A deeper look at Ryan Kesler’s return and his impact on Vancouver’s lineup
-by Samir Javer
The Vancouver Canucks will welcome back a familiar face tonight as Ryan Kesler returns after a long hiatus due to off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries.
Kesler will line up alongside wingers Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian, as the Canucks go for six straight wins against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena.
If you’ve forgotten what he can bring to the lineup, here’s a quick refresher.
Just two seasons ago, he scored a whopping 41 goals, fourth in the entire league, seven of which were game-winners. He recorded three hat-tricks and captured the Selke trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward that season.
Playoffs? Kesler potted five goals and six assists in the team’s second-round matchup against the Nashville Predators, factoring in on 11 of the team’s 14 goals that series and leading them to the Western Conference Finals. His season was so tremendous it earned him eighth place in voting for the Hart Trophy.
Off the stats sheet, Kesler provides leadership, heart and soul that are second to none. You can just see the fiery passion in his eyes when he takes the ice. As a defensive specialist, Kesler has the ability to shut down opposing teams’ top-line centers, as Jonathan Toews knows from the 2011 playoffs. On a broader scale, he’ll bring the Canucks a swagger and an edge.
While Canucks fans may be hesitant to tamper with a lineup that has put together an 8-2-2 record, the return of Kesler can only help. It is worth noting six of those eight wins have come against the weaker Northwest Division.
The 28-year-old, notorious for premature returns from injuries, has carefully paced himself this time around — he doubled his originally recommended recovery time of five months.
Kesler is no stranger to playing with Chris Higgins as the two were joined by David Booth for much of last season. The wildcard here is the upstart Zack Kassian, who has emerged as both a dangerous scorer and nifty passer and still leads the team in goals. Combined with his upgraded size and strength, Kassian’s skillset will undoubtedly bolster the line’s overall performance.
A leader both on and off the ice, it’s only a matter of time before the alternate captain returns to his trademark “Beast Mode.” Get excited fans.