John Steigerwald: Personality, not production, led to Phil Kessel, Antonio Brown trades |

John Steigerwald: Personality, not production, led to Phil Kessel, Antonio Brown trades

John Steigerwald
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Phil Kessel speaks to the media during locker clean out Thursday, April 18, 2019 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown warms up during an official team activity at the NFL football team’s headquarters in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Two Pittsburgh teams have become a lot less entertaining since their seasons ended. Whether they both got better and closer to championships remains to be seen.

The Phil Kessel trade looks like a good one for the Penguins.

On paper.

Kessel had to go. He wanted out, and he probably stayed past his expiration date.

The Antonio Brown trade had to happen, too, but the Steelers got draft picks in return. The team getting a future Hall of Famer in his prime for draft picks is the winner of that deal until those picks prove otherwise.

But Pittsburgh’s football and hockey fans watched a lot of highlights leave town with Kessel and Brown.

And personality had more to do with them leaving than production.

Brown had become toxic, and he used social media to advertise his toxicity and make it impossible for Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to keep him.

Kessel’s production had dropped and, according to several reports, he had asked Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to trade him, but nobody in the Penguins’ organization would call him toxic.

Nobody can question Brown’s effort or his production, and there might not be a more exciting player in the NFL.

Winning is nice, but fans lose something when a player as electrifying as Brown wears out his welcome.

Kessel might not be as electrifying as Brown, but he’s always one of the more entertaining players on the ice, and he’s one of those guys who at least gets you to move to the edge of your seat every time he has the puck. He’s always going to show up, and he’s still good for a point a game.

The Brown trade was wildly popular among Steelers fans and the consensus is the Steelers will be better without him because it was addition by subtraction. There might be a lot of wishful thinking going on there.

The Kessel trade seems to be getting more of a mixed reaction. He had become somewhat of a cult figure in his four years here and, while Alex Galchenyuk, who came over from the Arizona Coyotes, might have the made the Penguins tougher to play against, he won’t make them as fun to watch.

Winning championships is the best substitute for entertainment. The New Jersey Devils proved that a long time ago, but it’s a lot more fun when you can have both.

• This trade puts a lot more pressure on Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet than it puts on Jim Rutherford. Tocchet’s good relationship with Kessel was well known, and it’s probably the reason the deal was doable, but he didn’t have to make it.

Rutherford did because he knew Kessel wanted out. Tocchet talked his boss into bringing in a 32-year old, high-maintenance player with a high cap number and coming off a bad year for a 25-year-old guy with a lower cap number, who can play multiple positions and adds the speed the Penguins need.

The Coyotes need a big-time scorer, and they need to make the playoffs. Kessel will need more than the 27 goals he scored last season to justify the trade.

Galchenyuk scored 19 last season, and he wasn’t on the same team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The chances of him scoring more and Kessel scoring less are pretty good.

• Speaking of trades, are the Pirates setting another trap for their general manager? Remember that 11-game winning streak last season?

They went from 42-49 and 11½ games out on July 11 to 53-49 and six games out July 24. Media and fans demanded the Pirates show they were serious, and GM Neal Huntington made what looks like a disastrous trade for Chris Archer a week later, just minutes before the trading deadline.

The Pirates went 29-30 the rest of the way and finished 82-79.

Going into Sunday’s game in Milwaukee the Pirates had won seven out of 10 and moved within five games of the division lead and four games of a wild card.

The call for them to be buyers instead of sellers at the trading deadline has begun again.


John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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