getting first place in the Northeast division matters this early: “It probably doesn’t matter to me, I think it matters to these players. I think they feel like they’ve really accomplished something, given where they were at 3-7. I think divisional games mean more to these players. I think coming into Toronto, because a lot of these guys are Canadien, matters a lot. So yeah, first place is part of it, but it’s a lot of elements when you talk about Bruins and Leafs.”

More on Phil Kessel and his play so far this season: “He’s got better players around him, No. 1. Toronto’s done a nice job of adding some talent to allow him to be a better player. I think he has a better understanding of the game, I think he’s more mature. He’s at that point now here winning matters more than individual statistics. I think it’s just a natural progression of a really good player.”

On Boston’s loss to the Red Wings, which snapped a 10-game winning streak: “I thought [the Bruins] were the better team. I think if you break down the tape and look at it and just your overall sense when you watch the game, you say, ‘Wow, the Bruins had the better of the opportunities.’ But two really good teams, a game that could have gone either way and that’s the way it went.”

On what could go wrong for the Bruins other than injuries: “Complacency is an issue for me. It’s definitely injuries first. ‘€¦ Complacency, this core group, until they won the Stanley Cup, they weren’t good front runners. When they were playing well and putting winning streaks together and getting to first place, they seemed to sag down to the level of talent against teams that they were playing. That still kind of hangs around with this team, not as much because they know how to win now, but that’s still a tiny concern for me.”

On how the coaching staff decides when Tim Thomas starts or sits: “You would think you would want to ride the hot hand. At the same time, you have to understand that he’s 37 years old, 38 years old and how many games do we want him to play this year no matter how many well he’s playing? I think last week when we chatted, I thought [Tuukka] Rask was going to play in Buffalo and they came back with Thomas. I can’t really get my hands around how Claude [Julien] comes up with his decision making with his coaching staff. I guess the best answer, the simple answer, is they have faith in both their guys and they talk to both their players. And both goalies have a pretty good feel of how much they want to play and when they want but it really revolves around keeping Thomas healthy and ready for the postseason.”

On the difference between Montreal and Toronto has hockey towns: “There’s a lot less of that sense of entitlement surrounding this Toronto team and Toronto media than you get in Montreal. I don’t think they feel like they invented the game here in Toronto. I think they’re a little bit more civil, a little bit more understand. Of course they don’t have 23 banners hanging in their arena either. So there’s little bit more appreciation. There’s a lot more Bruins fans actually here in Toronto than you get when you go to Montreal.”

On Tyler Seguin’s ceiling: “He’s kind of fluttering right now. He was really hot there for a while. That line was playing great. Certainly could have had a couple of goals in the last two or three games but hasn’t scored since Buffalo. You see some young immature things that he’s still doing on the ice but he’s still a fabulous a talent.”

Read More: Andy Brickley, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin
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