Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 5/30/12

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 11: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks lines up in position prior to a defensive zone face-off against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on March 11, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Canucks 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Blast From The Past

The news of Ryan Kesler’s latest injury requiring surgery on his shoulder had to put something of a chill into fans, as he has been commonly seen as key to any Vancouver Canucks playoff success.

The team was rolling along in the playoffs a year ago until Kesler’s hip (and the Dan Hamhuis injury as well) sidelined the Canucks.

When Kes’ secondary scoring fell off it forced the Sedins to try and carry the entire load.

As we all know all too clearly and painfully now, it proved too much to overcome and the Stanley Cup was finally conceded to the Boston Bruins.

The Second Line

Although he is officially a second line center on the current edition of the team, Kesler is really the straw that stirs the drink in Vancouver. The center positon is the fulcrum at forward that drives teams in hockey.

The scoring is set up here, on defence the traditional role is to help clog the middle of the ice inside the blue line, and the position is normally the source of most faceoff takes.

Kesler excels at all areas of the game (Photo - Mark van Manen/Vancouver Sun)

Kesler excels at all areas of the game, and we know how important he is to the team now. The team has also had a few strong pivot men over the years.

Where does Kesler stand in the history of Vancouver centers?

Let’s look at the best centers the team has had.

Hank

Henrik Sedin has, despite his critics occasional jabs about toughness, been remarkably consistent over the years. The Swede’s scoring is as reliable as the rainy weather on the lower mainland.

He has also developed into an excellent faceoff man, and has become one of the Iron Men of the league with his consecutive games played streak at an impressive 580 games as of April 7th, 2012.

Henrik has played with a near broken foot, so nah, not tough at all!

Igor

Igor Larionov played just three seasons in Vancouver, on the turn of an illustrious career. He was not exactly a scoring machine with 143 points in 210 regular season games, but his value was in the intellect that characterized his game.

He always looked to make the smart play, and played the major role in fostering the maturation of the electric Pavel Bure.

Gradin

Thomas Gradin was the first true blue chip player for Vancouver as the 70′s transitioned into the 80′s. The first great Canucks Swede tallied 20 goals or more 7 times in 8 years, and he also managed more than a point a game in that ’82 Finals run (with 19 in 17 games).

Thomas Gradin was the first true blue chip player for Vancouver.

BMO

Brendan Morrison was the hometown hero who made himself into a better player than the sum of his parts. The Pitt Meadows born player centerd the West Coast Express line and was a decent defensive player when called upon.

He contributed 393 points in 543 regular season contests.

Another 27 points were obtained from 43 playoff games.

When considering these players as all-time great Canucks centers I would put Larionov fifth, Morrison fourth and Gradin third.

Therefore, the current two pivots for Vancouver occupy the top pair of placings.

Really a no-brainer at this point

Ryan Kesler, the Selke award winner, provides a terrific blend of speed, determination, skill and strength. It is no wonder he appeals to the fans so much. But at this point, Henrik Sedin has a skill level that few players ever attain.

He is one of the finest passers of the puck that the league has seen in any era.

Kesler is my second best Canucks center of all time, with the Swedish captain sitting at first.

Kesler will turn 28 on Aug. 31st this year, and should have at least another four prime years.

As long as his health returns in whole, the script can still be rewritten.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSPORTSBEAT!

© C-Mac for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

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Post tags: 1970's, 1980's, 2012, Best Canucks, Best Vancouver Canucks centres, Brendan Morrison, Canucks, Canucks Blog, Canucks History, Canucks NHL blog, Dan Hamhuis, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Igor Larionov, Moments In Time, NHL, Pitt Meadows, Ryan Kesler, sedins, Sweden, Swedish hockey, Thomas Gradin, Vancouver Canucks

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