Kessel: Phaneuf deserves apology

Toronto Maple Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel -- in an impassioned, uncharacteristic rant -- said Tuesday that the Toronto media mistreats team captain Dion Phaneuf and blasted reporters for being unfair toward the 29-year-old defenseman.

Apparently, Kessel felt he couldn't remain quiet any longer.

"I think the way the media treats Dion in this city is embarrassing," he said to reporters Tuesday.

Kessel did not call out any particular media member but said at least some should be "ashamed" and that they owe Phaneuf an apology.

In his emotional tirade, Kessel revealed that he was finally tired of putting up with what he felt was unfair criticism in the wake of the team's struggles this season.

"Is it his fault we're losing? No," Kessel said of Phaneuf. "Did he build this team? No."

It is not immediately clear whether there was one particular instance that set Kessel off, but there has been ample criticism this season of both players' leadership and whether they will remain members of the organization in the future.

Both Phaneuf and Kessel were reportedly shopped in the days leading up to Monday's trade deadline. It appears more likely that either or both would be traded in the offseason, when there is a larger group of potential suitors with cap space to take on their respective salaries.

Phaneuf declined to speak with reporters Tuesday.

Kessel is not the only Leafs player incensed with the media. Winger Joffrey Lupul also is livid, and he tweeted after Kessel's rant Tuesday.

Toronto is 15th in the Eastern Conference with 19 games remaining. The Maple Leafs visit the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.