The Vancouver Canucks face a big hole at centre in the fall – that is, if the hockey season begins on schedule.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver's second-line centre and 2010-11 Selke Trophy winner, will be out until early November after shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, the hockey team announced on Tuesday. Kesler hurt his shoulder in February but played through the injury. He failed to score in his last 17 games, including five playoff matches against the Los Angeles Kings.
It will take six months for full recovery, the Canucks said, which pins Kesler's return at Nov. 8.
"It's going to be a long summer and I have to make the most of it," said Kesler in late April, knowing he probably faced surgery as the Canucks cleaned out their lockers after the loss to L.A.
Based on last year's schedule, Kesler would miss 15 games – almost 20 per cent of the regular season. However, it is unclear whether the 2012-13 National Hockey League season will begin on time, with the expiring collective agreement between players and owners.
The Canucks will be careful not to rush the 27-year-old back. Kesler last July had hip surgery, also to repair a torn labrum, and returned within three months, missing just five regular-season games. He later conceded he pushed too quickly to get back and managed just 22 goals and 49 points in 77 games, after 41 goals and 73 points in 82 games in his Selke season.
The Canucks, last summer and on Tuesday, used almost the exact same – word for word – press release about Kesler, "hip" and "shoulder" being the only difference.
With Kesler out again this coming fall, the Canucks suddenly have a possible problem at the centre position. Who will anchor the second line in his absence, never mind the third line?
Fans and critics are likely to once more mourn the departed young centre Cody Hodgson. His effective replacement on the third line, Samme Pahlsson, turns 35 in December and is an unrestricted free agent. Pahlsson made $2.65-million last season. Even if re-signed, Pahlsson would hardly fit well as centre on the second line, even for a month.
Among younger options, there is Jordan Schroeder, who turns 21 in September and was the Canucks No 1 draft pick, 22nd overall, in 2009. But as team general manager Mike Gillis emphasizes the need for size, Schroeder, an American from Minnesota, is 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. Schroeder was third on the minor-league Chicago Wolves in scoring this season, 44 points in 76 games, up from 28 points in 61 games a season earlier.