Kesler has a new attitude

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

VANCOUVER — It’s not a kinder, gentler Ryan Kesler who is on pace for a career scoring season.

But certainly a quieter Kesler.

Heading into this season, the Vancouver Canucks centre decided to make a concerted effort to eliminate — or at least greatly tone down — the trash talk.

Instead of wasting energy with one-liners before the puck drop and spouting off in post-whistle scrums, Kesler wanted to spend more time focusing on his own game and what he must accomplish.

“You try to get other people off their game by talking and things like that, but for me, though, I wasn’t focusing on what I do best, and that’s be a solid, two-way player,” Kesler said Wednesday before facing the Calgary Flames.

“I had a career year last year but, at the same time, we didn’t go far in the playoffs, and I think that was a big reason.”

It would be tough to say the Canucks were eliminated in the second round because of Kesler’s trash talking. They ran into a loaded Chicago squad that marched to the Stanley Cup title.

(Besides, the Blackhawks had their share of Chatty Cathys, a list that includes the likes of Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Adam Burish and David Bolland, just to name a few.)

Still, Kesler, who gained notoriety in the 2009 playoffs when he and Alexandre Burrows were caught by cameras referring to the wife of St. Louis Blues forward David Backes by name, figured it was time to bring it down a few notches.

“We, collectively and as a group, wanted to mature,” he said. “I’m just doing my part.

“I’m focused more. From whistle to whistle, I play hard and let that other stuff go by the wayside.”

It’s working.

Heading into his team’s clash with the Flames, Kesler had already collected 19 goals and 35 points, and was a team-best plus-14. He also leads Canucks forwards in average ice time.

“Every summer, he works hard and wants to improve, but this year, he took another step,” Burrows said. “He’s carrying that line and shooting the puck more.”

Last season, Kesler netted 25 goals and 75 points. If he continues this offensive pace, while maintaining his defensive game, he may just claim the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.

He was a close second to Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk after the 2009-10 campaign and a finalist two seasons ago.

“I’m not going to come into the year saying I want to win the Selke, but I want to come into the year wanting to be better with my defensive part of the game and my offensive game,” he said. “I know I can do a little more to help the team win.”

At this rate, rival fans may not hate Kesler as much. Actually, he knows that won’t be the case, even though all those fans would love him on their team.

“I think by the way I play, I’m not a fun guy to play against,” Kesler said. “Stuff after the whistle, that really doesn’t do too much. I think it’s the way I play between the whistles that really makes me effective.

“If I play hard whistle to whistle and don’t worry about that stuff, guys are still going to hate me and hate playing against me.”


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