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Kessel says Toronto media should be 'embarrassed' for treatment of Phaneuf

03/03/2015 12:57 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
SUNRISE, Fla. - Phil Kessel is mad as hell about how Dion Phaneuf is treated by the Toronto media, and he's not going to take it anymore.

Kessel offered a passionate defence of the Maple Leafs' captain on Tuesday and said he was fed up with how certain media members talk about the team's No. 1 defenceman.

"I think you guys unfairly criticize Dion," Kessel said after the team's morning skate at BB&T Center. "He's our best defenceman, and you guys act like he's not trying out there and this and that. It's embarrassing. I'm embarrassed for some people and things they've said about him."

Kessel said there was no one thing that set him off on the rant about Phaneuf and that he was just "tired of it." He said media members should be "ashamed" of what they've said to and about Phaneuf.

The star-right winger, who like Phaneuf is signed to a lucrative long-term contract, said there's an unfair amount of blame put on the captain for the Leafs' struggles.

"Is it his fault we're losing? No. Did he build this team? No," Kessel said. "It's not Dion Phaneuf. The stuff he takes, the crap he takes, the things people say, I'm just tired of it here. I think he's owed some apologies by some people. It's disgusting the way people treat him."

Kessel's comments came on the same day that Phaneuf threatened TSN with legal action after the network aired an insinuating fan tweet about his wife Elisha Cuthbert and teammate Joffrey Lupul during Monday's NHL trade deadline coverage. TSN issued an on-air apology later in the day.

Phaneuf has three goals and 20 assists in 51 games, and is tops in scoring among Toronto defencemen since Cody Franson was traded.

In pre-trade-deadline comments last week in Toronto, Phaneuf said he and his teammates accepted the responsibility that comes with underachieving this season.

"When you do not meet expectations, then there's going to be lots of questions," Phaneuf said. "We have fell short to where we believe that we were as a team this year and we have not played well enough."

Phaneuf did not speak to reporters following Kessel's pointed comments as part of his most heated interview during his Leafs tenure.

"I think this city is a great hockey city and I love playing here," Kessel said. "But some of the things that happen and Dion getting abused like he does and the things that are said about him — he's our best defenceman. You watch him play, he plays hard every game for us. I'm just tired of him taking it."

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