Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler’s agent claims star client miffed over coach Alain Vigneault 'adding fuel to a fire'
Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault has ruffled the feathers of his star centre Ryan Kesler (below left) by 'second-guessing' the latter's playoff performance, says Kesler's agent.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images files
VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks centre Ryan Kesler was letting his agent Kurt Overhardt do the talking for him Thursday and, according to Overhardt, Kesler is miffed with remarks that head coach Alain Vigneault made about his performance.
“My client won't comment on it but I can tell you he's obviously frustrated by it because he's trying to do the best thing for the club,” the Denver-based agent said. “It's just disappointing. I don't think anyone questions how committed Ryan is to being the best he can be. I just think all the coach is doing is adding fuel to a fire that he not necessarily needed to spark up because Ryan is an accountable guy.
“No coach in the National Hockey League is a medical doctor and no agent is a doctor,” Overhardt continued. “I don't think we should second-guess someone's performance and try to say that an injury doesn't impact it. Of course, it impacted Ryan Kesler's ability to play.”
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Vigneault suggested Kesler's lack of production was not directly related to his shoulder problem. Kesler, 27, had major surgery for a torn labrum earlier this month. Recovery time is estimated at six months.
“Obviously Ryan had a shoulder issue and the decision was made at the end of the season to operate on that shoulder but, that being said, that was not, in our mind anyway, the reason for his diminished production,” Vigneault said. “Our medical staff and Ryan did a great job of maintaining the strength. At the end of the year, it could have gone either way. A lot of players decide not to go through the labrum operation and just make sure they stay on top of it.
“I'm sure if you were to ask him, the injury wasn't the reason his production fell. The way he stayed on top of that permitted him to play and permitted him to play at the same pace he was used to. But, for whatever reason, his performance slipped this year and we've got to get him back to where he was before that.”
Vigneault's remarks were at odds with those made by Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman on May 8, the day Kesler's surgery was announced.
“His productivity was down so you would assume he wasn't playing to the level that he normally would have,” Gilman said at the time.
Gilman also noted that “Ryan wanted to keep playing” and the team only agreed to it after it was satisfied his health “wasn’t going to be placed in jeopardy.”
Kesler dropped from 41 goals and 73 points in 2010-11 to just 22 goals and 49 points this past season. He missed the first five games of 2011-12 after recovering from hip surgery, an injury he suffered during last May's Western Conference final against San Jose.
His left shoulder first became a problem Feb. 9 in Minnesota but Kesler did not miss any games. His finished the season in a 17-game goal drought.
“It was very frustrating for Ryan that he wasn't 100 per cent,” Overhardt explained. “It was very frustrating how it impacted his ability to help his team succeed. He's all about winning, He's that simple. So it's all about winning and obviously they didn't win. He's frustrated with that and one of the reasons why he couldn't help the team win was because he was injured. It's not a debate.
“In my personal and professional opinion, it's nothing that should be commented on. It should be discussed between the player and coach behind closed doors. If coaches have something to say, coaches should have enough fortitude to speak to the player directly about it, not to the media.”
Overhardt did concede this latest flap shouldn't drive a wedge between Kesler and Vigneault. Asked if he felt the relationship was damaged, Overhardt replied: “No. No. The only one that is going to make the rift is the media. There is no rift. It's May 24, you know. Let's just get Ryan Kesler healthy and let everyone do their jobs and we'll move forward next year.”
Kesler has four years remaining on a contract that pays him $5 million per season.
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