It’s been almost a decade since the Vancouver Canucks saw the Stanley Cup just barely elude their fingertips, since the clock wound down on a 4-0 Game 7 win, delivering a championship to the Boston Bruins and robbing the Canadian club of their best shot at a title in nearly 20 years.
But Ryan Kesler hasn’t forgotten.
“I only remember one thing from that game, and that’s the feeling with two minutes left, skating around and going out for a shift and knowing it’s over,” the former Canuck told Sportsnet 650’s The Program on Wednesday. “To be honest, seeing the goals — you remember them when you see them, but my mind must’ve just blocked it out, because it was hard for me to take. It affected me for years after. I really thought it was our year, and I took it personally.”
That 2010-11 campaign remains one of the finest of Kesler’s career — it was the one that saw him rack up a career-high 41 goals, the one that saw him claim his only Selke Trophy, the one in which he put up 19 points over 25 playoff games to help lead the Canucks’ charge toward the Final.
And the sting of not making it past that last hurdle left a lasting mark on the American pivot.
“My one regret would probably be not winning a Cup in Vancouver, winning it for the fans,” he said. “I think about that a lot, what the parade would be like. I was just talking about it — I coach Little Caesars and I was talking about it with my coaches there. They were asking my questions, like ‘Could you imagine what that parade would’ve been like?’
And I’m like, ‘Yeah. I think about that at least once a month.’ It’s tough to swallow.”
A 23rd-overall pick of the Canucks back in 2003, Kesler spent the first 10 years of his career in Vancouver before a trade in June 2014 sent him to Anaheim, where he played out the final five years of his career.
Though he enjoyed a few good years with the Ducks, injuries limited his ability to contribute at his best. And despite playing on some strong squads out in California, the Livonia, Mich., native never reached the heights he flirted with in British Columbia — something he said the club’s current young core should keep in mind.
“To be honest, even I was young when we went on that deep Cup run (with Vancouver), because I was kind of naive thinking we’ll get back there next year or the year after, and I never went to a Cup Final again,” Kesler said. “So, when you have a chance, I think it’s important for those veteran guys to really let the young guys know that this doesn’t happen every year. You’ve got to make the most of the year that is in front of you.”
At long last, the division-leading Canucks find themselves inching toward contending status again, their core led by one of the game’s most dynamic offensive phenoms in Elias Pettersson. And Kesler said there’s plenty about the current young group that reminds him of the strong Vancouver squads he played on, noting the importance of the team’s recent defensive upgrades and key depth acquisitions like that of J.T. Miller.
For Kesler’s part, he’s simply hoping to one day return to British Columbia to get a moment to reflect with the Canucks faithful, a moment put off by his move to the rival Ducks and the subsequent turn to the role of resident villain in Vancouver’s eyes.
Now a year removed from the game and those tough divisional matchups, Kesler said he’d welcome a reunion with open arms.
“It’d be fun. It’d be special for me to bring my family back — my son was born there. He doesn’t remember much, to bring him back into that arena and see old teammates and to be able to stand in front of that crowd and have that happen, it’d be special.”
Listen to Kesler’s full interview with Sportsnet 650’s The Program via the audio player embedded within this post.