The Kesler Effect
The Anaheim Ducks knew they needed to make a change this past summer. They needed to get bigger, stronger and more experienced at the center ice position. It just so happened that the answer to their problems was located in Vancouver; Ryan Kesler wanted out and the Ducks were more than happy to take him off the Canucks hands.
The Ducks were a good team before this trade; there is no doubt about that. After finishing with 116 points during the 2013-14 NHL season and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, their season wasn’t an absolute failure but after their second round series loss against the Los Angeles Kings it was evident the Ducks needed something else. They needed help on faceoffs, they needed a bigger presence down the middle and they needed to have a center that could take some pressure off the top line. Lucky for them, Kesler was on his way out of Vancouver.
Kesler and Canucks General Manager Jim Benning talked at the end of the 2013-14 season and both parties agreed to go their separate ways. Vancouver was set to go through a slight retool and wasn’t primed to make a run at the cup and Kesler, now 30 years old, wanted his shot.
“[Ryan] just felt he needed a fresh start, and quite frankly we don’t want somebody that doesn’t want to be here,” Benning said. “[We acquired] high-quality people that are going to come in here and want to work hard for one another, so we didn’t give it much thought. We would have liked to keep him, but his mind was made up, so we did the best we could in the situation.”
After spending his entire career with the Canucks, Kesler, along with a third round pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft was traded on June 27, 2014, to the Ducks in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defensemen Luca Sbisa and the Ducks’ first and third round picks in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The price might have seemed high for the Ducks to pay considering they traded two picks and two players for one pick and one player but as they say, you have to give to get and boy did the Ducks “get.”
Kesler is a fantastic two-way center and is responsible in both the defensive zone as well as always being a threat in the offensive zone. He has great vision on the ice and at 6’2” and 208 pounds, he isn’t afraid to make a hit and take someone out of the play. He had scored 20 goals five times in his career, and had a career high of 41 goals during the 2010-11 season where the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks needed a hard-hitting, big-bodied center that could make plays and shoot the puck and there was no better choice than Kesler.
Kesler couldn’t have been happier with the trade and knew exactly what he and the Ducks wanted to come of it.
Kesler rewarded the Ducks this past season by scoring 20 goals and racking up 27 assists for a total of 47 points. He helped lead the Ducks to the Pacific Division crown with a record of 51-24-7 (109 points). The physical presence he brought to the center ice position for the Ducks was evident all season. He took some of the pressure off Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and allowed them to have a bit more space to work since opponent defenses now had two lines to worry about. That extra space he provided and is providing for Getzlaf and Perry is not to be overlooked. They are two of the most dynamic offensive players in the league and with even the slightest holes in an opponents defense they are make a team pay. The fact that Kesler has given given that that much more space to work with by just being on the team is a huge advantage for the Ducks.
The regular season was a success but the biggest reason Kesler was brought in was for the playoffs and so far, Kesler has been the force they have needed him to be in the postseason.
“We’re a long way from April, May.” Kesler said back in September. “It’s going to be a long year. It’s going to be a learning curve for me, a learning curve for some of my teammates, too. But come April, we’re going to be ready.”
And ready the Ducks have been. The Ducks recently swept their first round series against Winnipeg Jets and Kesler had three goals and one assist in the series. Two of those goals came in a pivotal game four win to complete the sweep. If Kesler keeps up that kind of production throughout the postseason, the Ducks investment in him will look that much better. The trade to land Kesler last summer helped the Ducks immensely and they now have the best shot at the Stanley Cup that they’ve has in a awhile.