When Mike Babcock was announced as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was a foregone conclusion that Phil Kessel would have to change his off-season workout habits. And by change, I mean, actually work out more than a couple times (in between poker hands, natch).
Kessel is often ribbed for his less than athletic physique; yet, he doesn’t change anything from year to year. Perhaps scoring 25-plus goals over a majority of his career allows him to be more complacent, and take an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude.
Babcock is not the same lame duck(s) Kessel had been coached by before. He expects nothing but complete buy-in from his players, so it wasn’t surprising when the Gary Roberts (off-season trainer to the stars) rumors resurfaced a few days ago:
Whispers of Phil Kessel returning to Toronto in July, perhaps, to work with Gary Roberts. Sounds like a good plan.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 29, 2015
So, with Phil and uber-serious Sidney Crosby as teammates, does that increase the likelihood of Kessel ascribing to the idea to becoming a better version of himself?
Anyone who thinks that Phil has escaped the microscope of media analysis by getting out of Toronto is wrong. Pittsburgh’s media contingent, God bless ’em, are similarly as hyper-focused as Toronto; there’s just a lot less of them.
Phil is more or less used to that media circus by now, though. (Doesn’t mean it won’t still bother him, but he gets it.) What’s going to be new for Phil is the accountability he’s going to be held to by teammates. There as rumors of scuffles and tiffs in Toronto, but he’s not ‘THE guy’ now who calls the shots.
Simply said: Sid won’t take any of Kessel’s BS. No more shifts off. No more days where he’s just not feeling it. No more lumpy, grumpy Phil.
And it’s going to start this summer with Gary Roberts.
Gary Roberts tells me he’ll be working with Kessel starting this month. I’m thinking that’s a pretty good guy to work out with.
— Joe Starkey (@JoeStarkey1) July 1, 2015
(It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see Penguins PR cheering on Phil while he works out wearing Pittsburgh gear in the off-season.)
Unfortunately for Phil, one thing that’s not on the Gary Roberts’ nutrition plan: Primanti Brothers sandwiches. The legendary eatery was kind enough to extend an invitation to the newest Penguin. He might want to take them up on the offer before he starts the Phil Kessel 2.0 makeover:
Welcome to Pittsburgh @PKessel81. Stop on ‘dahn to the Strip and give a hello to Toni. Sammich is on us.
— Primanti Bros (@primantibros) July 1, 2015