After treading water through a long slate of injuries, Kesler’s return against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday gives the Canucks four legitimate NHL centers for the first time all season. With Derek Roy added at the NHL Trade Deadline, the question is whether they also are back as legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.
Coming off consecutive Presidents' Trophies as the NHL’s top regular-season team, and two years removed from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Vancouver certainly hasn’t looked the part this season. The Canucks have been notably absent from the contender conversations dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and a Los Angeles Kings team that hasn't changed much since eliminating Vancouver in five games last season en route to the Stanley Cup.
"I think that's fair," captain Henrik Sedin said. "But if you look at the team we’ve had this year and the guys that were missing, we have done a tremendous job keeping it together and staying in the race. You have to look at the positive instead of looking at us not winning the Presidents' Trophy. We haven’t had the lineup we want -- or need -- to be successful in the playoffs."