The Vancouver Canucks have begun the 2011-12 campaign by winning just two of their first five games. The biggest issue to arise through the first five games of the season is the lack of chemistry and production from the Canucks second line.
With Ryan Kesler set to return to the lineup tomorrow, the Canucks will finally have their leader back on the ice, but the return of Kesler will not immediately cure all the woes of the Canucks' second line.
When Kesler returns, it is most likely that Cody Hodgson will be moved to the wing, and either Chris Higgins or Mikael Samuelsson will be moved down the depth chart. Kesler finished the playoffs playing alongside Higgins so it is more likely that he will stay up on the line.
The lack of chemistry and production from the second line has been a huge issue in the early part of this season, as the Canucks have had very little secondary scoring and it is directly reflected in the standings.
The second line has been a helicopter line with Hodgson being the only concrete piece. He has had wingers switch in and out of the line in what seems like a game-by-game cycle. There is no way to create chemistry when that is happening.
If head coach Alain Vigneault decides to keep the second line as Higgins/Kesler/Hodgson, it would be the first time he has kept a second line together this season. This should help fix the chemistry issue the temporary line was having earlier this season.
Now the return of Kesler is no quick fix. When the New York Rangers visit Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Tuesday, it will be the first action for Kesler since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
It will take him a few games to get back in the groove and into game shape, so don't expect a quick fix to the Canucks woes. Having said that, the return of Kesler should eventually fix the Canucks issues with secondary scoring, just not right away.
Furthermore, if the new second line doesn't find chemistry, some changes will have to be made. Whether it is via trade or the waiver wires, something will need to be done.
Kesler is one man, a Selke winner and tremendous player, but a centre needs wingers in order to be successful and if Higgins, Samuelsson or Hodgson aren't up to par, a bigger fix than Kesler's return to the Canucks will be needed.
It will be great to have Kesler back in the lineup, and hopefully he can help change the Canucks fortune around, but in no way is his return going to fix everything right away.