Ryan Kesler booked 25:29 of ice time on Monday night against the San Jose Sharks.
The line would make sense if it was early May, when the Vancouver Canucks were trounced in four straight by the San Jose Sharks. It seems to make a lot less sense when the line in fact comes from Monday night, when the Sharks beat the Canucks in the first preseason game of the year, a tilt with little meaning. San Jose’s best player dressed Monday, Joe Pavelski, played 17:15.
It appeared foolish, to load such minutes on Kesler’s shoulders, with worries of his durability over a long winter, including the Olympics.
The Alain Vigneault era in Vancouver was characterized by a careful style. One manifestation was the amount of ice time players received. Vigneault would resist leaning too heavily on his best, knowing the toll the season and travel takes on the Canucks more so than others in the league.
Henrik Sedin, for one, has never averaged 20 minutes a night during his career. He peaked at 19:41 in 2009-10 and his 19:20 last year was typical of his time under Vigneault.
John Tortorella has other ideas. He is big on rest and recovery but sees physical convalescence occurring with days off – he promised the Canucks the most of any team in the league. Tortorella’s skeptical that limiting in-game minutes keeps bodies fresh.
“I’m not a big believer in, ‘Holy crap, he played 26 minutes, does he have anything left for Wednesday?’ I don’t buy it,” said Tortorella on Tuesday in Vancouver after practice.
Tortorella cited the urgency of now in terms of player deployment.
“I want to win that game. I want to win Game 2, I’m not looking to Game 5. So if Sedin or Kes needs to be on the ice in those situations, in that third period and play 12 minutes of that third period, they will play the 12 minutes of that third period to try to win that game.”
Henrik Sedin, afterwards, said he was poised for the extra duty. He and his brother had lobbied Vigneault for additional time, such as on the penalty kill, which they never played and are set to under Tortorella. Sedin, in his quiet, modest way, spoke of a hunger to show the league he and his brother are still top-tier players, able to drive scoring and contribute defensively.
“We’re capable,” said Sedin, “of playing more than the minutes we did with AV.”