Photo credit: canucks.com
Not much was expected from Andrew Alberts when the Canucks gave up a 2010 3rd round pick to acquire him from the Carolina Hurricanes at last season’s trade deadline. With Willie Mitchell still suffering from post-concussion symptoms at the time, Alberts’ mandate was simple: provide a physical presence by using his 6’5″ frame, and as a bottom-pairing defenseman, play his limited minutes solidly – uneventfully – and not become a defensive liability. As we all know, he failed to meet even these low expectations and performed miserably enough that Canucks fans started dubbing him “AHL-berts”.
But if he missed the memo last spring, it sure as hell looks like he’s got it now.
In back-to-back preseason games against Calgary and Edmonton – and yes I’m aware it’s only the preseason – Alberts was noticeably better. And by noticeably better, I mean, unlike at the end of last season, it was noticeable that you didn’t notice him on the ice. He played close to 19 minutes of ice-time in each game. He skated well, covered well and led the team in hits in both games. For the most part, he’s been mistake-free, though he does sport a minus-3 rating. At least in these early stages of the preseason, he’s playing like we all hoped he would when the Canucks first traded for him.
Does Alberts look good because it’s only the preseason? Or did it just take a while for him to finally understand the Canucks system? Or is he finally adjusting to playing in front of a pressure-packed, media-crazy environment in Vancouver? Whatever the reason is, he’s doing a good job of erasing (or at least starting to erase) the bad memories from last year. Most fans had him slated to start the season in Winnipeg, an expendable, salary cap casualty, but if he continues to play like he has so far, maybe there’s a spot for him on this Canucks roster after all.