Byron Bitz seemingly emerged out of nowhere. Though technically he’s been under contract to the Vancouver Canucks since July, sports hernia surgery sidelined him before training camp even started, allowing him to fall off everyone’s radar.
He re-emerged a couple weeks ago just in time to take Chris Higgin’s spot in the line-up. His first game was the Colorado game, where the stanchion played Hobbes to Kevin Bieksa‘s Calvin.
Understandably, no one was talking about Bitz after the game.
His points with the Sedins probably don’t mean he’s the next Anson Carter, even Jason King managed to look good with the Sedins, but combined with his grit and size, it looks as though he’s everything the Canucks have been lacking in the bottom six.
The Deadling is Coming
A lot of names have been thrown around as the deadline approaches to add some toughness to the bottom of the line-up that currently only Dale Weise provides.
Names like Travis Moen, or Chad LaRose, or Steve Downie.
Similarly to the blueline and Chris Tanev, the best option for the Canucks might actually be in-house. Even though Byron Bitz has been out of the game for awhile, Bitz is an intriguing player.
At his base level, Bitz is veteran replacement for Dale Weise straight-up. But he’s also remembered fondly in Boston during his two years of service and has shown enough success at the lower levels to make you wonder if there is some unscratched potential at the major level.
In 2007-2008 for the Providence Bruins in the AHL, he put up 27 points in 61 games.
In 2006-2007 for Cornell Big Red, he had a monster year winning First Team All-Ivy League Honors, Third Team All-ECAC Hockey Honors, the Mark Weiss Award for determination and passion, and the Ironman Award for overcoming injury.
He even had 73 points in 58 games in his rookie season with the Nanaimo Clippers in the BCHL.
Even better, he last played for the Florida Panthers, the official Vancouver Canucks farm team.
So the option is certainly there to keep this incarnation of the bottom six intact, although a move to further bolster the depth would also make sense.
It should all add up to Byron Bitz being more than the next Jeff Cowan, landing him somewhere around the next Aaron Rome, a capable roster player who found a scoring touch for a few games, except he’ll also become the toughest Canuck on the roster just out of default, one who could conceivably also bodyguard the Sedins during the playoffs.
Brad Marchand, meet Byron Bitz.
He’s probably not going to win the Conn Smythe (probably, you never know), but Byron Bitz is a very nice piece indeed to add to the team free of charge and possesses a lot of traits the Canucks may have been looking for at the deadline.
Think of him as Raffi Torres toned down.