In a galaxy far far away…

The Province has the lone Canuck article I could find this morning of substance and the title had the record player suddenly scratch violently in my head: "Kesler insists he can score". While he admits he has his doubters out there, he counters with:

"Right now, my game is a two-way forward and I like shutting down other teams' top lines," Kesler said. "But I can do more. I can play a bigger role. I can be a top-six forward. I think I have a lot more to offer. I think I'm just coming into my own."

Deep breath...inhale...exhale...ok, I really do want to believe that he's about to 'come into his own', but there's that whole 18 goals in 158 NHL games thing that gets in my way. You can write off this year to injuries, but to date he's only played one full NHL season which was the last Crawford experiment in 2005 when he registered 10G and 13A. Those 23 points aren't truly top six numbers and, for comparison, would tie him with the 23 points that the much-maligned Jan Bulis had this year.

I don't mean to shovel shit on the guy; in fact, I'm quite the booster of his physical, scrappy play (and I still love this smirk). He's still young and is a magnet for skepticism mainly because of his RFA contract. It's a shame he was out of the Canucks/Ducks series because he would have seen guys like Kunitz, Penner and Perry (all of whom have damn near double the amount of points Kesler has ever had) up close and personal.

Nonis has given every indication he's going to try and lock up Kesler for a couple years. If he does, Kesler certainly has his work cut out for him to crack the top six on this team. In theory, he could improve his physical game and become a mini-Bertuzzi for Naslund, dragging defenders with him on the rush and leaving the captain a drop pass with room to fire it. He could also become a mini-Carter/Pyatt with the Sedins and park himself in front of the net, causing havoc and converting rebounds. Or he could style his play after the aforementioned Kunitz and Penners of the world if given the chance to skate with guys like Cooke, Rypien or hell Bruce Banner (he's an UFA, right?).

So I'm on the fence with Kesler's comments. To me he's a two-way grinder firmly ensconced on the third line until he does something to warrant a top six slot. And even if he doesn't crack the top two lines, is that so bad? It would speak volumes about this team’s depth for next year if Kesler greatly improves his game and sticks to the third line.