VANCOUVER — Ryan Kesler’s return from offseason shoulder and wrist surgeries has been pushed back several months, according to is agent. The Vancouver Canucks beg to differ on the extent of that timeline provided by Kurt Overhardt, but it’s not a stretch for anyone to suggest that the centre won’t be back next month as forecasted earlier this fall.
When Kesler was re-evaluated two weeks ago at the Cleveland Clinic to assess progress from a May 8 procedure on his left shoulder and June 27 surgery on his left wrist, it was determined the rehab load placed on one side of his body was taking a toll and that progress has been slow.
“The re-evaluation was positive in that the surgeries were successful,” said Overhardt. “However, the compounding nature of both of those surgeries being on the same side of the body, it’s been very hard to properly rehab either one of the them — particularly the shoulder — because that’s obviously a big deal.
“I don’t think it’s fair to have any sort of time frame when he’s going to be 100 per cent and cleared to play. I don’t have a crystal ball and it’s certainly months away, it’s not weeks away. It’s several months away.”
If the NHL lockout ends and a shortened season commences next month, the Canucks will be further taxed to figure out their riddle in the middle. They expected to start without Kesler, but his setback means those second-line minutes must be eaten up individually or by committee. Chris Higgins played centre for the Montreal Canadiens while Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond have taken shifts in the middle A more viable option would be to promote Maxim Lapierre into that role and also see if Manny Malhotra and Jordan Schroeder can centre the third and fourth lines. Andrew Ebbett is on a two-way contract and playing for the AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves and could also work into the bottom-six mix. The Canucks could also seek help in a Roberto Luongo trade and landing Toronto Maple Leafs centre Tyler Bozak has long been rumoured. As for Kesler, the Canucks are holding out better hope for a quicker return of Kesler than Overhardt.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s months away — that’s news to me — and I haven’t been given a timeline,” said assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “The rehab for his shoulder was complicated by the surgery that happened with his wrist and it has impacted his ability to build strength in his shoulder.
“It’s a gradual process and he’s improving every day. We assume he’ll be healthy in due course but when that’s going to be, at this stage that’s not clear.”
Regardless, caution is obviously the best route for the 28-year-old Kesler to travel because a robust style has led to three surgeries in the last year. Multiple procedures have led to multiple problems and the latest are of great concern.
“It has affected his strength and range of motion to actually use the arm to stickhandle and shoot the puck,” added Overhardt. “You have to properly rehab because if you don’t, you’re going to have imbalances, so they [Cleveland Clinic doctors] are trying to be really smart about it. He’s got a lot of hockey ahead of him so we’re trying to make sure that he recovers and comes back 100 per cent and play like he can play.”
Kesler is being paid his $5 million US salary and is under the care of the Canucks because he was injured when the collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 15 and players were locked out by the owners. He was flying home to Michigan onThursday and unavailable for comment, but knew long ago the rehab process was going to be arduous with two surgeries on his left side.
“If I had my shoulder surgery on the right side, it might have helped a bit,” he said. “It’s going to take time, but time heals everything.”
It certainly explains how far off the mark the former Selke Trophy winner was last season. Hip-flexor stiffness from a previous surgery, a bad shoulder and bothersome wrist affected Kesler’s shot velocity and accuracy and also his battle level in dropping from a career-high 41 goals to 22 and no goals in five playoff games. There was some encouragement when he collected 17 points in a 15-game span in December — scoring in five-consecutive games from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 — but the Livonia, Mich. native then went eight games without a goal. Kesler tore a labrum muscle in his left shoulder on Feb. 9 but soldiered on, even though he had been nursing a wrist injury since November.
Edited by Strombone1, 13 December 2012 - 03:47 PM.