A Much Improved Kesler Is Paying Dividends For His Club
How many times have you heard people say things like? “Paul is good at sports, but there’s always room for improvement”, or “If my child could just improve their grades I really think they could be top of the class.”
There aren’t many people who are perfect; even those individuals that are considered great have to work hard to fine-tune their skills or talents. After all greatness isn’t something a person is, its something they become.
Ryan Kesler is one such person who knows all about improvement, last season the Michigan native had a career year where he tallied for 75 points in 82 games, (25G, 50Ast, 75Pts).
Many believed that they had seen him at his best, but Kesler is certainly going out of his way to prove that his critics were wrong. In just 41 games so far he has 23G, 17Ast, 40 Pts. That puts him on pace to score 46 goals, and is one of the hottest players for the Canucks with a point in each of the last 4 games.
It wasn’t long ago that the 2 time Selke Trophy finalist was struggling to find his identity in the NHL as Vancouver’s third line centre. Playing a largely defensive role whose job was to shut down opponents top forwards.
It’s thanks to head coach Alain Vigneault who promoted his checking-centre man to the second line in 2008, since then Kesler has been able to develop into the offensive force that is currently un-nerving opposing goalies.
Keepers like Mathieu Garon who was unfortunate enough to be in net on December 15th when the surging Canuck scored his fist NHL hat trick. On January the 7th at the hands of the lowly Edmonton Oilers he earned his second three-goal game of the year. He is having a huge impact on his team game after game.
Perhaps his biggest area of improvement is one that can’t be practiced in the conventional way, that a player would try to be more accurate with their slap shot technique or work on his skating skills. Kesler has definitely grown in maturity he displays a calmer demeanor and is less likely to engage in a war of words, or wrestle with the nearest goon that tries to throw him of his game.
While Kesler’s transition is generally due to his own hard work commitment and desire to become a better all round player, there is a teammate that may deserve a little gratitude.
When Manny Malhotra arrived in Vancouver he was assigned the job of third line centre, this meant that he could now be the teams shutdown specialist. The appointment of Malhotra has allowed Kesler to concentrate more on putting the puck in the net instead of containing the leagues best forwards.
With the season at the halfway point the man from Livonia Michigan is proving an invaluable force for the Canucks, is this Kelser at his best or is the best yet to come?