Five years ago, Vancouver Canucks star centre Ryan Kesler became public enemy No. 1 after being traded to the Pacific Division rival Anaheim Ducks. Kesler explained in an interview with Sportsnet why he asked for a trade.
The Canucks made the playoffs six times with Kesler, highlighted by a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. That same year, Kesler had a career-high 41 goals and won the Selke Trophy for the first (and only time up to date) in his career.
Kesler wound up registering six 20-goal seasons during his tenure in Vancouver, developing into one of the game’s elite two-way players. But the glorious tenure came to an end following a brutal 2013-14 season, where the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Head coach John Tortorella and general manager Mike Gillis were fired. Franchise goalie Roberto Luongo requested to be traded, and he was moved to the Florida Panthers — his old team that dealt ‘Bobby Lou’ to Vancouver just eight years earlier.
Kesler also sought a trade to a contender, and new general manager Jim Benning complied. The Canucks dealt Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and 2014 first and third round picks.
Now, Kesler is met with loud boos any time he returns to Rogers Arena. A large portion of Canuck fans can’t forgive Kesler for forcing his way out of town, and it doesn’t help in that he was moved to a division rival.
In an interview with Sportsnet 650, Kesler reflected on his 10 years with the Canucks, and even explained why he wanted to be traded after 2013-14 campaign.
Indeed, Kesler did receive more opportunities to win a Stanley Cup with Anaheim. They reached the Western Conference Final in his first year there, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. The Ducks reached the final four again in 2017, but fell to the Nashville Predators in six games.
The Ducks are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and Kesler is 34 years of age. He’s battled hip problems and is well past his playing prime now, so it’s hard to envision Kesler ever winning a Stanley Cup now. There’s no way the Ducks unload the rest of that contract, which carries a $6.875 million cap hit through 2021-22.
Kesler gave it his all in Vancouver and deserves plenty of credit for helping this team grow into a championship contender. Kesler and the Canucks didn’t reach their ultimate goal, but he’ll easily go down as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.