Kevin Bieksa is playing his best hockey since his breakout season in 2006/2007.
After being hampered by two unfortunate tendon lacerations, it looks like we’re finally seeing the Bieksa the Canucks gave a 3-year, $11.25 million contract to. Alberts never panned out as the team’s scapegoat after taking leaps and bounds in the off-season so fans seem to have defaulted to Bieksa. That said, night in and night out I see Ehrhoff and Edler make similar gaffes in quality and quantity to Bieksa and he doesn’t deserve all the heat he’s getting.
While the Canucks need to free up cap room for Sami Salo’s return, Gillis is a calculated man and moving Bieksa to take a gamble on Salo doesn’t seem like a Gillis move. If anything, it’s probably more likely the Canucks free up cap space for Salo by sacrificing one of the many forwards they’re managing to juggle at the moment. That said, it would be foolish to think the Canucks are going to go injury-free from now until the regular season ends. Most likely, I think the cap issues will sort itself out.
Whether Bieksa’s putting up points or not, there’s one thing you can’t deny — Kevin Bieksa is part of Mike Gillis’ plan. If you look at what Gillis is trying to put together you see a team that’s defensively responsible at every position. If you look at the core of defenseman he’s assembled, it’s by far the best set of defensemen across the league – including Salo, the Canucks have six top-four blueliners. No other team (except maybe the Flyers and Penguins) has that abundance of blueliners.
Trading Bieksa now undoes all the work he’s done to assemble this group of top tier, NHL defensemen. Sure Bieksa may not be the most reliable at times, but to any other team he’s easily a top-four defenseman (see all the teams that inquired about him) and that in and of itself is reason alone why he should stay. When you’re a contender, why would you trade away a top-four defenseman?