If Mike Gillis’s plan for this season was to mentally prepare the local fanbase for Ryan Kesler to get flipped for a big package at the trade deadline, he’s a flipping genius.
(It probably wasn’t his plan. Just saying, it’s really worked out that way.)
If you had floated the idea of Kesler exiting Vancouver back in early October, you’d have been asked to leave instead. Kesler was, and still is, the heart of the Canucks, the player arguably most important to their pursuit of another Stanley Cup Final berth.
But that dream is dead now, and if the Canucks want to win, they’ll tear their heart out immediately.
Kesler or no Kesler, the Canucks aren’t getting back to the Final. They may not even make the playoffs. Furthermore, he reportedly wants out. He’s not being pushed out. He wants out.
Six months on from the early season’s high hopes, most fans have had time to go through the five stages. I’d argue stage four climaxed at the seriously depressing Heritage Classic, played indoors despite being billed as an outdoor game, as heavy rain pounded the roof.
The weather was practically a metaphor for the entire season. In the back of our minds, we all knew it was going to rain, but after some surprise flurries the week before, and then the night before, we all fooled ourselves into thinking it might snow. Nope. It was a torrential downpour, because Vancouver can’t be anything besides what it is.
Two days later, after the depression has given way to acceptance, I can safely say the same goes for its hockey team. The Canucks are done. And that’s fine.
But that in mind, now is the time to look towards the future, and that means trading Ryan Kesler, the guy that will yield the most important pieces of it.
Trade him right now. Not at the draft. Now.
I understand that the Canucks aren’t out of it, and I understand there’s a little money to be made in even getting two playoff home games.
But if ownership in this city wants to win back the trust of a fanbase that’s grown cynical and bitter towards them over the past few years, they’ll trade Ryan Kesler within the next 24 hours.
The thinking around these parts is that ownership takes these fans for granted, that they value money over winning that, in the words of the late, great Michael Jackson, they don’t really care about us. This is the chance to prove that thinking wrong. With Kesler, the Canucks might be able to squeak into the playoffs. Might. Without him, they’re done.
Own it. Tell the fans you’re done, and that you’re willing to sacrifice a few extra dollars next month for a better shot at winning next year and thereafter, by sparing us another drawn-out trade saga and getting the best package you can get right now.
Because the fact is, the Canucks will get a better package for Kesler now, amid a bidding war that appears to be centralized in the Quaker State. According to reports, the Pittsburgh Penguins have said they’ll match any offer for Kesler. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers appear to be in the running as well, both because Paul Holmgren is a nut and has to be involved in everything, and because, they know full well that a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Ryan Kesler is not going to be losing to them any time soon.
There are other teams quietly in the running as well, because they’re not stupid. People know what Kesler brings to the table: everything. His desire to win borders on insanity. This is a guy that would literally hack off a finger to help a team win. He almost did in 2006-07 for the Canucks. He almost did it a month ago for Team USA. You want that guy now, not in the summer, and teams are willing to pay a big price to make sure that if anybody gets him now, it’s them.
A the draft, cooler heads tend to prevail, and the deals are a little more sensible. That means, for the greater overall good, for the long-term pursuit of winning, the team needs to throw in the towel right now, to say goodbye to the pipe dream of a little run.
Call it. Show your fans you care. Trade away your best player and don’t look back.