Who were Ryan Kesler’s best linemates last season?

Sometimes when I get curious enough about something to investigate it, digging up statistics and putting together charts, the answer turns out to be the obvious one. Fortunately, it can also turn up some other interesting information along the way.

Here’s the question I had: which wingers were most effective with Ryan Kesler last season? One of the big questions coming into this season is who should play on the second line with Kesler, once he returns too early? David Booth seems to have his spot all sewn up, but there are many competitors for the opposite wing, including Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, and Nicklas Jensen. Heck, if Shane Doan signs with the Canucks, you can add him and Alex Burrows to that list.

David Booth and Chris Higgins were Kesler’s most common linemates last season, but were they his most effective linemates? To get the answer, I did some WOWY (With Or Without You) analysis to see how Kesler performed with and without various linemates. In this case, the answer appears to be pretty definitively “yes.”

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Why it’s so important that no one thinks Ryan Kesler is ahead of schedule

Mike Gillis raised a few eyebrows last month when he told Matt Sekeres at Team 1040 that Ryan Kesler, who underwent surgery following the season for the second straight year, might be ready by October. As unbelievable as it was that Kesler could somehow will himself back to health two months earlier than orginally projected, it was plenty believable that he’d return early anyway, without having done so. That is, after all, what he did last season. Thus, surprising as Gillis’s report was, it seemed eerily plausible.

But it wasn’t accurate, as Kesler’s agent Kurt Overhardt immediately made clea the following day. “It’s not happening,” Overhardt told Ben Kuzma at the Province. “[Kesler's] not ahead of schedule and there’s no rushing him back. He’s on course to return in December and he’s not returning until he’s 100 per cent. Don’t expect him until December.”

It was downright strange to see Overhardt refute the report so quickly and vehemently, but most simply chalked it up to what appeared to be a growing rift between Overhardt and Canucks management. It was, after all, the second time Overhardt had objected to a statement about Kesler this offseason: He stood up for his client back in May after Alain Vigneault suggested Kesler’s shoulder injury wasn’t an excuse for his step back last year. Perhaps Overhardt just couldn’t help but seize another opportunity to correct the Canucks’ front office?

We here at PITB, home of the Daniel Wagner effect, know that agents can be petty. But a recent memo circulated by the NHLPA makes me wonder if there isn’t more to it than that.

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