As you may have heard, Ryan Kesler stated recently that he does not think he will be ready for the start of the season, a reversal from his earlier optimism. This news has been met with various amounts of panic from Canucks fans.

It’s understandable why. Kesler was phenomenal last season, scoring 41 goals on his way to winning the Selke. In the playoffs, he almost single-handedly defeated the Nashville Predators in the second round, then battled through an injury against the Sharks to help the Canucks into the Stanley Cup Final.

Ideally, of course, Kesler would be 100% healthy to start the season, but if wishes were fishes I wouldn’t have to throw dynamite into the ocean. Instead, I will accept the reality of the current situation, mine the silver lining, and turn it into a fashionable necklace. Here are 3 reasons it’s a good thing that Kesler will not be ready by the start of the season.

1. Cody Hodgson will be put into a position to succeed.

The Canucks’ much-maligned top prospect has yet to be given a real shot in the Canucks’ lineup, and for good reason. This season, he has an even tougher hill to climb, as the Canucks have added Maxim Lapierre to their depth at centre, meaning he has four quality NHL centres ahead of him on the depth chart. With Henrik and Kesler firmly occupying the top two lines, Hodgson would need to either adapt to playing on the wing or resign himself to playing in the AHL or sitting in the pressbox until he gets traded.

Hodgson got into the lineup 8 times during the regular season and 12 more in the playoffs, but he was never in a position to succeed, averaging 7:44 TOI/game during the regular season and only 6:45 in the playoffs. But with Kesler out to start the year, the position of second-line center is up for grabs, with Hodgson the front runner. He doesn’t have much competition either.

Andrew Ebbett is the only other center on the Canucks roster with NHL experience, but while he is a proven scorer at the AHL level, he is not well-suited for a second-line role in the NHL. Meanwhile, the next best prospect at center is Jordan Schroeder, who struggled in his first full year of professional hockey. Even if he has been working his bag off all summer, Hodgson is the better option, though Schroeder could step in on the wing in place of Mason Raymond.

With more minutes and better linemates, Hodgson could finally show Canucks fans and management what the hype was all about.

2. Without an arbitrary deadline, Kesler can focus on recovery.

We all know how Kesler will try to play through any injury, whether it is a shattered finger or a leg hanging on to his hip by a single tendon. Less than a week ago, Laurence Gilman reported that Kesler expected himself to be ready for opening night, well ahead of schedule after off-season surgery on a torn labrum in his hip. But the start of the season is an arbitrary deadline when it comes to injury recovery.

Let’s face it, recovering from an injury is different for everyone, but the process always takes its own time. But the human psyche likes to make goals and plans and the start of the season is an attractive target. Now that Kesler has admitted that the start of the season is not a realistic goal, he can focus on simply recovering from the injury without rushing his body and causing more problems in the future.

For someone like Kesler, who is so driven to play as to push his body beyond its limitations, removing the option of returning early can only be a good thing.

3. The Canucks’ other sources of secondary scoring will have to step up.

Lost in the shuffle of the Canucks’ offensive domination last season was the fact that their secondary scoring was severely lacking. Mikael Samuelsson was fourth on the team in scoring, but was inconsistent at times and missed the playoffs with an injury. Mason Raymond’s production disappeared and will miss the start of the season with an injury. Mike Gillis’s solution was to sign Marco Sturm, a speedster coming off two knee surgeries.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Canucks’s secondary scoring, but the production of Kesler on the second line camouflaged this deficiency. With him out, other players will need to fill the void. this gives the Canucks’ management a chance to truly suss out what they have in the way of forward depth.

Will Mason Raymond bounce back after recovering from his injury? Will Samuelsson be able to carry the second line in Kesler’s absence? Will Jannik Hansen step into a scoring role after his strong two-way play last season? Which of the Canucks’ prospects is ready to contribute? Without Kesler to carry the second line, the Canucks will be forced to answer these questions and, in the end, will be a better team for it.

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  1. peanutflower
    September 12, 2011

    I personally think it’s a good thing that Kesler won’t be ready to start the season (incidentally, the protagonist in Jeffrey Deaver’s new novel is called Ryan Kessler) for all the reasons you lay out. If Hodgson can’t seal the deal in this handed to him on a plate scenario get rid of him. I believe Samuelsson still has a good year left in him. I think the competition for positions will get everyone all worked up in a good way. I don’t think Raymond will return this season. But maybe. After all, he walked off the ice (ewww). I think this is Jannick’s year. Go Hansen! He’ll have a Burrows-like breakout year, I just know it. And that’s all I think right now.

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  2. PeeSeeGee
    September 13, 2011

    Kesler having less games on the tires come playoff time can’t hurt either!

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