The Canucks’ blueline is taking a beating early in the season. They lost Sami Salo in the offseason, and then Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis shortly after the season started (though Ballard is expected to be a game-time decision for tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils), and there are reports that Andrew Alberts twisted his knee against Colorado (he’ll play tonight) and Ryan Parent suffered a mild groin strain at Sunday’s practice. It’s only November 1st and already the Canucks are starting to see just how much blueline depth they really have.
With the defence falling apart left right and center, the one blueliner everyone wants off the ice, Kevin Bieksa, is healthy as a horse. Bieksa is expected to be a top blueliner. Playing in the top pairing for most of the start of the season speaks to that. As a pending UFA on a blue line that needs his offense and leadership, Bieksa has to step up and prove to the team why he was handed that ‘A’ by Captain Henrik Sedin at the start of the season. On a defense as depleted as the Canucks, there is no excuse for Bieksa, the $3.75 million defenseman, to be pointless through the first nine games of the season.
Bieksa’s clearly aware of his position in the city. The media hound him, he’s under the microscope and called out for every mistake he makes. Certainly, his lack of offense isn’t helping the situation. Through nine games, Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff, as expected, lead all Canucks defensemen with six points a piece. Hamhuis who’s only played five games has notched a point, and even Alberts has hit the scoresheet, not once but twice. Like Bieksa, Aaron Rome and Ryan Parent don’t have points either, but they’re not iced to produce points. They’ve been given a role to play in the wake of injury and their performance has yielded little to complain about. On the other hand, Bieksa, for how much he makes, should be tallying more at the rate as his German and Swedish defensive counterparts.
Bieksa’s value is quickly diminishing. He’s the Canucks only right hand shot and unless he can hit the scoresheet it looks more and more like that’s the only reason he’s kept around. He’s not doing anywhere near enough offensively to warrant overlooking his defensive liabilities and as a defenseman that spends more time in the offensive zone you’d expect to see better numbers. Bieksa’s numbers in years gone by have been the unfortunate result of not one but two tendon lacerations. That’s understandable. However, he’s healthy now, and more than ever, Bieksa needs to get the “Boom Boom” back in his game because he’s not helping the Canucks’ cause or his own.