Tales of Truth: Sippin’ on Bally + Juice

Kevin Bieksa scares us sometimes. Should he?
(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Just how bad have Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard been? Their raw plus/minuses are -9 and -7 respectively but what are the underlying numbers saying?

Thom wrote about the team’s pairings, now I’m going to look more closely at the two players who catch the most flak from the Canucks’ faithful. Let’s look at them game by game

To get the game-by-game picture I went through the scoring chance data collected by mc79hockey.com, The Cannon, Cam Charron at Nucks Misconduct and our very own Thomas Drance. All numbers are for their play at even strength.

        KB 3     KB 4  
      EV TOI For Against EV TOI For Against
Pitt 4-3 SO L Oct 6th 23:36 10 5 15:50 5 3
Clb 3-2 W Oct 10th 18:55 5 3 12:40 0 2
Phi 5-4 L Oct 12th 17:36 8 3 11:25 1 3
Det 2-0 L Oct 13th 14:37 7 9 10:37 4 6
Edm 4-3 W Oct 15th 17:43 6 5 15:48 1 4
NYR 4-0 L Oct 18th 16:41 9 2 17:26 7 2
Nsh 5-1 W Oct 20th 16:23 3 2 16:10 3 2
Min 3-2 W Oct 22nd 17:54 1 6 15:57 1 6
Edm 3-2 L Oct 25th 20:32 7 6 12:14 5 2
StL 3-0 L Oct 26th 19:14 6 2 19:41 6 10
      Totals 62 43   33 40

So what do we see? I think it’s fair to say that our eyes deceive us some on Bieksa – he’s not been as abysmal as many have said he’s been. He’s giving up a good number of chances but he’s sure as heck being involved with a lot for. The pairing with Ballard, which was in place for three-and-a-half games, was all over the place: pretty good vs NYR and nashville, horrible v Minnesota. They were split up again vs Edmonton, with Ballard seeing little action in the latter half of the game. The next game, Ballard was paired with Alex Sulzer and despite a promising start, the pair was brutalized in their own end.

The story? Same as last year – Bieksa does better when he’s with Dan Hamhuis; Keith Ballard needs to be sheltered in his minutes. Given the opportunity, Ballard can be an offensive influence but he can’t be relied upon to carry a pairing defensively. Bieksa and Ballard’s terrible plus/minus numbers are because of bad luck.

It will be interesting to see how things go when Aaron Rome comes back.