Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler's had a struggle of it this season, with 12 goals and 19 assists through 41 games. Last season he had 23 goals at this point, cruising to a career-best 41 tallies after being liberated from his traditional role as the team's primary shutdown center.
But Ryan Kesler also has something that other players around the NHL crave when their performance turns underwhelming:
The benefit of the doubt.
He can slump without consequence where others -- like Roberto Luongo -- have their jobs threatened. His offseason hip surgery is attached to many criticisms as a footnote, as Kesler told the Vancouver Sun that "the first 10 or 15 games I just didn't have it, but I feel my game and skating is back to where it should be at."
He's a popular player and fits the ideal of what fans and media want to see from this team: Competitive fire, a drive to succeed and respect from the rest of the NHL's media (if not its players).
Witness the ba...