PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins are concerned a Stanley Cup hangover could hit their top scorer from last year’s postseason after right wing Phil Kessel reported to training camp in pretty good shape.
“Obviously, we want to continue the success we had the second half of last season and in the playoffs,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “And to do that, you want everyone to stay in their roles. So Phil showing up looking trim and fit is a bit concerning. I’m not sure what the idea behind it was, but we need him thick and unkempt and breathing heavily. He was great for us last year doing exactly that.”
Kessel blames his fitness on Pittsburgh’s postseason, by far the longest run he’s had in the playoffs in his 10-year career.
“It’s really hard to stay chubby and out of shape playing hockey every day for nine months,” said Kessel. “It’s basically impossible. Usually I had the opportunity to relax and go on vacation and go on hot dog cart tours in April, May, June, July and August, but this year I was playing hockey. It really got me in pretty good shape. And I think it may have kickstarted my metabolism permanently,” he added, slapping his stomach, which did not vibrate jovially with blub.
Nearby, teammates shook their heads at the sight and then looked away in disappointment.
“I’m a big believer in not messing with what works,” said forward Conor Sheary. “I didn’t show up tall all of a sudden, did I? Of course not. I know my role. And Phil never got hurt before because I think he didn’t tire his body out by training and also he was covered in a protective layer of natural padding. Now? He’s all hard and brittle and could snap like that. He’s got a Beau Bennett vibe to him.”
Sullivan said he may scratch Kessel at the start of the season until he’s in game shape.
“If we can get him up a luxury box for a few weeks with an all-you-can-eat spread every night, I think we’ll have him back to where we need him very quickly,” said the coach.