When the Canucks bowed out in the second round of last year’s playoffs for the second consecutive time, Andrew Alberts was a favorite scapegoat. So much so that fans dubbed him, AHLberts.
The same Andrew Alberts, however, didn’t show up to training camp this summer. A lot of Canucks fans were against bringing back the 6’5″, 220 lb. brusing blue liner, but he’s quickly changing minds as he’s turned his play around. He seems to have undergone a Shane O’Brien-like transformation. We all know how penalty-prone and brutal the young SOB was when the Canucks first acquired him, but he must have given Alberts a few pointers because Alberts, be it through Roxy therapy or sheer determination, has really turned his game around.
Alain Vigneault, who has stood behind Alberts since he arrived in a trade deadline deal for the Canucks’ 3rd round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has always maintained that Alberts’ biggest problem last year was confidence. After spending the first part of his career in Philadelphia, Boston and Carolina, he thought Alberts wasn’t ready to handle the pressure of playing in a Canadian hockey market. (Come to think of it, SOB probably did give Albie some Roxy therapy to set him straight.)
Joking aside, Alberts came in to camp ready to earn a roster spot, our opinions be damned. While some think he earned his spot simply because of his price tag and lower cap hit, he really has looked impressive on the ice and the improvement in his play is obvious through these first twelve games of the season.
The biggest change in Alberts game is easy to spot.
Last year, he looked lost on the ice and got pushed around despite his size. He looked like he was singing Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself out on the ice when a forward entered the zone. My guess is he got that from Bieksa.
This season, he’s using his size to his advantage and has brought an element of grit to the Canucks blue line. He’s improved his positioning and is now starting to look more like the defenseman Mike Gillis envisioned last season. I think it’s safe to say he’s starting to get comfortable in Vancouver. His positioning is solid, he’s seeing the ice a lot better and he’s no longer getting danced around.
The physicality he brings to the Canucks is a huge plus in my books. The Canucks have missed that mean streak on their blueline, and while he’s no “Angry Bieksa” or “Fired Up Jovo”, he’s proven he truly deserves to be on this team. And he has a goal and assist to boot.
If there’s one area I’d love to see more from Alberts, it’s in the knuckle-chucking department. Maybe I just want to see more of the Alberts that played for the Bruins years ago, but the reality is, I haven’t seen a single one of his fights where he hasn’t lost or been decimated. Case and point: Peters, Thornton, White, and Walker who all just beat him silly. I’m just waiting for him to bring the pain the way he used to in Boston. He’s getting there. By season’s end, I hope he’ll be dishing out pain with a side of hurt. As one NJ commentator referred to his hitting “he’s had four of those kill shots tonight”.