Canucks are stronger team without Kesler
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
The highly anticipated (yet highly overrated) Ryan Kesler returned to a streaking hot Canucks lineup—that had won six consecutive games—on February 15th against the Dallas Stars. When the final buzzer came, the Canucks found themselves at 4–3 in Dallas, Texas, fizzling their hot streak.
In his season debut, Kesler blocked a shot that left him in discomforting pain which he played through for the next six games in February until he finally decided to check out. A Computed Tomography scan revealed that number 17 had indeed fractured his right foot. Luck would have its way with Kesler, as the day he gets back from an ongoing injury problem, he suffers yet another one.
In the seven games that Kesler was in the lineup, the Canucks had two wins, three losses and two overtime losses. Naturally, rookie Jordan Schroeder’s point production and mere presence disappeared in those seven games as he was demoted to the third line from the second line. In the six games prior to Kesler’s return, Schroeder was the talk of the city, centering Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. Sportsnet commentator John Garrett stated that, “they’re arguably the fastest line in hockey.” Since Kesler’s return, Hansen has zero points in seven games, Schroeder has one assist, and Raymond—who had five points in the previous five games before Kesler’s return—has one assist. Even Zack Kassian, who started the season with five goals in his first seven games, has just one assist in those seven games. Goaltenders Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have been performing average at best as of late, with Luongo giving up 11 goals in his past three starts and Schneider giving up 13 tallies of his own in his past four. Now I’m not saying that Kesler is entirely at fault for what is going on with this Vancouver Canuck team, but it is an interesting theory in explaining the trickle-down effect of what a top-six forward can do to a lineup.
The Canucks just started to get on a roll with teammates finding chemistry with one another in line combinations that made Coach Alain Vigneault look like a genius. Pressure was unloaded off the Sedins’ shoulders—something that has been an issue in the past several years—as secondary scoring was coming from all four lines. Everything was starting to click and then Mr. Kesler returned from his injury and the Canucks have won only two games with his presence since. It’s a case of too many fish in the same pond and with the addition of Kesler—who mind you is a fairly large fish regardless of his talent level—there’s not enough room. He’ll be out for the next four-to-six weeks with his recent foot fracture, which means with his absence the Canucks will be the same team they were before when everything seemed to work.
It’s a very interesting situation to be in, where the Canucks have a strong, reputable top-six forward on their team that they possibly don’t need if all goes well in his absence. With his contract expiring in the 2015–16 NHL season, while making $5 million a year—which is arguably a bargain in today’s market—any team that is looking for a top centermen would love to bring Kesler on board. GM Mike Gillis could land a juggernaut defencemen to bolster the blue line in return. Perhaps Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators? He’s a right-handed shot who has a cannon on the point and is only 27 years old—a perfect candidate for a team that is overflowing with talented forwards and lacking in defensive depth.