Canucks fans know that Kevin Bieksa has two sides: the good and the bad.
Do you get the feeling that Kevin Bieksa should be sending Sami Salo thank-you cards?
"Thanks for getting hurt again, Sami. You just saved me a ton of cash on moving expenses and a whole lotta headaches on moving my family. I owe you a new floorball stick."
Based on the rumours and conjecture that was floating around in July and August, the writing was on the wall for Bieksa’s time in Vancouver. But with Salo out long-term, it’s likely Bieksa won’t be going anywhere. And that sound you just heard was a collective groan from Canucks fans.
Originally from Grimsby, ON, Bieksa is one of many Canucks products that came through the US collegiate system. He was drafted in the 5th round (151st overall) in the 2001 NHL draft, then spent a full four years at Bowling Green University. With his collegiate career done, he moved on to playing professional, as he finished the 2003-04 season playing with the Manitoba Moose. He spent all of the 2004-05 in Winnipeg, then split the next season between Manitoba and Vancouver. The 2006-07 season saw Bieksa join the Canucks full-time, playing one-game short of a complete season. Since then, he’s been plagued by injuries and misfortune, twice having the back of his leg cut open by an errant skate blade. Fully on the mend now, Bieksa is on the final year of his current contract, and will become an UFA at the end of the season.
Bieksa’s stats are hard to analyse, since he’s been hurt so often in the last three seasons. He is a career minus player (-20), and has only had one "plus" season (his first full season with the Canucks – 06-07) where he barely squeaked into the black with a plus-1. Looking at his four pro years with Vancouver, he has followed a pattern with his scoring stats of having a good year, then a bad year. Well last year, he finished with only 3 goals and 22 points – a bad year. So the good news for Canucks fans is that he’s due for a good year statistically. The other bit of good news for the Canucks is that Bieksa had a solid playoffs last year, statistically anyway, with 3g 5a for 8pts in 12 gp.
But stats don’t tell the story about Kevin Bieksa. He is the epitome of Two-Face. One game is engaged, mean, aggressive and a general pain in the ass against whom to play. The next game he appears aloof, bored and disconnected from the flow of play.
For the sake of continuity, here are some stats on Bieksa form 2009-10:
Core stats: 3g-19a-22pts in 55 gp
Penalties Taken over 60 mins played: 0.8 (4th among Canucks D)
Penalties Drawn over 60 min played: 0.5 (Tied-1st among Canucks D)
CORSI ON: 9.52 (2nd among Canucks D)
Team Goals-For while on-ice over 60 mins played: 2.33 (7th among Canucks D)
4-on-5 Goals Against while on-ice over 60 mins played: 10.05 (worst among Canucks D)
**note – Bieksa is almost 3 points worse than the next player on the list. It also puts him in the bottom 16 of the entire league among defensemen (min 30 GP)
Kevin Bieksa’s time with the Canucks is slowly coming to an end. If not for the long-term injury to Sami Salo, Bieksa would likely have been traded by now. On the trade market, Bieksa is an attractive commodity because he has a reasonable cap hit, he’s relatively young and has a reputation as a nasty piece of business. Seeing Bieksa’s inconsistency is only something you can pick out when you watch the Canucks game after game, so much of the league would not have figured that out, especially Eastern Conference teams.
Bieksa is also in a contract year, which usually means that players play extra-hard to earn a bigger and better contract. He is at the prime age to score a big contract if he can have a good year. All of this should benefit the Canucks… if he actually has a good year. I cannot see the Canucks re-signing him for another year. But if he does have a good year, he would be excellent trade bait at the deadline. At that time, Salo should be back from long-term injury and the Canucks should be pushing for a top spot in the Western Conference. If the team needs some additional help up front, and the Canucks D is healthy, then Bieksa would certainly be traded to acquire the assets the Canucks need to drive to the Cup.
Truthfully the Canucks season could rest on how well Bieksa plays and how well he stays. If he has a good year and he stays healthy, the Canucks are in the driver’s seat. If he doesn’t, the Canucks will have to dive into their depth on D like last year. In an ideal world, the Canucks will trade Bieksa to a team with a young up-and-coming D, struggling to make the playoffs and needs a brawny veteran to help get them over the hump.
But that all depends on Kevin Bieksa’s mindset and luck. If his bad luck with injuries continues, all bets are off.
All the Canucks can hope for now is that they see the good side of Bieksa the Two-Face as much as possible.