It has been reported by multiple sources this week that Ryan Kesler has reiterated his desire to leave Vancouver. It has also been made known that the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause. As I said back in March, I think that Flyers need to stay away from Kesler.
There are two main reasons why I want the Flyers to stay away: Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
Both of the Flyers prized young centers have undergone quite a bit of development over the past few years, however, neither has reached his full potential. Kesler, on the other hand, is 29 years old and on the way out of his prime. If the Flyers were only one piece away from being a legitimate contender, and that piece was a second line center, then maybe a trade for Kesler would make sense.
Therefore, it is no surprise that both Anaheim and Chicago are rumored to be in the hunt for Kesler. Each team is a bonafide Cup contender with an undisputed top center (Getzlaf/Toews) and a lack of depth thereafter. The Flyers on the other hand, have a sure fire top center (Giroux) and a stable of young, promising centers behind him. Their biggest needs are on the blue line and left wing, not down the middle.
Last season Kesler scored 25 goals and earned 43 points. Brayden Schenn, on the other hand, scored 20 goals and earned 41 points. Sean Couturier only scored 13 goals but ended up with 39 points. However, looking at point totals in an isolated season is hardly a look at the big picture.
Season points totals do not show us even strength points or trends. In the chart below, I attempt to do both. The chart is a graph of even strength points per game of Kelser, Schenn, and Couturier over the past few seasons. It is VERY important to note that Kesler played a total of 17 games in the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season. That is an incredibly small sample size and those numbers could be a bit skewed.
A few trends are made clear in this graph. Kesler has become less and less effective at scoring points at even strength over his past three full seasons. Schenn and Couturier, on the other hand, are improving. Couturier did have a rough year in 2012-2013, but he still outperformed Kesler in even strength points per game this past season.
So what other factors need to be examined? Well, let’s start with usage stats.
As you can see here, Kesler’s usage is similar to that of Couturier rather than Schenn. Kesler has mildly unfavorable zone starts (much easier than Schenn, much harder than Couturier) and plays against tough competition. He is better than both Schenn and Couturier in terms of both Corsi % and Corsi-Rel %, but his advanced numbers have been in decline over his past few full seasons as well (his numbers were great in his 17 game stint in 2013).
When all is said and done, Kesler seems to be right on par with, or slightly better than, Schenn and Couturier right now. The issue is that Kesler is trending down while the others are trending up.
To me, it’s a no brainer. Keep the young talent, and say no to Kesler.