What Do We Do With Bieksa?
When the Canucks acquired Keith Ballard (via trade) and Dan Hamhuis (via free agency) early in the summer, Kevin Bieksa saw the writing on the wall. He knew it was a matter of time until the Canucks traded him and clear some room under the salary cap and on a crowded blueline.
Shortly afterwards however, Sami Salo tore a tendon while playing floorball – an injury that may keep him out for the season – and suddenly the Bieksa trade didn’t seem as likely.
In fact, according to Pierre Lebrun (ESPN), there is trade interest in Bieksa but the Canucks aren’t exactly in a hurry to trade him (or any other defenseman).
As any Canucks fan who’s watched Bieksa so far this preseason, the obvious question is, why not?
Since his breakout season in 2006/2007, Bieksa has been maddeningly inconsistent. At times he plays like a tough-as-nails, 20+ minutes per game, top-four defenseman who also ranks in the top-30 in scoring among all NHL defensemen. And other times – Sunday night against Edmonton being one of these times – he looks like a turnstile.
Unfortunately, games like Sunday night seem to be becoming a more frequent occurrence.
Last season, he was the only Canucks defenseman other than Aaron Rome to be on the ice for more even-strength goals against (35) than even-strength goals for (39). The year before wasn’t any better; he was on the ice for 43 ESGF and 50 ESGA.
If that wasn’t enough, stats indicate that the Canucks are better without Bieksa than with him.
|ES GF/60 w/ Bieksa||ES GF/60 w/o Bieksa||ES GA/60 w/ Bieksa||ES GA/60 w/o Bieksa|
When Bieksa was on the ice last season, the Canucks scored 0.70 less even-strength goals/60 minutes and allowed 0.49 more even-strength goals/60 minutes. Likewise in 2008/2009, when Bieksa was on the ice, the Canucks’ ESGF/60 was 0.63 less and their ESGA/60 was 0.54 more.
The special teams stats tell a mixed story.
|PP GF/60 w/ Bieksa||PP GF/60 w/o Bieksa||PK GA/60 w/ Bieksa||PK GA/60 w/o Bieksa|
The Canucks scored 1.54 less powerplay goals/60 PP minutes with Bieksa manning the point. On the other hand, the Canucks’ penalty-kill was slightly less effective without him.
So why are the Canucks hesitant to trade him?
With Salo injured, it’s possible the Canucks don’t want to sacrifice their newly-found defensive depth and start the season with Shane O’Brien and Andrew Alberts as their bottom-pairing defensemen. It’s also possible Mike Gillis and company are holding out hope that Bieksa, a UFA at the end of the season, can somehow return to his 2006/2007 form. Or maybe they’re waiting for Lee Sweatt to grab hold of a roster spot. Or simply, maybe the Canucks want to keep their only right-hand shot on defense.
With Bieksa, we’ve always accepted the bad with the good. If the Canucks don’t trade him, let’s just hope that, this season, there’s more of the good.
(All stats from Behind the Net.)