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Kesler gives Ducks the Selke Trophy type that Cup champs usually have

Aug 5, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

ryankeslerisbackgetty Getty Images

It was no coincidence that Ryan Kesler‘s best season in the NHL coincided with the best team in Vancouver Canucks history.

In 2010-11, Kesler scored a career-high 41 goals as the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. For his efforts, he was awarded the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the league, snapping Pavel Datsyuk‘s string of three straight seasons winning the award.

Unfortunately for Kesler and the Canucks, 2010-11 was the high-water mark for player and club. As a result, he’s now a member of the Anaheim Ducks, after the 29-year-old requested, and was granted, a trade out of Vancouver.

“I’m going to Anaheim to win a championship,” said Kesler. “That’s going to be my sole goal, and my team’s sole goal.”

And history shows that championship teams often have a player with a Selke on their résumé — be it Datsyuk in Detroit, Jonathan Toews in Chicago, Patrice Bergeron in Boston, Rod Brind’Amour in Carolina, or going all the way back to Bob Gainey in Montreal. The 2007 Ducks team that won it all had a Selke nominee in Samuel Pahlsson.

“I think I can fit into this team and be a good No. 2 behind Ryan Getzlaf,” said Kesler, who played behind Henrik Sedin in Vancouver. “We have size, speed and grit. I’d say that Getzlaf is one of the best centers in the game. I’m going to come in behind him and do my job.”

Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for Kesler, who’s suffered the two biggest losses a hockey player can possibly suffer. In 2011, he lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. In 2010, he lost the Olympic gold-medal game as a member of Team USA.

Health, however, could be another story. A veteran of 655 regular-season NHL games, Kesler’s body has taken a lot of punishment. He had hip surgery in the summer of 2011. He had shoulder surgery in the summer of 2012.

Yet despite all the hard miles he’s logged, Kesler still managed to lead the Canucks with 25 goals in 2013-14, while averaging 21:49 of ice time per game. Among NHL forwards, only Sidney Crosby (21:58) played more per contest.

In fact, Kesler’s increased ice time under coach John Tortorella became a hot topic in hockey-mad Vancouver, where there’s rarely a shortage of hot topics.

“A lot of people in Vancouver make a lot of everything,” Kesler said in Sochi during the Olympics. “It’s two minutes [more per game]. It’s two shifts. It’s not that big a deal for me.”

Shortly thereafter, it was reported he wanted out of Vancouver.

Kesler has two years remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. For Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, the addition of the Livonia native makes Anaheim “a bona fide threat to become an elite team.”

Said Boudreau: “I’ve never coached a team in the NHL that’s had a second-line center that you’re going to have with Ryan Kesler. It’s a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited.”

To be sure, the Ducks still have question marks, namely on the blue line and in goal. But assuming he can stay healthy, Kesler should make them a tougher out in the playoffs.

“After the season in reviewing things, we knew we had to fill that,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. “Not that [Kesler is] a second-line center, but we knew we needed someone behind Ryan Getzlaf. This is a huge move for our hockey team.”

  1. pjblake2redwings - Aug 5, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Anaheim is looking solid except for the ? mark in net.

  2. bigtganks - Aug 5, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Except he’ll never return to Selke form again. He’s 30 in a few weeks and could never stay healthy after said cup run. He’s played a lot of games and minutes. He’s on the decline, that’s not opinion. It doesn’t matter if he led the team in goals, that whole team couldn’t score. He’ll play 50 games a year and give you 30-35 point for the next year or two, and then it’s worse.

    • 19to77 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      I think you’re raining a bit TOO hard on Kesler’s parade, but I agree with the general point. He’s a long, long way from his best and he won’t get back to that level again. I think he’ll probably bounce back decently – considering that he still played 77 games last year and posted just shy of 50 points with an awful team, it’s not unreasonable to think he can crack 50 in Anaheim once or twice if he plays over 70 games. That said, he’s not the player Anaheim fans are expecting to get. He’s good, and he’ll help, but he’s not a gamebreaker anymore. Not by a long way.

      • bigtganks - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:08 PM

        Fair point. I think Van did great getting someone with almost the exact same point production in Bonino, a dman who Benning is high on as a potential top 4, but even as a top 6, on top of getting that 24th pick on McCann. Benning did very well IMO. Especially being as handcuffed as he was as it sounds like Ana was Kesler’s ONLY choice.

      • 19to77 - Aug 5, 2014 at 6:47 PM

        Oh, yeah. I sometimes wonder if there might have been some way to get Frederik Andersen going the other way – just, somehow, even if it was one for one or something ridiculous – but that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to a good, but small sample size on Andersen’s part and the what’s-the-point-of-this-exactly? signing of Ryan Miller on the part of the Canucks. Seriously, I know GMs are never supposed to drop the word “rebuild,” but the Miller sand Vrbata signings Calgary Flames written all over them – good enough to make the playoffs for a few more years, but this is a second-round team at best.

        Anyway, yeah, he basically said “Anaheim or Chicago” and full-well knew Chicago wasn’t going to happen. But the Canucks probably win this in the long run if McCann eventually makes the NHL. Two years of Kesler for three years of Bonino, a first-rounder, and a year of Luca Sbisa? Not too shabby.

  3. vancouversportsbro - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I think Ducks fans and people are severely over rating him. He’s not in Selke form anymore to start off. He was constantly injured. Constantly never passed after the cup run. Constantly never an impact player after the 2011 cup run except maybe for a few months to start the 2011-2012 season. Getzlaf, Perry are good but I can’t wait for Ducks fans to be upset about Kesler’s lack of production. This isn’t like when Dany Heatley left Ottawa for San Jose in 2009.

    • areaman714 - Aug 5, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Kesler moves to the top scoring offense in the NHL and leaves one of the most most anemic (only Buffalo and Florida worse than the Nucks). The Ducks will role four talented lines and Kesler will not need to play big time minutes; minimizing the injury factor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up north of 70 points this year.

  4. rosloe62 - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Unfortunately for the Ducks, there’s the Hawks and Kings!

    • infieldhit - Aug 5, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      Your two favorite teams?

  5. ronniethec - Aug 5, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    Not only did the quacks lose Bonino, but they also lost Timo. They will still be a tough team and will make the playoffs with the other 2 Cali teams. But come playoff time, the Kings will beat either the Hawks or Blues in the WCF on their way to a repeat. Also, I am not a big fan of Bruce Boudreau come playoff time.

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