There have been a great many Sundin-rumours thrown around of late, but there is one that leaves me scratching my head. Sundin to Vancouver for a package headlined by Ryan Kesler. Why Ryan Kesler? Why is he the important piece to centre a deal around? I've seen him play and he doesn't stand out to me as an impact player. When people start talking about him like he's a serious prospect... uh.... I'm afraid not. Kesler seems to have stalled in his offensive development and frankly he looks more like a grinder than anything else. People defend him by citing ''Offensive Potential"... well just for reference, Patrick Stefan had "offensive potential", famous Leaf's flop Alyn McCauley had "offensive potential". Offensive potential means jack until it is capitalized on. Kesler is being paid 1.75m this year (as a result of Bobby Clarke) and is on pace to produce 35pts. Nik Antropov is being paid 1.95m this year and is on pace for 60pts. What seems like better value? The 'new' NHL is about finding guys who are outperforming or living up to their contracts, not finding guys who are payed more than they contribute. Besides, why would the Leafs need Ryan Kesler anyways... the roster is filled with guys who can contribute on the 3rd line: Steen, Stajan, Ponikarovsky, Kilger, Devereaux.
I know if I haven't been jumped on by 'Nucks fans yet, I will be for this one... Matt Stajan and Kesler are essentially equals... I might even prefer Stajan given how much leadership he's shown this year. Let's compare:
Stajan: 24, 6'1" 200lb
Kesler: 23, 6'2" 205lb
Stajan: 290gp 52g 66a 118pts +14 143pim
Kesler: 213gp 31g 37a 68pts -1 176pim
There is precious little physical difference between the two whereas the statistical difference would be about a season's worth of games (belying Stajan's extra year) and forty points. For those people who are about to mention Kesler's two way ability doesn't translate into stats, look at the plus minus difference. Kesler, who has Luongo between the pipes is a minus, where Stajan who's had to deal with Raycroft and burned out Eddie Belfour is a plus. Not so big a gap is there? In fact, the largest gap would be between the respective salaries with Stajan making a rather modest 950,000 to Kesler's 1.75m.
The point of this article is not really to criticize Ryan Kesler. I actually like Ryan Kesler, and think he is a very good player. He's a solid, two-way player with impressive defensive acumen, edge to his game and the versatility to play centre or wing. He provides an element that every real Cup contender should have. That's not a bad thing at all... what I AM saying is that fans who keep looking at giving up Kesler as giving up a future need to relax and actually see the player for what he is and what he is not. He is not an upgrade on what the Leafs already have in Matt Stajan and Alex Steen. That is the basis of my objections to Kesler being such an integral part of any Sundin deal.