Thursday, September 14, 2006
It wasn't the easiest choice - either overpay Ryan Kesler by about $1 million or lose one of his team's top young forwards for a late secound-round draft pick. Dave Nonis chose the former and matched the Philadelphia Flyers' offer sheet and Kesler is now $1.9 million richer.
As much as Kesler's bank account got bigger, Canucks fans' expectations of him also became a lot higher. Quite simply, it doesn't matter now whether he plays on the top line or the fourth line or whether he gets powerplay time or not. Kesler needs to build on his good play in the second half of last season when he was one of the Canucks' better players. He chipped in with 8 points (3G-5A) over the team's last 14 games; he will now be expected to produce at a much higher rate than that and do so over the course of a full season.
Lou Vairo, Kesler's old coach, certainly thinks he can do it (from Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province):
There were plenty of people left stunned when Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler became the first restricted free agent in eight years to ink an offer sheet from another team.I - and all other Canucks fans - sure hope he's right.
Legendary American coach Lou Vairo wasn't among them.
Vairo, who coached Kesler at the 2003 World Junior Championship, knows exactly why Bobby Clarke slickly upset the NHL's apple cart for a shot at landing the Canucks 2003 first-round draft pick.
"I've coached great American players, I mean you name them - Neal Broten, Ed Olczyk, Chris Chelios and Pat Lafontaine." Vairo said. "This kid Kesler is right there with the very best players I've ever coached.
"He's terrific. What an upside he has. He can do whatever it takes. He'll kill penalties, he'll play on the powerplay, he'll play center and he can play either wing. He's courageous. He is one of my all-time favorites."
Vairo has been a key figure for USA Hockey for more than 20 years. He said Kesler, a 22-year-old Michigan native, has the kind of talent you just don't see much of in today's NHL.
"His best hockey always came against the best competition in the most crucial games," Vairo said. "That shows me what kind of player he's going to be in the NHL."
"I'd want him on any team I was involved in. He plays to win. And what a guy. You'd want your daughter to marry him."
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