How will the Canucks’ off-season changes affect the power play?

The Canucks power play was painfully bad last season, converting at just 15.2%, fifth worst in the NHL. That alone didn’t cost the Canucks a shot at the playoffs — the Kings were actually worse at 15.1% — but when the team struggled to score at even-strength, their power play couldn’t make up the difference.

The off-season, however, saw significant changes on and off the ice that will have a major impact on the power play this season. Will those changes have a net positive or negative effect? That’s a little harder to figure out.

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Who are these media guys Ryan Kesler is talking about?

Unwilling to adjust to waking up one to three hours earlier, Ryan Kesler forced a trade within the timezone this summer, joining the Anaheim Ducks. The centre will still be around Rogers Arena quite a bit, of course, since he just had to go to a team in the division, but he is no longer one of us. Now he is the enemy.

But Kesler doesn’t view Canucks fans the same way. He doesn’t hate you, Vancouver — just select members of your media.

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Replacing Ryan Kesler with quantity, not quality

After a couple incredibly busy weeks, the Canucks appear to have finished making moves for now. While it’s certainly possible that we’ll see another trade during the summer and an unsigned free agent or two might merit an invite to training camp, it’s reasonable to think that the current Canucks roster is the same as the one we will see in September when camp starts.

If so, the Canucks are left with a significant hole on the second line, approximately the same size and shape as Ryan Kesler. For years, the Canucks have relied on Kesler to shutdown the opposition’s best forwards, while contributing secondary scoring and playing a key role on both the penalty kill and power play. Although he has slowed down of late and will likely never again be the 70+ point player he was in 2009-10 and 2010-11, he’ll still be difficult to replace.

It looks like Jim Benning didn’t even try to replace Kesler. Instead, he placed a premium on having a proven goaltender, devoting significant capspace to signing Ryan Miller rather than going after one of the top centres available in free agency. By doing so, Benning left the second-line centre role up for grabs, banking on quantity over quality.

While the Canucks don’t have any surefire bets to replace Kesler, they do have several potential second line centres who are as yet unproven. The Canucks’ best bet at this point is to rotate players in and out of the position throughout the season until one of them secures it with his play.

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Can the Canucks win without Kesler?

With their win over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks leapt back into the playoff picture, leapfrogging multiple teams to snag the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Sure, there’s not one, but two teams just one point behind them with three games in hand, but for this brief moment, things are looking mildly rosy in Vancouver.

That’s what complicates the current situation with Ryan Kesler. For those still catching up, news broke Wednesday that Kesler had requested a trade at the beginning of the season. Sure, Mike Gillis, Kesler’s agent, and now Kesler himself have all denied it, but the report came from Louis Jean, one of the most reliable insiders around, and it’s in the Canucks’ best interests to deny the report. It’s hard to know who to believe.

Either way, as of right now, however, the Canucks are still in the playoff hunt and Kesler is still an integral part of the team. As much as it has now become clear that the Canucks are no longer a cup contender (though non-”contenders” have won the Stanley Cup before), it would be extremely surprising to see Gillis blow up the team, trading veterans for picks and prospects en route to a rebuild. Teams this close to making the playoffs are far more likely to stand pat at the trade deadline, making minor moves around the fringes to improve depth in key areas, such as the Dale Weise for Raphael Diaz trade.

With that said, there is an awful lot of smoke out there for the Kesler rumours to involve no fire whatsoever. So, if the Canucks do trade Kesler, what does that mean for this season? Can the Canucks win without Kesler?

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When and where you can watch the Vancouver Canucks during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi

During the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics, most Vancouver Canucks fans will be cheering for Team Canada, since most Canucks fans are Canadian. With that said, while fans generally side with their country, some loyalty still remains to the club, and many fans will want to keep an eye on the five Canucks players (and one prospect) playing for other countries.

Fortunately for those in Canada, almost every game of the men’s tournament will be televised live, with games featuring Team Canada getting replayed later in the day. It can, however, be tough to figure out exactly when these games will be and on what channel.

Thankfully for you, were here at Pass it to Zamuner have done the legwork for you. Here are all of the preliminary round games for Canada, USA, Sweden, Switzerland, and Latvia, along with the channel and time they will be shown in the Pacific timezone. Take a look to see when you will be waking up early, staying up late, or setting your PVR.

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Ryan Kesler, Sidney Crosby get burned as Zach Parise named Team USA captain

Bad news, friends: Ryan Kesler has not been named the captain of Team USA.

He was never really in the running for the gig, of course. Most assumed it would be one of Parise, David Backes, Ryan Suter, or Dustin Brown. But since this is a Canucks blog, we try to filter all our news through the Canucks fan experience. Hence, we are outraged that Ryan Kesler was passed over for this honour.

Especially now that Parise has it. Has Zach Parise ever won the Selke trophy? No he has not.

Has Zach Parise ever ditched the team that drafted him to take a big-money contract elsewhere? Yes he has. Who’s to say he join Switzerland halfway through the tournament, after they back a truckload of money up to his house?

Don’t say you weren’t warned, America.

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Ryan Kesler moves to the point on Canucks first power play unit

On Thursday, I wrote about the Canucks’ odd penchant for using Dan Hamhuis on the first power play unit. Considering Hamhuis has never been known for his power play prowess and the power play has just one goal in 7 games, from Brad Richardson, it seemed high time for a change.

While Hamhuis is one of the best Canucks at getting his shot on net through traffic, he doesn’t have the power on his shot to make it a dangerous weapon on the power play and he’s not right-handed, preventing him from capitalizing on one-timer opportunities at the left point. I noted at the end of the article that Yannick Weber has been able to get his shot to the net at the same rate as Hamhuis, albeit in a smaller sample size, is right-handed, and is a noted power play specialist, making him a good candidate to take Hamhuis’s spot on the top unit in the future.

There was another option, however, that I originally included in the article but cut as the post was getting too long. This option would also add a powerful right-handed shot to the point from a player who is one of the best power play point producers on the team. The only difference is that player is a forward: Ryan Kesler.

At practice on Friday, the Canucks took the second option, moving Kesler to the left point and adding Chris Higgins to the first power play unit as a net front presence.

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Old man gets call for Team USA, because Ryan Kesler changed his number

USA Hockey made a couple of curious calls Wednesday in announcing the men’s roster for Sochi, most notably Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin over Keith Yandle, and the snub of Bobby Ryan. They also made one curious text.

While the rest of the world learned who would be heading to Russia when those adorable kids skated out towards the camera and pivoted, revealing the roster via nameplate, the 2013 Olympians were informed via text message.

Except for Ryan Kesler. As Gord Miller reports, Kesler has recently changed his number. An old Canadian dude has it now. And thus, an old Canadian dude was invited to Sochi.

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Breakdowning Daniel Sedin’s wizardous goal against the Washington Capitals

As soon as Daniel Sedin scored the gamewinning goal on Monday against the Capitals, we were inundated with requests on Twitter to breakdown the goal in our typical Breakdowning fashion. They weren’t the only ones: as soon as I saw the goal, I wanted to break it down, because it was just so perfectly representative of Wizardous Sedinery. The Canucks kept the puck in the offensive zone for a full 51 seconds, dizzying the Capitals with their cycle game before a couple short passes and a subtle move by Daniel created a wide open scoring chance.

We intended to have a Breakdowning post up on Tuesday, but circumstances kept pushing it back. Fortunately, three days since it was scored, the goal is still just as gorgeous and absurd. Let’s break it down to see exactly how it came about.

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The Paper Feature: Kesler to wing, and John Tortorella’s other bright ideas

“I just look at Kes like a winger,” John Tortorella said at the end the trip. This raised some eyebrows. Kesler is, after all, a pretty good centre, and taking him out of the centre depth chart leaves a massive, Kesler-shaped hole there, like when a cartoon character exits through a wall.

But here’s where it got absolutely crazy: Tortorella then proceeded to list off some of the other changes he plans to make, and if you thought that Kesler on the wing was a twist, the other innovations will blow your mind.

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No suspension for Frans Nielsen headshot on Kesler, because Kesler dove

The Department of Player Safety has been busy early in the season, handing out heavy suspensions for a number of dirty hits. In the last two weeks alone, Cody McLeod, Michael Grabner, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Garbutt and Patrick Kaleta have been suspended for a combined 27 games, and that’s to say nothing of the impending John Scott suspension, which is likely to be the lengthiest yet this season. There has been little hesitation to drop the ban hammer, and the DOPS is only getting more aggressive.

All that in mind, you can understand why Vancouver Canucks fans would be somewhat surprised to learn that Frans Nielsen won’t even get a hearing for what appeared to be an elbow to the head of Ryan Kesler Tuesday night on Long Island.

Why no hearing? Why, when the Department of Player Safety is looking to crack down on headshots, especially picking the head, and when Alex Edler just returned from a three-game suspension for doing something fairly similar?

Simple. It’s a dive. Kesler dove.

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Spitballin’ on Garrison’s scoring, Stanton’s surprise start, and ‘best-dressed’ Kesler

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Breakdowning Lars Eller’s incredible shorthanded goal against the Canucks

The turning point of the 2010-11 season for the Canucks was their lowest moment, an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on November 20th after the Blackhawks had knocked them out of the playoffs two seasons in a row. The Canucks responded with a closed-door players’ meeting and, after losing a close one to the Phoenix Coyotes the next game, went on to win 18 of their next 22 games, including a statement 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks.

After that loss to the Blackhawks, the Canucks only lost 13 of their remaining 63 games, cruising to the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history, finishing ahead of the Washington Capitals by a whopping 10 points.

This season, the Canucks decided to get their low point out of the way early on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. In front of a national Hockey Night in Canada audience, they scored one of the most bizarre and embarrassing own goals in NHL history. Now it’s time to break it down.

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Popularity of ‘Kesler’ as baby name directly correlates to Ryan Kesler’s on-ice performance

Naming a baby is a daunting proposition. Whatever name you give your child is the name it will be stuck with for the rest of his or her life, barring a legal name change. Studies have linked certain names with success in the business world, while others show that a child’s name affects how well they do in school and how their peers view them.

Most parents want to have some sort of personal connection with the names they give their children as well, whether that means naming them after grandparents, an influential person in their life, or a character from a favourite book. For a sports fan, they might want to name their child after an athlete from their favourite team.

Such as, for instance, Ryan Kesler.

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Ryan Kesler swears a bunch of times

With their core continuing to age — selfishly, in my opinion — and two straight postseason first-round exits hanging over their heads, one can understand why the Vancouver Canucks aren’t exactly the darlings of the punditry world heading into this season. In the opinion of many, the Canucks are drifting out of the NHL’s top-tier, and removed from the sweet, sweet ease of the Northwest Division, this could conceivably be the year in which they finally fall off.

Understandably, the Canucks aren’t having it. Ryan Kesler, in specific, doesn’t even want to be asked about it. Do that and he’s got some swears for you.

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Every Goal, 2012-13: Ryan Kesler

Two seasons ago, it took us a full week to get through Ryan Kesler’s entry in the “Every Goal” series. We put it off until the end of the summer, both because it had some of the year’s most exciting goals, and because we’re chronic procrastinators and it seemed like a lot of work. At 41 tallies, it had to be split up into four posts just so it wasn’t completely overwhelming.
Not so this time around. Kesler’s goal-scoring in 2012-13 was less than one-tenth of his 2010-11 output, thanks to the lockout and a neverending stream of injuries that have conspired to make the former Selke winner a non-entity for much of the past two seasons. Kesler just couldn’t catch a break last year, save for the one his foot caught shortly after he returned from rehabbing shoulder surgery.

As a result, he played just 17 games, and he was his old self for, oh, let’s say zero of them. Still, he scored four times. Let’s take a look.

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Ryan Kesler chosen by Buzzfeed to lead the gay revolution at the 2014 Olympics

It’s not often that the Vancouver Canucks find themselves on Buzzfeed. This is a good thing for several reasons. For one thing, it’s in everybody’s best interests that David Booth be kept as far away from all those animals as possible. For another: Buzzfeed’s writers know very little about the Vancouver Canucks.

At least that’s what I infer from a recent article titled Could This Straight Hockey Player Be The Face Of Gay Rights In The Sochi Olympics?, in which a gentleman named Logan Rhoades posits, with what appears to be complete sincerity, that Ryan Kesler, yes, Ryan Kesler could lead the gay uprising in Sochi. He could be Russia’s gay Che Guevara — “Ge Guevara”, if you will.

I’d say this is the most ridiculous and bewildering thing they’ve ever posted, but “The Story Of Egypt’s Revolution In ‘Jurassic Park’ Gifs” is a thing that exists. This one’s a close second.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Headless Kesler loves to dance

We’ll have plenty of time in the summer to dissect what went wrong for the Canucks this season, as it is extremely likely that it will be a long, long summer. Only three teams in NHL history have come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs and the Canucks have not given fans much confidence in their ability to be the fourth.

But we’re going to save the analysis, finger-pointing, and recriminations for another day. Right now we have something far more important to do. You see, one of the photographers at Sunday’s game between the Sharks and Canucks took a humorous photo and we have no choice but to show it to you, make fun of it, and create a ludicrous photoshop out of it.

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Ryan Kesler’s beast mode forces Canucks fan to alter plans for pizza feast mode [PHOTO]

Friday night’s Game 2 between the Canucks and the San Jose Sharks put Vancouver hockey fans through the wringer. Through two periods, it looked like we were witnessing yet another game in which the Canucks wouldn’t be scoring. Another disappointing outcome seemed inevitable. You could forgive any fan who felt that he had seen this game before and decided by about the second intermission that there wasn’t going to be much to see in the third.

But then Ryan Kesler came to life, scoring early in the final frame on a blistering slap shot from the point. Suddenly the disbelieving fans were forced to change their tune (albeit briefly). And one fan was forced to change his pizza order:

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Twenty-four things for Ryan Kesler to remember, now that he’s a winger again

Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy will be back on the same line again Monday versus the Chicago Blackhawks, but there are a few changes to the Canucks’ second line nonetheless. First of all, Chris Higgins returns to the lineup, and he’ll replace Jannik Hansen on the other wing. Second, Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy will trade spots, meaning that, unless Alain Vigneault has an eleventh hour change of heart (like he did last time), Roy will be the centre. Kesler will be reprising his long dormant role as a right-winger.

But now he has to try to remember what it’s like to play the wing, a position he hasn’t played since 2009. That’s a long time. He might need a refresher course.

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Derek Roy wins the lottery, as Ryan Kesler replaces Dale Weise on his wing

Among the many, many salient (and dare I say mind-blowingly accurate) points in our most recent game recap was an observation on Dale Weise playing on Derek Roy’s wing. “He’s basically the gremlin in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” I wrote. “He shouldn’t be on that wing.” At this point, I sat smugly and waited for my comedy award. It never came, perhaps because referencing specific episodes titles from a program that went off the air in 1964 is a good way to alienate your audience.

But Alain Vigneault got it, and over the weekend, he decided it was time to upgrade Derek Roy’s linemates in a big way. Dale Weise was removed from the line. In his place came the former Selke winner, Ryan Kesler.

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Breakdowning Ryan Kesler’s mess of a game-winning goal versus the Coyotes

Mike Smith was dynamite Monday night, making 40 saves as Vancouver peppered him with chance after chance. The Canucks managed to beat him three times, with two called back — one for goaltender interference and the other for a distinct kicking motion.

Smith was playing so well that you’d expect only the prettiest of goals to beat him. Instead, the Canucks won the game thanks to indecision, falling down, a flubbed shot, and missing an open net.

Quick, skilful passing plays that lead to goals often get described as tic-tac-toe. This play needs an easier child’s game than that: let’s go with Candy Land. Like Candy Land, it was completely random, with no one really deserving to win. Ryan Kesler just happened to draw the right cards to reach Candy Castle and rescue King Kandy first. There’s no glory in that. And yet, Kesler still celebrated the game-winner appropriately: like a three-year-old.

Let’s break down the madness, shall we?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, April 8, 2013

The Canucks have been in a lot of low-scoring games lately, but this one felt different. Prior games have been snoozefests — actually, scratch that. A snoozefest sounds amazing. Think about it: an entire festival dedicated to sleeping? That’s a yes. Sleep is fantastic. Snoozefest is the wrong word. But the prior games have been mundane.

This one wasn’t. The Canucks dominated the Coyotes for the majority of the night, peppering Mike Smith like he was a Caesar salad and they were the waiter at an Olive Garden. With a lesser goaltender in the opposition end, this might have been a blowout. But Smith kept the Coyotes close. By the end of the night, Phoenix had come to rely on him so thoroughly that, when he left the goal for the extra attacker, they got confused and scared and scored on themselves. Related: I watched this game.

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Luongo, Kesler, Bieksa riff on greasy hair, indecipherable Burrows in odd Twitter conversation

The Canucks are on a roll, winning four straight. As a result, the team is feeling pretty loose and relaxed. Want proof? After their victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night, three Canucks engaged in an absurd and ridiculously hilarious conversation on Twitter.

We’re used to Roberto Luongo entertaining Canucks fans and the rest of the hockey world with his self-deprecating humour on his no-longer-alleged Twitter account, @strombone1, but on Sunday night Ryan Kesler (@Ryan_Kesler) and Kevin Bieksa (@kbieksa3) joined in on the fun. The three Canucks riffed on Luongo’s hair, for the most part, but couldn’t resist a couple quips on Burrows’ indecipherability and a couple body blows on Kesler’s nude photo.

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Canucks play keepaway in Dallas; why Kesler prevents that from happening more often (VIDEO)

Henrik Sedin has two goals this season, and neither are a result of the Canucks’ Captain making the choice to shoot. In both instances, Alex Burrows has made the choice for him with late, unexpected return passes that leave Henrik with no room and no choice but to do anything other than put the puck towards the goal.

This is the rub when it comes to the Sedins, and Henrik especially: sometimes you have to force the issue. Henrik Sedin has led the NHL in assists for three years in a row. He’s a pure passer; passing is his jam. If he were on the Price is Right Showcase Showdown, he’d pass twice.

We saw yet another example of Henrik’s pass-first mentality Thursday night when he spearheaded a full, two-minute session of keepaway in Dallas. When the Stars went down a man one second before the two-minute mark, it became apparent to Henrik that, in order to nurse the Canucks’ one-goal lead home, all he and his teammates had to do was maintain possession for 120 seconds. No shooting. All passing. Here’s Henrik living the dream, as the Canucks’ powerplay trolls the Dallas Stars.

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