Kesler gives Ducks the Selke Trophy type that Cup champs usually have


It was no coincidence that Ryan Kesler’s best season in the NHL coincided with the best team in Vancouver Canucks history.

In 2010-11, Kesler scored a career-high 41 goals as the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. For his efforts, he was awarded the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the league, snapping Pavel Datsyuk’s string of three straight seasons winning the award.

Unfortunately for Kesler and the Canucks, 2010-11 was the high-water mark for player and club. As a result, he’s now a member of the Anaheim Ducks, after the 29-year-old requested, and was granted, a trade out of Vancouver.

“I’m going to Anaheim to win a championship,” said Kesler. “That’s going to be my sole goal, and my team’s sole goal.”

And history shows that championship teams often have a player with a Selke on their résumé — be it Datsyuk in Detroit, Jonathan Toews in Chicago, Patrice Bergeron in Boston, Rod Brind’Amour in Carolina, or going all the way back to Bob Gainey in Montreal. The 2007 Ducks team that won it all had a Selke nominee in Samuel Pahlsson.

“I think I can fit into this team and be a good No. 2 behind Ryan Getzlaf,” said Kesler, who played behind Henrik Sedin in Vancouver. “We have size, speed and grit. I’d say that Getzlaf is one of the best centers in the game. I’m going to come in behind him and do my job.”

Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for Kesler, who’s suffered the two biggest losses a hockey player can possibly suffer. In 2011, he lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. In 2010, he lost the Olympic gold-medal game as a member of Team USA.

Health, however, could be another story. A veteran of 655 regular-season NHL games, Kesler’s body has taken a lot of punishment. He had hip surgery in the summer of 2011. He had shoulder surgery in the summer of 2012.

Yet despite all the hard miles he’s logged, Kesler still managed to lead the Canucks with 25 goals in 2013-14, while averaging 21:49 of ice time per game. Among NHL forwards, only Sidney Crosby (21:58) played more per contest.

In fact, Kesler’s increased ice time under coach John Tortorella became a hot topic in hockey-mad Vancouver, where there’s rarely a shortage of hot topics.

“A lot of people in Vancouver make a lot of everything,” Kesler said in Sochi during the Olympics. “It’s two minutes [more per game]. It’s two shifts. It’s not that big a deal for me.”

Shortly thereafter, it was reported he wanted out of Vancouver.

Kesler has two years remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. For Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, the addition of the Livonia native makes Anaheim “a bona fide threat to become an elite team.”

Said Boudreau: “I’ve never coached a team in the NHL that’s had a second-line center that you’re going to have with Ryan Kesler. It’s a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited.”

To be sure, the Ducks still have question marks, namely on the blue line and in goal. But assuming he can stay healthy, Kesler should make them a tougher out in the playoffs.

“After the season in reviewing things, we knew we had to fill that,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. “Not that [Kesler is] a second-line center, but we knew we needed someone behind Ryan Getzlaf. This is a huge move for our hockey team.”

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (NHL.com)

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)