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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

CanucksArmy Year in Review: Alex Biega

Continuing the Year in Review’s for the Canucks, we turn our attention to the blueline and look at the bulldog, Alex Biega.

There is a lot to like about Biega’s game – he is a tireless worker, who can play forward or defence, and a consummate pro. Over the course of the past few years, Biega has appeared in 138 games for the organization, posting 2 goals and 18 assists over time.

The only problem is that Biega seems to play well after being in the press box for a few games but tails off as he remains in the lineup. It’s a weird thing to think about but Biega seems to be released from a cage for the first games and then slowly tails off as he remains in the lineup. A trip to the pressbox and then reinsertation into the lineup gets the guy going again.

The visualization below provides some context on what happened when Biega was on the ice over the course of the 2017-18 season:

Image: Hockeyviz/Micah Blake McCurdy

Biega posted a CFRel% of +3.41, which was the best on the Canucks. Biega was one of two defencemen, Derrick Pouliot being the other, to post a CF% above 50% when the season ended. His GF% of 52.94% was one of two defenders to be above 50%. So although the heat map doesn’t provide encouraging signs, it’s good to see that he was on the positive side of the ledger in those categories. Less red in front and on the right side of the ice and there wouldn’t that immediate reaction of concern.

Biega was able to put up those positive possession numbers while still being a leader on the Canucks in hits. Which to some degree is counter-intuitive to each other simply because if you are hitting someone, it’s because they have they puck. But having the ability to be a physical presence and post positive shot differential is a good sign for a depth player. That is something that could help Biega get into the lineup on a consistent basis next season.

There also isn’t a lot of offence coming from Biega when he is on the ice, which isn’t much different from any of the defence that the Canucks played last season. But Biega did go 131 games between scoring goals, which is the longest goal drought in Canucks history.

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If there was one area that Biega could improve, it would be penalty differential.

Appearing in forty-four games for the organization this year, Biega was rewarded with a two-year contract extension on February 28th.

Intangibles are always hard to really quantify but I think that the Montreal native is a really good leader and mentor for the prospects in the Canucks system. Taken in the 5th round, Biega wasn’t a high draft pick but has worked his way up to becoming an NHL player. Where the Canucks are with their roster obviously helps the Bulldog get into the lineup on a regular basis but you can’t argue with his work ethic when he is on the ice. Which is something that Canucks management clearly values.

Obviously, injuries forced the Canucks to rely on Biega more than they originally might’ve expected but it’s good to see that he was able to hold his head above water in terms of shot differential. Which you can’t really ask more from your 7th or 8th defenceman.  Which is exactly where I would expect him to slide into next season. At this point, we don’t know what will happen with Ben Hutton or Chris Tanev but we know that Biega will be back as the depth defenceman who can play forward in a pinch. The fact that he is right-handed, is willing to be physical, and has played for Travis Green for a few years helps his cause.

The organization could do a lot worse than Alex Biega.

  • “Biega was able to put up those positive possession numbers while still being a leader on the Canucks in hits. Which to some degree is counter-intuitive to each other simply because if you are hitting someone, it’s because they have they puck.”

    This is counter-intuitive on a team level (if you’re always throwing more hits than the opposition, you’ve almost certainly got the puck less than they do) but it isn’t really on a player level. If the player throwing the hit is effectively separating the other player from the puck (preventing a shot attempt) and then moving the puck up the ice resulting in a shot attempt, this makes perfect sense.

  • Holly Wood

    Ryan, your comment that a player that accumulates more hits is counter intuitive is as puzzling a comment by an earlier analytics guy that players that block shots don’t have good possession numbers. Players that lack the jam to either block shots or take the body are not what any teams are looking for. The only exception would be an Erik Karlsson type offensive d man who has the puck all night