Ryan Kesler Has Been Everything the Anaheim Ducks Wanted, And More

7 of 7

Nov 12, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) celebrates after a goal in the third period as Los Angeles Kings right wing

Marian Gaborik

(12) reacts at Honda Center. The Ducks defeated the Kings 6-5 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Kesler acquisition may be the most impressive offseason move for any team in the NHL. Other teams made big acquisitions to improve their chances for contention, but none have had quite the impact that Kesler has had for Anaheim. The Dallas Stars acquired Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators, getting him and Ludwig Karlsson for Alex Chiasson, Nicholas Paul, Alexander Guptill, and a 2015 2nd round pick. Dallas is currently 12th in the NHL at 2.81 goals per game, very similar to their 2.82 goals per game last season, when they were 10th in the league. However, the Stars have plummeted defensively, ranking 26th in the NHL at 3.25 goals per game against, more than half a goal per game worse than their 2.72 GAA last season. Spezza is second on the team with 15 points, but he is also a team-worst -8 through 16 games this season. The Stars had some question marks defensively entering this season, and while Spezza has delivered offensively, Dallas has struggled to contain other teams’ offenses, sitting at 10th in the Western Conference with 16 points.

The St. Louis Blues also got stronger when they signed Paul Stastny to a four year, $28 million contract in free agency. The Blues were plagued by offensive inconsistency, which was their undoing in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. Stastny was supposed to provide the Blues a scoring punch and another dependable centerman on the top-six: David Backes is a terrific player and great two-way performer, but he’s not generally regarded as a true top-line centerman. However, Stastny suffered a shoulder injury, missing eight games. Stastny’s effect on the Blues has not had a chance to manifest itself, but the Blues have been rolling along with their offensive line of Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera, and Vladimir Tarasenko, who each have a hat trick on the season, while Tarasenko is flourishing with 21 points in 16 games, tied for fourth in the NHL with Phil Kessel.

When the Ducks acquired Kesler, they knew his strengths. He is great in the faceoff circle, a force on both special teams units, and a true top-six forward who can both score and create for his linemates. He’s a defensively responsible player (as evidenced by his Selke Trophy) and a heart-and-soul player who adds fire, passion, grit, and toughness to any team. The Ducks wanted a top-six center that could pair with Getzlaf to give the team a fearsome one-two punch down the middle, but they also wanted a center who had his own unique set of strengths to complement what Getzlaf does.

The Ducks have gotten everything they envisioned from Kesler and more. He’s on pace for 68 points, and his line has become a puck possession juggernaut. He has improved the power-play and penalty kill from last season, made the Ducks into a top-five faceoff team, and eased Getzlaf’s minutes. His style of play and leadership are tremendous: without Perry and Beauchemin in the lineup, Kesler has been serving as an alternate captain, and his leadership shows with how he plays. The Ducks have another heart-and-soul player who refuses to take a shift off.

The Ducks, before 2007, made a trade for Chris Pronger because they saw it as the final piece to a Stanley Cup winning team. The Ducks indeed won the Cup that season. This season, the Ducks saw Ryan Kesler as that potential final piece. He has already changed the Ducks for the better, and if this continues, the Ducks may have truly vaulted themselves into the Stanley Cup contender conversation with the likes of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston. And if Kesler continues this level of play, then the Ducks will not just be Cup contenders for one year, but for several.

Jason Byun is the editor for Pucks of a Feather. He can be found on Twitter. For more Anaheim Ducks coverage, follow Pucks of a Feather on Twitter or like us on Facebook.