Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Ryan Kesler had surgery to repair his injured hip at this time. Anyone who watches the Canucks, suspected he received this injury during game five of the San Jose series, and knew for sure he was not 100% after that.
Begs to ask the question, when was the last time that Kesler played in the play-offs when he wasn’t injured? I can remember as far back as the Anaheim Ducks series, in which he played with some broken fingers picked up from blocking a shot, in the previous series against Dallas.
Then it was the shoulder in the Chicago series and now the hip in the Sharks series. Will the Canucks ever be lucky enough to have a healthy Kesler when the games count the most?
Granted, there’s not much you can do about a player that puts out the effort on most nights, but how do keep this guy healthy? Is it a matter of not giving him as much ice time, which most players would resist? No, in the immortal words of Todd Bertuzzi “It is what it is.”
I mentioned in an article last season that Scotty Bowman had said, in order to win the Stanley Cup you need to stay healthy, get some breaks and be lucky. Easy for him to say, he had a team deep in talent, four strong lines, a Norris Trophy winner and lots of grit and toughness.
The Canucks have yet to ever stay healthy long enough to know what that would look like come play-off time. Before and during the play-offs the Canucks lost the services of Mikael Samuelsson, Manny Malhotra, Dan Hamhuis, Mason Raymond and effectively Ryan Kesler.
Although Kesler did not sit out any games because of his hip injury, he was unable to skate like only Kesler can. I’m speaking of the Kesler that we all witnessed flying in the Nashville Predator series and leading the team to victory.
With him operating at less than 50%, the Canucks once again were down to a one line team, and no one wins the Stanley Cup with one line.
Those were significant injures especially Malhotra, their number one face-off guy, along with his defensive abilities, and Dan Hamhuis - who was in my opinion the Canucks best D-man all season. The team never had enough depth to offset those loses, although Maxim Lapierre sure did a workmanlike job at centre.
Much was made about Kevin Bieksa’s best year as a D-man, and although I agree it was, it also had a huge amount to do with playing beside Hamhuis. Once Hamhuis got injured – Bieska was not as effective. But then no one on the defense was, having been literally beat into the ice by first San Jose and then Boston.
Looks like the Canucks will start the season without two of the three players from their second line. That of course would be Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, both recovering from injuries.
If Cody Hodgson doesn’t step up and take this opportunity, to prove he warranted the Canucks selecting him in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, then when will it be? With a position at centre open for the taking, is Hodgson a contender or a pretender?
Now before anyone starts jumping up and down about me always beating up on Hodgson, let me say I would like more than anything for him to prove me wrong. But… what I don’t see is a player that has NHL speed, toughness or ability in the face-off circle.
Hodgson did finish with a 46.9% rating in the play-offs, just ahead of Henrik Sedin who was last, but Cody only took 49 draws – while Henrik took 498.
What Hodgson does seem to possess is an ability to set up plays, anticipate the play and score. Maybe playing with better players, which he should have in the pre-season, those qualities will surface.
Otherwise, the Canucks will be scrambling for some depth at centre, which they need to add anyways.
Footnotes: With the off season additions of Byron Bitz (6’5’, 215), Mark Mancari (6’3”, 225) and Steven Pinizotto (6’1”. 200), the Canucks have addressed the lack of size and toughness they didn’t have in the play-offs. Now they just need to get there again.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
Video Credits - YouTube
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