Here’s some good news: the Canucks are no longer in need of a big power forward for Ryan Kesler’s right wing to start the season. The bad news, however, is that this is because Ryan Kesler likely won’t be ready to start the season.
On Tuesday, the Canucks announced that surgery had been deemed necessary for and performed on the damaged hip labrum Kesler wrecked up in the Western Conference Final and that his recovery would take 10-12 weeks. Since the season begins in nine, that means Kesler likely won’t be in the lineup come opening day. I mean, it’s possible, but I imagine the Canucks have posted guards in Kesler’s kitchen in case he gets impatient and tries to cut his hip off with the electric carving knife. He won’t be back until he’s 100%, and I’m sure the team is okay with that taking as long as it takes.
Much like Sami Salo’s injury from last summer, this new information gives us a much better understanding of a few of the Canucks’ offseason moves and non-moves. The decision to sign Andrew Ebbett makes a little more sense. Obviously, Ebbett can’t be expected to replace Kesler — anyone who would give him a Selke or Hart vote is in need of A Clockwork Orange-style aversion therapy — but the Canucks still need four centres, and Ebbett is insurance in case Cody Hodgson still isn’t ready.
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that Ebbett’s competing with Hodgson to be the Canucks’ second line centre. He isn’t. He is, however, competing with Hodgson to not be the Chicago Wolves’ first line centre. If you remember the signing of Jason Krog in Mike Gillis’s first year, you know that the Canucks’ GM has always made a point of ensuring the farm team has a first-line centre, both for the purposes of developing wingers and in order to ensure the affiliate is competitive. One of Hodgson or Ebbett will be filling this role next season. Ebbett is the only person who hopes it isn’t him.
The Canucks have come under fire for their treatment of Hodgson, especially their unwillingness to give him juicy opportunities, but the truth is that he’s yet to earn spiffy minutes with spiffy play. Make no mistake, however: the Canucks are just as annoyed with Cody Hodgson being not awesome as you are, and they’re likely just as excited that Kesler’s injury has forced them to give him a chance he doesn’t quite deserve.
Mike Gillis and company know that Hodgson deserves a look in the top-six, where he’s supposed to excel, but Hodgson hasn’t made providing that look an explainable option: smart organizations don’t take a chance on an undeserving prospect when they’re winning Presidents’ trophies and playoff rounds. It weakens the team, obviously, and it discourages the other prospects who didn’t earn it, either, and know Hodgson’s getting special treatment for being a first round pick. You sort of want your late picks and undrafted prospects to think everyone’s on equal footing. But now the Canucks have no choice. Hodgson is the only seemingly NHL-ready top-six centre prospect they have.
If there’s any silver lining to Ryan Kesler’s injury (which may very well have cost the Canucks the Stanley Cup, so there really isn’t), it’s that an opportunity–a genuine opportunity–will finally be afforded to Cody Hodgson.
It will still be up to Hodgson to make the most of it. If he doesn’t, the Canucks can simply bump Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre up a spot on the depth chart. Or they can move Chris Higgins, who plays center, to the middle, although they don’t seem overly interested in doing that. Either way, Andrew Ebbett can then fill the thirteenth forward role vacated by Jeff Tambellini while Hodgson goes to Chicago. (Go! Chicago! Go! Yeah!)
Hodgson has seemed unmotivated at times since being drafted by the Canucks (although this may just be a misinterpretation of his mid-level foot speed), but I suspect that won’t be a problem this time around. If he misses his chance here, it will likely be a long wait for Kesler to miss time again, especially considering what he played through last time.Tags: Canucks, featured, Hodgson, Kesler, Kesler takes drastic action when it comes to injuries, Training Camp, wild theories