Has the absence of Kevin Bieksa exposed Vancouver’s blue line imbalance?
Mike Gillis has always been a big believer in acquiring a wealth of defensive talent. Since his start with the Vancouver Canucks, Gillis has preached a dogma of depth and foresight, accounting for injuries and other bad luck as a season grinds on. The off-season acquisition of Jason Garrison was a perfect example of Gillis’ dedication to defensive depth, rounding out a solid top-four for the Canucks.
Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, and newcomer Jason Garrison are all signed through the 2015-16 season and have shown early chemistry to start this year, but will this core be enough to carry the team as the season wears on?
Kevin Bieksa’s recent groin injury has begun to raise questions over the true depth of Vancouver’s defensive corps.
After a strong front four consisting of Bieksa, Hamhuis, Edler, and Garrison Vancouver’s blue line is relatively thin. Specifically, the Canucks just don’t have enough defenceman comfortable playing the right side. Chris Tanev and Kevin Bieksa are the only two naturally right-handed shooters on Vancouver’s blue line, and can’t be exclusively counted on to balance out the others.
Kevin Bieksa’s recent groin injury has only exacerbated the issue, exposing Vancouver’s off-balance blue line.
With only one natural right-handed shooter on the blue line Vancouver’s defensive corps shifts drastically from deep to dangerous.
After playing the same six defenceman through the first 17 games of the season head coach Alain Vigneault has had to make serious adjustments in Bieksa’s absence.
Alex Edler has already shown some instability when playing on Jason Garrison’s right side, and others aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to learn a new position.
Bruising defenceman Andrew Alberts may have been eager to see playing time after a sedentary start to the season, but if Sunday’s loss to the Red Wings is any indication Alberts and company have some serious work to do.
After enjoying sublime goaltending from Roberto Luongo through his first eight starts of the season, the Canucks crumbled in front of the Luongo, resulting in a collapse of epic proportions in Detroit.
While regression and bad luck could be blamed for a few of Sunday’s goals against, life without Bieksa doesn’t appear to have an easy solution.
As the Canucks approach the 20-game mark of the 2013 season there is still a healthy amount of time for players like Alex Edler to adjust to the right side, however I don’t believe the team can’t afford to shuffle the blue line night in and night out.
At full capacity the Canucks are already forced to deploy one lefty at right D, and with the NHL trade deadline just over one month away Mike Gillis must quickly decide where his team needs help, and move to acquire the necessary piece(s).
I expect a right-handed defenceman sits atop the Gillis wish list heading into this year’s deadline, and with two talented goaltenders in the crease Vancouver’s GM holds all the pieces necessary to swing a deal.
Would the Canucks dare trade away depth in the crease for a bolstered blue line, or will Mike Gillis find a Moneyball-worthy signing to strengthen the team’s right flank?
As the NHL’s April 3rd trade deadline approaches the pressure for a playoff push grows in Vancouver.
Despite the Canucks’ on-ice performance, the upcoming decisions made by Gillis and members of Canucks management could define this year well before playoff seeding is decided, which remains an unsettling feeling for a fanbase desperate for its first Stanley Cup win.