Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ryan Kesler ... is not ready to quit on the Ducks

By Larry Wigge

Ryan Kesler recently told Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Coach Bruce Boudreau that he was tired of losing.

"He said this team was too good not to be in the playoffs,"
Boudreau recalled.

And he meant it.

Put a job that requires hard work in front of Kesler and he never shies away from it.

Voila! The Livonia, Michigan, native, is the supreme power forward. Kesler has great wheels. Drive. Determination. A hard as nails edge to his game and, of course, his work ethic that is so great. But, wait a minute, he once scored 41 goals for Vancouver in 2010-11 ... but he's annually amongst the leading contenders for the Frank Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the game.

Kesler will get you from Point X, but, also get you to Point X, Y and Z. A complete package.

The Mighty Ducks nearly beat Chicago in the Western Conference final last year in the 6-2, 202-pound center's first year in Anaheim after spending leading Vancouver in his first 10 seasons. The Ducks were up 3-2 in the series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Black Hawks.

So, it came as a complete surprise that the Ducks stumbled from the start of this season going 1-7-2 in October.
And they were losing going into the third period January 8.

"I think going into the third, there were some things said," Kesler remembered. "We knew we needed to buckle down and claw back into the thing ... and I thought we did a good job of it."

Kesler tied the game, 3-3, at 4:32 of the third period went he let go a wrist shot from near the right faceoff dot that went by Brian Elliott on a power play. It was his second goal of the game and eighth of the year -- and for Kesler his first multi-goal game since December 5, 2014 against Minnesota.

The Ducks win, 4-3, on a shootout goal by Ryan Getzlaf to give them a 17-16-7 record, including that October month from hell.

"He got two goals tonight and they were big goals and he was out there for the majority of the penalty kill," Getzlaf said. "Those are big things for our group ... and a good game for him."

Vancouver traded Kesler and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to Anaheim for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and Anaheim's first-round and third-round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft (Nos. 24 and 85).

"I'm going to Anaheim to win a championship," Kesler said. "That's going to be my sole goal and my team's sole goal. That's basically it."

Some pretty big goals ... but that's Kesler doing the talking.

"He's a very good playoff player, he's a heart-and-soul guy," said Anaheim G.M. Bob Murray. "We weren't very good on faceoffs all year. He's an excellent penalty-killer, can play the power play."

Take it from former Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who has been trying to stop the Sedins and Kesler ... as well.

"Naturally, you want to shut down the Sedins twin when you play Vancouver," Trotz said. "We used Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to shut them down. But Kesler's line was killing us."

So ... Trotz said, "No matter what we did, he continued to score on us. So, we went with Weber and Suter against Kesler. Not even our two best shut down defenders could stop him."

Summers ago, Kesler went back home to Michigan and decided he needed to work on his shot. He was a good player at that point, but to get to the next level, he believed he needed to fine-tune his shot. At his offseason home in West Bloomfield, Kesler set up shop in his garage with a shooting target and rarely took a day off.

"He literally has taken 100 to 200 shots a day every summer for the last three years," his father said. "He's really improved his shot."

During the offseason, he's practiced on to RapidShot (a high-end shooting training system).

There were other adjustments for Kesler, who has scored 20 goals in seven seasons.

"I came into this league being a defensive specialist that got under other guys' skins," Kelser reasoned. "I think I just grew out of it and I'm just focusing on my game more. When you play whistle to whistle, it's a lot easier to play the game offensively and defensively.?

Hard work has never been a problem for Kesler, who brings a Midwestern work ethic that was nurtured at home by his dad, Mike, a former Colorado College forward. Mike Kesler coaches a Junior B hockey when he's not working as a project manager for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Linda Kesler, Ryan's mom, owns her own shop in Detroit. That's where the hard work came from.

Ryan's work ethic then grew with the U.S. National Development Program in Ann Arbor, then in one year at Ohio State University before being selected by the Canucks with the 23rd pick of the 2003 Entry Draft.

The ABC's of Ryan Kesler's development started when he was six and he attended Mike's hockey school in Livonia each summer from then until he was 17.

"I'd be on the ice for three hours a day during the hockey school and the first hour was power skating," says Kesler, who started skating at age four. "In the winter, we had a backyard rink, so it was skating, skating and more skating. My dad helped me fine-tune it."

But no player, not even Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby has had an obstacle to overcome to make him stronger as a person to get to the NHL For Kesler, it came when he was 13-14.

"I got cut from every Triple A team I tried out for," Ryan admitted. "Luckily, my dad, who was coaching a bantam team in Livonia, gave me a chance to play for him. It was against guys who were at least a year older than me. It was tough, but playing against those guys made me tougher."

Ryan Kesler is 31-year-old. He's been to the Stanley Cup finals once in 2011. He won't let getting back there go by ... soon.

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