No other word is as important to Ryan Kesler as that one to start this season.
After scoring 41 goals in 82 games in 2011, he's had 26 over the last two seasons. Injuries can do that to a player's stats. The body can heal, but the mind needs to be there as well, and with Kesler, he's finally healthy from head to toe.
People seem to forget that from 2008 until the end of 2011, Kesler didn't miss a regular season game. As well, he only missed four in 2012. But after a season last year that some Canucks are calling "embarrassing", most players took some time off after a stunningly quick exit from the playoffs to let their bodies rest and recuperate because of 48 games played over 99 days BEFORE the playoffs.
Kesler was back on the ice after one week.
Doing two-a-days on his own.
He also took the time to painstakingly rehab all his joints, to slowly prepare them for his hardest summer of training. It's paid off. He says he can't remember feeling as good as he does now.
In wanting to go forward he's also taking a page out of the past. Gone is the Bauer stick and skates he's used for the past few years as this year it will be Easton. He's used that brand before and he's going to again.
With a new stick, a modified curve (he's taken some of the bend out), and instruction from a professional shooting coach paid for out-of-pocket, Kesler is leaving nothing to chance as he enters his 10th season as a Canuck.
There is an argument to be made that the better Kesler plays, the more the Sedins benefit, instead of vice-versa. In looking back at his career year of 2011, teams were altering their defensive deployment and putting their top pairing out against Kesler's line, freeing up the Sedins to toy with any team's second pair. It worked.
With the possibility of playing alongside the most versatile Canuck on the roster in Alex Burrows, the Canucks will once again be able to boast two strong duo's within their top six. With those two players linked to the rise of the Canucks following their promotion from the Manitoba Moose in 2006, their time is now.
Yes, the chip on Kesler's shoulder is broader and more menacing, and the passion to win and the hatred of losing is probably only matched by new coach John Tortorella. If ever there was a coach that meshed with Kesler's mindset, it's the one he'll play for this season.
So whether it’s Beast-mode, Kesler 2.0, or Assistant Captain America – Ryan Kesler is determined to succeed this hockey season, and he's certainly healthy to do so.
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