The Kesler Effect

All has been quiet on the Jason Spezza trade front for the past number of weeks, but that does not mean that I can’t discuss Ryan Kesler’s status in Vancouver and shed some light on how much of an impact his availability can have on Spezza’s market.

Like Paul Statsny’s uncertain future in Colorado – Statsny’s slated to become an UFA on July 1st – Ryan Kesler’s name circulated within the NHL’s rumour mill when it was reported in February that Kesler had asked the Canucks for a trade.

Either player represents a viable alternative to Spezza and recently, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson outlined his beliefs that Kesler should be the Anaheim Ducks’ primary target in a deal.

Per Matheson:

“Mathieu Perreault is a good little cheap centre who did some nice things as the guy behind Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, but as sure as the Zamboni comes out every period to resurface the ice at the Honda Center, you can bet general manager Bob Murray will be taking another run at Ryan Kesler before the NHL entry draft. Mathieu Perreault is a good little cheap centre who did some nice things as the guy behind Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, but as sure as the Zamboni comes out every period to resurface the ice at the Honda Center, you can bet general manager Bob Murray will be taking another run at Ryan Kesler before the NHL entry draft.”

Gauging social media and other corners of the internet, there’s a certain level of excitement surrounding a prospective Spezza trade. Whether it’s the “Oh look, a shiny new toy” factor or the optimistic expectations that whatever return the organization gets will improve the team’s ability to contend down the road, the anticipation that the Senators will be making big changes is palpable.

So with that in mind, the possibility that Kesler or a Statsny could help undercut Spezza’s return is a drag.

Fortunately for the Senators however, the situation may not be that grim.

In Statsny’s case, he could re-sign in Colorado and never hit the open market. In the event that he did however, the Senators could stand to benefit from the fact that teams interested in Spezza would have to compete with other organizations who may not have the prospect capital to trade for a Spezza or a Kesler.

In Elliotte Friedman’s latest ’30 Thoughts’ blog article, he discussed Ryan Kesler’s future with the Vancouver Canucks.

5. Newly hired Canucks GM Jim Benning said he would like to meet with Ryan Kesler, who requested a trade. There’s a lot of info flying around about the centre. Here’s what agent Kurt Overhardt would confirm: that he and Kesler have met once with Canucks president Trevor Linden, who met solely with Kesler on a second occasion. Both sides agreed to have another discussion once the new GM and head coach were hired.

6. Here’s what Overhardt would not address: What it would take to change Kesler’s mind. Both Linden and Benning talk about the Canucks retooling on the fly, and, from what a couple sources say about Kesler, that’s a critical part of the discussion. He’s suffered some pretty painful losses in his career (2010 Olympics, 2011 Stanley Cup, 2014 Olympics) and badly wants to win. The agent also wouldn’t talk about Kesler’s list of teams (Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay). It is believed, however, that group may change.

If Kesler can be convinced by Benning to stay, the opportunity for the Senators to leverage teams like Anaheim or St. Louis and maximize Spezza’s trade value will be greater.

Even if Kesler decides that he wants out, it’s not like he doesn’t come with warts. Spezza’s medical history (two back surgeries) is well documented, but there’s also a lot of mileage on Kesler’s body. He will turn 30 years of age in August and one has to wonder how the wear and tear from playing that hard and physically demanding style will affect his play and production.

After posting the lowest points per 60 rate of his career (in the era in which sites like Behind the Net started capturing the data), will Kesler’s production age as gracefully as a more offensively gifted player like Spezza?

Granted, there’s no question that Kesler’s the better defensive player, but that’s the risk some team will have to take.

Paul MacLean’s Interviews

I probably should have put my comments on Paul MacLean’s two-part interview with Wayne Scanlan that appeared on the Ottawa Citizen’s redesigned website (part one, part two) about two weeks ago in its own blog article.

Well, better late than never.

Like a Matt Carkner triple overtime winner, the timing of interview could not have been better. Set in the middle of the NHL’s Conference Finals, it was a pleasant surprise for fans craving whatever scraps of Sens news they could find.

I enjoyed MacLean’s posthumous account of his team’s season with the added benefit of having an extra month to let his thoughts marinate. Both installments of the interview are incredibly worthwhile reads, but that’s easy for me to say since I find Paul MacLean’s assessments refreshingly blunt and often consistent with my own.

I won’t focus on all of MacLean’s comments since many of them were consistent with what he said in his end of the year media availability, but of particular interest were his comments on Jason Spezza’s future.

When asked whether he envisioned the center returning to the Senators next season, MacLean responded with the following:

“Well, I truly believe that. We need him. He’s been an offensive player in the league his whole career. We’ve asked him to make some changes in his game, that’s he’s continued to work on. And he needs to continue to work on them. But we certainly expect he’s going to be here.”

MacLean’s not going to throw his captain under the bus or publicly devalue Spezza’s name or style. So bearing that in mind, it’s not surprising to see MacLean prop him up, especially when the center is still under contract.

It was also interesting to note that he and his staff identified the Blues, Bruins and Sharks as teams whose defensive styles the team wanted to learn from.

“We made a point of watching Boston play, we watched Chicago play, we watched San Jose, St. Louis, those are projects that we had – to find out if we could learn anything about how those teams play defensively that would make a difference for our team.”

MacLean also cited Los Angeles’ defensive play for changing the momentum in their series versus San Jose, but systems aside, having great players helps considerably.

Other News and Notes…

In light of Eugene Melnyk’s outspoken comments that blasted FIFA for allowing Russia to host the 2018 World Cup and encouraged soccer fans to boycott the event’s sponsors, TMZ brings us this fantastic Melnyk/Putin photoshopped image.

http://ll-media.tmz.com/2014/05/30/0529-eugene-putin-2.jpg

In an excellent post that examines a defenceman’s CorsiRel, Tyler Dellow looks at a number of the league’s prominent defencemen and individually graphs their corsi and their team’s corsi without that player on the ice.

For the purpose of the graph below, the red line reflects Erik Karlsson’s corsi while the blue displays the team’s corsi without Erik Karlsson on the ice.

http://www.mc79hockey.com/wp-content/uploads/Screen-Shot-2014-05-30-at-2.19.47-AM.png

And here’s Chris Phillips’:

http://www.mc79hockey.com/wp-content/uploads/Screen-Shot-2014-05-30-at-1.38.11-PM.png

Over at Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Passan examines an online baseball Sabermetrics 101 course that is free and allows fans to discuss and learn more about baseball analytics. It would unbelievable to see a similar idea take off within the online hockey community.

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