Kesler becoming front runner for Selke
February 2, 2017 | 2:40pm ET
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- Okay, before you guys come at me with pitchforks, hear
All-Star Weekend just wrapped up and now everyone is making their best
bets for the post-season -- including individual awards.
We heard a lot of talk of this last weekend in L.A.; who will win the
Norris, Calder, Selke, etc. While some are obvious -- I mean, we might
as well hand deliver the Norris to Brent Burns -- others are a little
bit more up for debate.
When it comes to the Selke trophy, there are typically some standard
names thrown out each year: Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and
Jonathan Toews. Picking one of those names more than likely will put
you in good odds if you're putting money on it.
One name that not many were convinced with coming into this season at
age 32 was Anaheim's Ryan Kesler.
Let's call a spade a spade, Kesler is a polarizing player. Maybe he's
taking over Corey Perry's role, or maybe he's just gained some
league-wide brownie points last weekend when his son, Ryker, took his
shootout shot in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and went
five-hole on the infamous Carey Price. His son received nothing but
applause as Ryan was welcomed with a unanimous "boo."
Love him or hate him, there is no doubt this guy is a phenomenal
hockey player. Now, if the Selke were simply the award for the best
forward, there are about a dozen guys who would take the trophy before
Kesler. This is where many biases come from. Keep in mind this trophy
goes to the best two-way forward; to this, "Kesboss" is your guy.
He is no stranger to the Selke, winning the award in 2011 with the
Vancouver Canucks after 73-point season -- 41G, 32A, +24, 260 shots
and 57.42% in the dot.
Last year, the trophy was in an arms-reach as he was nominated along
with Kopitar and Patrice, with Kopitar ultimately named the recipient.
So why Ryan Kesler over the bigger names like Kopitar and Bergeron?
Well, a few things:
Facts are facts; Kopitar has had a... well... disappointing season,
but look at the situation in L.A. You can't really blame the guy with
the line combinations going over there. Even if the Kings makes some
moves at the trade deadline and Kopitar picks up the pace with
scoring, I still would not put him as a front runner for the Selke.
Just look at Connor McDavid last year. Indisputably the best rookie,
and while he was nominated, the Calder did not go to "McJesus."
Missing a few months for injury is what killed his chances there. Had
he played a full season, he more than likely would have won. That is
why these awards are not a month-by-month discussion -- these awards
go to the all-around best in their category, and for players like
Kopitar, Toews and Bergeron, this has not been a well rounded season
for any of them. Bergeron and Toews have yet to hit the 30-point mark.
So who is in the running for the Selke? My finalists: Kesler, Mikko
Koivu and John Tavares. Koivu has had a phenomenal season along with
the Minnesota Wild. Tavares is having a great run whilst carrying the
Isles on his back. The usual suspects are tapering off one by one, but
when you break down Kesler's game-the lead he has becomes more
Kesler is hands down the No.1 shutdown-guy on the Ducks, and one of
the very best in the NHL. He is going up against the top lines of
opposing teams every night, shutting down elite guys like McDavid,
Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, etc. As an opposing player, this guy is
your worst nightmare. He is the guy who you try to shake, but every
move you make, he is one step ahead of you. He knows how to get in
your face and he is more than comfortable staying there. Kesler is a
guy who takes tremendous pride in pissing players off.
"Yeah, you know I think, especially this year they kind of put me in
that two way role where I was going against the other team's top line
every night. It's a lot of minutes and a lot of hard work and I love
being in that role." -- Kesler, NHL Awards 2016
Hockey IQ. This is something we hear more and more these days with
the way the game is trending. We just saw the NHL 100 in L.A. this
past weekend and Hockey IQ is a common factor is past and present
All-Stars. He knows how to read the situation and adjust appropriately
on a dime. No doubt the game is faster; it is more about skill and
finesse than grit and physicality. Fortunately for him, Kesler is a
hybrid, displaying all of those components at the appropriate times.
He knows how and when to adjust his game, which is why he is such a
dangerous force on the ice.
This season has been the big middle finger to all those says he is
declining at 32. He is projected to have his best season since winning
the Selke in 2011. On pace for over 60 points, he is just four goals
away from surpassing his previous season. He turns 33 this August and
is not showing signs of slowing down -- if anything, he seems more
hungry for post-season success.
Let's look at the All-Star game for a second. While we all know that
the game counts for nothing and players don't really take it all that
seriously, look at where he was placed. Kesler was chosen to play
alongside McDavid. That is not only a testament to his 200-foot game
but his offensive prowess.
I mean, just look at his wingers. You could not ask for a more
dangerous combination. Andrew Cogliano is incredibly fast and hard to
knock off the puck, and Jakob Silfverberg has the most wicked release
and insane accuracy -- the reason he is so great in the shootout. The
Ducks have been a one line team for the most part and then add in
Rickard Rakell and theres your scoring. The second line of Cogs-Kes-Silfvy
is one the best two-way lines in the league.
Dominance in the dot is another staple of his game. He is seeing the
second most faceoffs in the league behind Bergeron and winning over
57% of them. Nuff said.
20+ minutes per night Kesler is far better than 18 minutes per night
Kesler. We hear this talked about all the time around the league.
Players perform at different rates dependent on ice time. Some guys
thrive on more minutes, others are comfortable in a certain range and
can control their game much better in that zone. His career average is
18:59, this season his average is up nearly two minutes at 21:45.
This guy is seeing big minutes on the Ducks' penalty kill, which
currently sits at 83.8%. While their PK is not the shining No.1 spot
it was last season, Kesler is a big reason for its success. When those
elite guys are flying through the neutral zone, and your team is a man
short, he is the guy you want on the ice. He sticks on these players
like a Stage 5 clinger who just won't give it up. Limiting
opportunities for elite players like McDavid and Crosby is a big part
of his game. Those guys will get opportunities, theyre the best, but
it takes the best to shutdown the best and Kesler has displayed
nothing less this season.
Maturity is a word that comes up a lot when it comes to talking to
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. He talks about many of his players as
maturing, such as John Gibson and Cam Fowler. Kesler is no exception.
While he is amongst the older players on the roster, we all know that
Kes has been a hot head for the majority of his career. While that is
still true, he has toned it down significantly, keeping a more level
head and choosing when to get fired up and when to tone it down. His
teammates have attested to this. He is a great guy to have in the
locker room and he leads by example. In the past two years, the Ducks
post season performances have fallen short. Why? Because no one but
Kesler and Fredrik Andersen showed up to play all 60 minutes of hockey
in every single game. Kesler is the kind of player you watch and you
just know he wants to win the Cup more than anything.
One could argue that his leadership and determination not only puts
him in the discussion for the Selke, but perhaps for the captaincy as
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.