Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
I had this on the agenda to write about for while, so it ties in nicely with Ryan Kesler’s first career hat trick last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Back when there was rampant speculation on who would be the new captain, I threw in my two cents. I realized that Henrik Sedin coming off his Hart and Art Ross Trophy wins, would be the media and fan favourite, but mine was Ryan Kesler.
I argued that it was more than points that determined a winner and set about singing the praises of Kesler’s will to win, his compete level, his passion for the team, and other attributes that he brings to the team. This was not just a defensive type player that had been nominated for the Selke Trophy for the past two seasons; this was a player that had offensive skill also.
Kesler has progressed from his Manitoba Moose days as a checking centre, slowly maturing into an all around player. Since 2007-08 his point and goal totals have increased to where his current status has him on pace to shatter the 26 goals he had in 2008-09. A number that comes to mind would be close to 40, which would place him close to the team leader.
I realize that Daniel Sedin will have something to say about that but I’m sticking with Kes.
Skating was always one of Ryan’s most noticeable features along with his trash talking that irked the opposition. The trash talking has toned down this season and as he said himself. “I don’t get flustered as easy. If things aren’t going well I don’t get flustered or take a dumb penalty or stuff like that. It’s one of those things where positive energy goes a long way. I just try to stay positive out there and keep going forward.”
Going forward, sideways, backwards, you name it and he has been doing it at top speed. I call him the “Tasmanian Devil” the way he skates at a breakneck pace. When he’s flying through the neutral zone it forces the opposition defense to try and force him to the outside and if not, then they have to retreat backwards at a disadvantage.
His wrist shot has become Joe Sakic like with the quick release that is like a guided missile. That was on display last night when he offered it up to the Blue Jackets goaltender Mathieu Garon on his first goal.
The defensive skills that got him to the NHL have become even more refined, as he has added the art of shot blocking to his repertoire. To do this takes timing and courage to sacrifice your body to players that shoot the puck hard at around 100 mph. Would you drop down to block an NHL shot? Didn’t think so, but neither would I. Number four is where Kesler ranks on the team with 37, which is tops amongst all forwards.
Kevin Bieksa and Kes are tied with 40 Hits a piece, which puts Kes two behind Raffi Torres and eight behind the top forward, Tanner Glass. That speaks volumes about the type of player that Kesler is because Torres and Glass are expected to dominate the hits parade in their roles, but Kesler, well that’s just who he is.
Did I mention the nother key area where Kesler has improved? That would be in the face-off circle. When you’re killing a penalty and you start off with the puck, it takes valuable seconds off the time clock. Sixth place is where he is ranked (58.4%) amongst centres today in the NHL and second on the Canucks behind Manny Malhotra’s 62.5%, which is second in the NHL.
Kesler since joining the Sedins on the first power play unit, is making the most of it. Six of his 15 goals have come from that and his six are only two behind team leader Daniel with eight.
The list goes on and on but suffice to say he has led the Canucks this season at home and on the road, and to me has been their most valuable player to date.
In conclusion, I could go on for another page extolling Kesler’s value to the team. But I will say this, although Henrik wears the “C” as the Captain, this year Kesler is the real leader and as Coach Vigneault said “drives the bus”.
To catch all the news, updates and new articles as they occur, along with the Canucks farm team the Manitoba Moose, you can follow me @twitter.com/nucksiceman.com and @communities.canada.com/VANCOUVERSUN/blogs/fanattic/default.aspx
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