Vancouver, I have a solution. Well, my idea of a solution. And it involves Ryan Kesler.
I have a fragile patience for trade talk, at least when it comes to Vancouver’s Bermuda Triangle of star power, Luongo not included. There will be people who talk of shipping out Kesler, Daniel, and Henrik Sedin. They have already been trying to design scenarios to banish Alex Burrows, David Booth, Alex Edler, and maybe even Chris Higgins, but those people often sound stupid. They sound like George Costanza in that Seinfeld episode, when he devises an obviously ludicrous plan to get Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. in the “same” Yankees’ outfield. If we don’t see the value in Burrows, Booth, or Edler, then the rest won’t see it, either. And even if they do… they know they’re for sale. When something’s for sale once, it’s for sale forever. So nobody is lining up to deal for anyone in Vancouver, unless their last names are Sedin or Kesler. And maybe Bieksa or Hamhuis or, sigh, Tanev.
My plan doesn’t involve bringing anyone in to play with Kesler. Well, not entirely.
The Canucks routinely fail at the same script – that Calgary script where you bounce your fortune back-and-forth between guys like Olli Jokinen or Alex Tanguay or Craig Conroy or Mike Cammalleri, and you hope one of them will take it home. You hope one of them will be the guy Jarome Iginla always wanted. Until you realize, of course, that Jarome Iginla isn’t worth the trouble anymore.
Vancouver has tried that sh*t before, with Booth and Higgins, of course. But also with Derek Roy, a fine player who simply wasted a few months with the Canucks. Sort of like Sami Pahlsson wasted a few months in Vancouver before him, and definitely like Kesler is wasting the prime of his career in Vancouver.
The key isn’t moving guys to play with Kesler. The key is moving Kesler to play with them.
Ryan Kesler is 29 years old. He’s as good as he’s going to be. He’s in the middle of an all-American Olympics. He’s a dominant physical force who can score and has the wingspan of an Albatross.
Ryan Kesler is the Vancouver Canucks’ number one centre. So then… why isn’t he?
The answer is right in front of Mike Gillis: make Ryan Kesler you number one centre, and move Daniel and Henrik to the second line.
Take the pressure off the Twins. Take the weight off their shoulders, and give it to Kesler. Right now, the Canucks have a little head and a fat ass. They’re bottom heavy. There’s a logjam down the middle and nothing’s getting through.
Invert yourself, Vancouver. Allow for upward mobility, free up your lineup’s bureaucracy, and toss something to the wind.
Give Kesler Burrows and Higgins, and maybe give somebody else a shot… a prospect like Ronalds Kenins or Nicklas Jensen. Trade for someone, if you must, but make sure they’re more Mikael Samuelsson and they are Steve Bernier. Make sure their best is in front of them, not behind him… do what you did when you got Mike Santorelli, but do it again.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin are amazing talents. Incredible all-around players who are absolutely worthy of that first line. And they’re not getting that old that fast. Anyone who watched them skate circles around the NHL at the beginning of this season – before they decided to injure every piece of their anatomy – knows this. But they don’t have to be first liners. It’s just a formality. They can play second fiddle, at least five-on-five.
Give this team over to Kesler, and see what he can do with it.
I never believed Kesler deserved the Canucks’ captaincy. I always thought Henrik Sedin earned that ‘C’ and I still think it’s his to lose. But none of this is personal.
The Colorado Avalanche hung onto Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg for too long. They never got terrible, but they never got better, not after 2001. The Avalanche held onto them for too long – held onto the idea of their ability for too long, at least – and watched their exit drive Colorado into the Draft lottery. It was a slow drip to irrelevancy.
The Red Wings, however, phased out Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan just as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were ready to take the wheel. They were lucky, sure, but they didn’t wait around to see how it ended. They created their own ending. They treated their veterans right, but they didn’t let them drive as their eyesight aged.
So, Vancouver, do you want to be Colorado? Or do you want to be Detroit?
Ryan Kesler is, right now, Vancouver’s best player. Flip this whole thing on its head, and I can’t see anything going worse than it’s already bound to. Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk are waiting. And, with Henrik on the second line, they might be able to come up from the bottom, rather than having Kesler shove them out at the second floor like he did to Cody Hodgson.
The Canucks have a bright future. But they need to fast forward.