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Phil Kessel sounds off on coach Ron Wilson

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel hints at Sunday practice that he and coach Ron Wilson have a rocky relationship. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier


Phil Kessel's frustration finally boiled over at practice on Sunday afternoon as the Toronto Maple Leafs' sniper hinted at a troubled relationship with coach Ron Wilson and that he may not be all that happy playing in Toronto.

Kessel has no goals and three assists in his past 10 games, but more troubling than his lack of production is the fact he has been on the ice for so many goals against.

In the Leafs' 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Kessel was a minus-2, dropping him to minus-8 over his slump and minus-22 on the season, last on the team.

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Asked Sunday whether Wilson has offered any advice given his struggles, Kessel offered some troubling insight into how the dynamic with his coach works.

"No, me and Ron don't really talk," Kessel told a group of reporters after practice. "So that's all I've got to say about that."

Wilson was only slightly more enlightening on the subject.

"Phil doesn't really want to talk much about goal scoring or even work on it that much in practice," Wilson said. "It's kind of a 'touch' thing. So he comes and goes into these hot streaks, cold streaks."

Kessel's other comments Sunday were even more cryptic and appeared to come in response to the fact Wilson had switched him off a line with close friend Tyler Bozak to play with Joey Crabb and Darryl Boyce, two players who have spent most of their careers in the minors.

"I don't know," Kessel said. "We've got to change something, so I'm not sure if that's it, but maybe. I don't know.

"I don't really know what to say about [the scoring slump]any more. I'm trying. Obviously it's not going right. Like I said, might not be working out here. What are you going to do?"

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Wilson said the change comes in response to Kessel being on the ice for too many goals against and that he feels Boyce can help the play of the Leafs' highest-paid forward in his own end.

"He's so focused on scoring goals, he's forgetting the other part of the game," Wilson said. "If the puck's not going in and that's all your focus, a lot of times you'll end up not being in the positions you should be in and that goes for any player.

"So we just want to see a little bit more balance. If you're struggling to score, don't be scored against because it puts a lot of pressure on the other lines to make up the difference."

The timing of Kessel's comments was unfortunate given they came only a day after the one-year anniversary of the death of general manager Brian Burke's son, Brendan.

Out of town for the weekend, Burke was aware of the situation as of late Sunday but had yet to discuss it with Kessel or Wilson.

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