The Vancouver Canucks head into the 2013-14 as an organization that could be in a bit of flux. They’re an aging team, with a general manager feeling his seat at a higher temperature than ever, with a goaltender that wants no part of the franchise. Which means big changes could be on the horizon.
One player who could have his future with the team a bit up in the air is Ryan Kesler. Though he has three years remaining on his deal, Kesler’s last few seasons have been plagued by nagging injuries and disappearances in the postseason. The Canucks could look to acquire future assets for him and move on, if he can’t bounce back in a big way this year.
When he’s healthy on his game, Kesler represents one of the best two-way forwards in the game. He played in only 17 games with the Canucks, some of which were on the wing, in 2013, but he finished with very strong point total of 13. That’s coming off of a 2011-12 season that was a big disappointment by his standards.
After back-to-back 70-point campaigns, one of which featured a 41-goal season from Kesler, he came back with only 49 in 77 games in 2011-12. Then came the lockout shortened season. He started the season late, played a stretch in February, missed all of March, and eventually came back in April and played in the playoffs, just in time for the Canucks to get swept out of the first round.
He had two points in those four playoff games, both coming via the goal in one game. The season before that, he had three points in five playoff games, but was unable to find the back of the net. So he hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been enough to help the Canucks to get over the playoff hump.
The Canucks are heading into a season that could see them take a step back as a franchise. They aren’t in the Northwest Division anymore. Their roster is a year older, they’re not a Stanley Cup contender, and they have one of the worst farm systems overall in the game.
There’s no indication that the Canucks are interested in dumping Kesler. Again, he’s a very good two-way center and a key piece of this team. But if the Canucks continue to fizzle, it’s going to reach the point where they’re going to have to start to sell off some of their assets in order to try and get younger, and improve the quality of their organization overall. Could a disappointing season from Kesler result in his exit?