Is Rushing Ryan Kesler a Panic Move?

By Alexander Monaghan


By Orlandkurtenbach (Own work) [Public domain

In the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Ryan Kesler was not himself. As one of the best players at both ends of the ice — Kesler currently holds the Frank J. Selke Trophyfor best two-way forward in the League — his play with the puck was severely lacking. After registering one assist in seven games it became even more clear that he was hurt so bad he was essentially ineffective in Boston’s zone.

Then came the surgery.

Kesler went under the knife on July 25th, going through a successful hip labral surgery. Typically a surgery of this nature keeps a hockey player out of the lineup for at least two months in the best-case scenario. The last time he had this specific surgery, he missed 72 days and likely rushed back into the lineup — those numbers would have had him back in the lineup by October 6th, able to make the team’s season opener when his Vancouver Canucks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yet here we are, 11 days later and Kesler is coming back, perhaps stronger than his initial return. The Canucks have not dominated due to rusty play from Roberto Luongo and all the pieces just not fitting together the same as they did last season, when the team captured the President’s Trophy. They likely are banking on the return of their second line center making those pieces fall into place.

Today, Kesler centered the second line with speedy winger Christopher Higgins playing on his left wing and his replacement Cody Hodgson finding his way onto the right side. Should Kesler not be able to take draws or need a boost, Hodgson will quickly return to his former position and help him out there. The risk statistically is relatively minimal. The only player to draw out of the lineup is dud-of-the-week Marco Sturm. The move pushes Mikael Samuelsson down to the third line with Manny Malhotra and Jannik Hansen which adds depth and scoring to the bottom lines. In theory, these roster moves and line changes should work, but they certainly come with a risk.

Yesterday, the Ohio native skated without his teammates. He skated for nearly an entire practice by himself and has yet to practice with a line until, of course, today. Yesterday he was not 100 percent, but today, apparently he miraculously recovered. Tell me if these quotes sound like he fully healed. From The White Towel:

“Obviously, I’m a competitive guy and I don’t like to see the team lose,” said Kesler. “You think about coming back sooner, but it wouldn’t be smart for me. I have to keep reminding myself to be patient and let my hip and body tell me when I’m ready and not my mind and my heart.

“It’s smart for me to take my time now and let everything heal. I’m not a guy who plays on the perimeter, I want to get in there and battle. I’m getting closer but obviously I still feel it [hip] at times out there — just certain movements I don’t feel comfortable doing yet. I’m not going to come back until I feel comfortable or I’m 100 per cent.”

So Kesler returns tomorrow, just two days after those quotes, to face the New York Rangers — the team that led the League in hits last season. He will either play a perimeter game (doubtful) or give the team everything he has. If it is the latter, one would have to wonder the long-term effect of his play, and the team’s play for that matter.

Considering they have gotten off to a somewhat sluggish start, which is sub-standard when compared to their expectations, they simply cannot afford to lose him for a significant part of the season. He was expected to be out until November — a total of 11 games, roughly 13 percent of the season — but now will only miss five, or 6 percent.

Is winning a few games today worth losing again when it matters? That question is one the team will answer over the course of the season. If they are smart they will give him some practices off, perhaps even rest him on back-to-back nights. None of that sounds very Kesler to me and the only way he will get his timing back is game action and practice.

The team is clearly toeing a very fine line by rushing him back into the lineup. So, as usual, we leave you with a question: