First of all - you gotta love Hansen and Torres - these guys really show up and earn it every night, and when they are rewarded as they were last night, you have to love the way the script played out.
Ryan Kesler has been compared recently to Mark Messier a number of times.
Personally, I am not that impressed by the analogy.
The players are similar in some ways - Messier was also a powerful two-way player in the prime of his career. Both players took some warming up to in Vancouver... but Kesler has certainly surpassed Messier in that regard. Both players came in with high expectations. Messier, despite a great career, never really delivered in Vancouver. Kesler came in expecting to break in as a first-line player. He had high expectations of himself - the negative side of those expectations were that he may have been perceived as arrogant. He did not necessarily indicate as a young player that he had an understanding of what it takes to be successful at the NHL level, but his high expectations had a positive side as well. He had a lot of work to do and had set the bar high, but he intended to reach it. When things seemed to take longer than Kesler had expected, he kept working hard - and in the end, the player he has become has been worth the wait.
He was signed prematurely to an offer sheet by Philadelphia for $1.9 million in 2006 - at that point he had a 10 goal season under his belt, and in 2006/7 he scored at a similar pace - just 6 times in 48 games. In my mind, the talk of Kesler being a candidate to replace Luongo as captain was similarly premature.
The Canucks have a captain in Henrik Sedin who has earned it, while Kesler is showing and developing his great potential. But where Kesler and comparisons to Messier are concerned, there would seem to be a more obvious likeness to another former Canuck. The Canucks had a Captain in Trevor Linden when Messier arrived in Vancouver. The captaincy should never have been taken from Trevor Linden - it was simply the wrong thing to do and a low point, (if not THE lowest point) in Canucks history. Mike Keenan may have a great hockey mind but the way he managed personalities was very questionable and he certainly seemed instrumental in the dysfunctional dynamics that developed. Messier was one of the greatest players of all time, but his abilities had been in decline before becoming a Canuck. Unlike Trevor Linden, he was either not willing or unable to transform himself into a solid role player - he had reached a coasting point in his career, similar to the great Mats Sundin when he arrived in Vancouver.
Kesler has developed somewhat unexpectedly as a defense-first player who has also developed, as expected, into a constant scoring threat. Messier was an intimidating, powerful presence who could knock your lights out - but he was not the smothering defensive presence that Kesler is - in this sense, Kesler is more like Essa Tikkanen than Mark Messier.
In fairness to Kesler, it is difficult to be compared to other players - Kesler is his own player, and no one wants to be seen in a derivative way. But if comparisons must be made, I think it more fitting - and the highest of compliments - to compare Kesler to Trevor Linden, perhaps the greatest player in Canucks history to date. In my mind, watching the big right-handed centre skate and claim so much space at both ends of the ice, his strength on the puck, his assertive physical presence, and his sheer determination make his likenesses to the Linden obvious.
In fairness again, Trevor Linden was a player who scored 30 goals in 5 of his first 6 seasons in the NHL, and in 6 of his 7 full seasons with Vancouver before being sent to Long Island. He was a solid two-way player who could also shut you down - defensively, he took the body relentlessly much the way Ryan Kesler does.
In my opinion, it was Linden's return to Vancouver that turned the franchise around and in the direction it is headed today. It was a very under-rated move by Brain Burke. Linden is the kind of modest star whose on-ice commitment was consistently outstanding, a priceless example of how to play the game that was no doubt critical to the development of young two-way players like Kesler and Burrows.
Trevor Linden was the identity of the Vancouver Canucks - and he had not received the respect he deserved when the "C" was taken off his jersey. That needed to be redressed, and was one of Burke's many character moves. Linden's return to Vancouver was the cornerstone in the rebuilding of the identity of the Vancouver Canucks, and can not be separated from a continuum that has lead the present day Vancouver Canucks into contending for the Stanley Cup. The wealth and depth of Linden's impact was of undeniable benefit to the young players who are the stars of todays' Vancouver Canucks. Ryan Kesler has had some performances where he has been simply dominant, bearing some striking resemblances to the legendary exploits of Trevor Linden - not a comparison to be stated lightly considering what Trevor Linden means to so many of us.