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Ryan Kesler Rants, But Vancouver Canucks Far From Elite

Is Ryan Kesler on the defensive or is he in denial about how the Vancouver Canucks stack up in a loaded Western Conference this season? When asked this past week about the Canucks possibly slipping into the second tier of the Western Conference Kesler had a bit of an issue with the question:

“To be honest, I don’t listen to that s—, That’s what it is. It’s s—. We believe in ourselves in the dressing room. All those negative comments we’re not even going to, To be honest, I shouldn’t have even answered that question. It’s s—.”

In some ways you have to admire Ryan Kesler‘s bravado if not his choice of language but the facts remain that the Canucks are no longer an elite Western Conference team. The conference and more importantly their division have passed them by. In fact, the Canucks are closer to missing the playoffs than they are to winning the division.

Has Ryan looked at the Pacific Division? Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose are clearly better teams on paper at this point. Vancouver has the slight edge on Phoenix, Edmonton, and Calgary but two of those teams are stocked with young talent (sorry Calgary) and Edmonton is poised at any point to finally put it all together.

How about the rest of the Western Conference? Chicago and St. Louis are leaps and bounds ahead of the Canucks and Minnesota is closing the gap. So that puts the Canucks at about the 6th or 7th best team in the conference. It sounds like second tier to me.

No one is saying that the Canucks are not a playoff team. They are. They just aren’t the class of the Western Conference anymore. They’ve been passed by and I think at least the Canucks organization (maybe not Ryan Kesler) has figured that out. This is why John Tortorella is behind the bench this year and sweeping changes could follow in the next few years on a team that is aging and isn’t on par with the more talented teams in the NHL.

Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The main problem for Vancouver is that the team is still built around  Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin . Last season Henrik and Daniel were two of the worst values in the league according to Hockey Prospectus’ advanced statistic of GVS (Goals Versus Salary) at .7 and -1.7 respectively. The bottom line is that they are a poor fit for the Western Conference. They are at best on the perimeter but struggle to win the physical battles needed to overcome the tougher forwards in the conference. The Hockey News annually ranks their pre-season top 50 players and this year 17 Western Conference players we ranked ahead of the Sedin brothers and 43 overall in the NHL. This is a problem if you are Vancouver because they are taking up $12.6 million in cap space and your Stanley Cup hopes are built around them.

Tie the aforementioned into the return of the Roberto Luongo soap opera and the picture now becomes crystal clear as to why Vancouver is no longer a Western powerhouse. Too many distractions tied to fading talent. Even if there is minimal drama, Luongo is on the back nine of his career at 34 and clearly is unhappy to be back in Vancouver despite saying all the right things. Also, if you remember he seemed to break down mentally at the most important of times.

The Canucks had their window with this team in the spring of 2011 and 2012 when Chicago was reloading and St. Louis’ young core was maturing. But Boston and Los Angeles’ won more battles and ultimately the Stanley Cup. Even with their best opportunity in 2011 when all was going right the team failed to win a game seven on home ice.

That window is now shut. Tortorella will work all season long to pry it open but there needs to be major changes either in the way the Sedins’ play (See Joe Thornton and Patrick Kane) or the make-up of the team.

But for now the fact remains that the Vancouver Canucks are on the outside looking in on the Western Conference elite.

Tags: Daniel Sedin Henrik Sedin Joe Thornton Patrick Kane Ryan Kesler Vancouver Canucks

  • savannah

    Well said ..Vancouver cannot compete with the western conference powerhouses.

  • Shawn Fisher

    How are Anaheim, LA or San Jose clearly better teams on paper? LA had a fluke run 2 years ago and are now overvalued. They live and die by Quick, and he was mediocre last season. Anaheim was regressing to the mean after a hot start with the help of Fasth, and just didn’t have enough racetrack left to drop into the bottom 3 playoff spots where they should have been. They’ve also lost Bobby Ryan. Aging team as an issue? SJ is older than Vancouver. Sedins as perimeter players? Obviously not, they still generate plenty of scoring chances for their teammates even if they aren’t sniping it themselves all the time. Canucks have a ‘slight edge’ on Calgary, Edmonton and Phoenix? More like a gulf. Calgary is a lottery team on the first year of a rebuild, Edmonton has no D and Phoenix is a bubble team at best.

    Will the Canucks walk away with the Pacific? Clearly it will be a tough fight, but I’d still have them as favorites to win the division. I think it’s ridiculous to expect them anywhere outside the top 4 in the west.

    Chicago AND St Louis leaps and bounds ahead of the Canucks? Yeah, I’d concede that Chicago should take first in the west but the Blues are very much a work in progress.

    Luongo a factor? No, he plays for his teammates first and that’s where his loyalties are. He’ll worry about trade scenarios in the summer of 2014.

  • Terry Boake

    I say wait until the quarter mark of the season to pass this judgment. 32 is not too old to win a cup (Chara? Tim Thomas?). With a massive overhaul in style and some fresh blood to fill out the roster, I could see a revival, and they may just turn some heads. Or they’ll implode and everything changes next year. Way too early to say anything about this season yet.