OMG. I'm starting to understand this whole Keith Ballard, Aaron Rome / AV thing. I used to think that perhaps Romer was AV's mystery "love child" from some freaky trip AV made to the prairies playing Junior B circa 1983 - But now I TOTALLY get it!!!! Keith Ballard is simply out of his depth right now. Granted, Wee man (as I affectionately refer to him) has been sitting long enough that it's normal that he's lost a step (or 3) and coming into game 4 of a heated series playing for the Stanley Cup, you can cut him a little bit of slack. A LITTLE. But, with Ballard's horrendous play in Game 4 when the Nucks needed him most, I shall demonstrate in true QED fashion post-jump with compelling gorilla logic that AV simply has NO CHOICE but to pull him and put Tanev in. The Wookie, Andrew Alberts played great tonight, and Hammer is most obv. down for the count, so PLEEEAAASE AV - Put him IN coach. Chris Tanev is ready to play, all 185 lbs (soaking wet) of his charmed one-year-removed-from-stalking RIT hiney.So, facing game 4 AV had choices. He could
A) Plug Ballard in - After all, on the surface, Wee man has been the consummate "good soldier", saying all the right things and biding his time - More about that in a bit... or
B) Put Wee man in WITH Tanev - Given AV's logic in the last two games of the Western Conference finals, that "Keith played his best hockey this year playing with Chris"
C) Put Chris Tanev in
Obviously, we now know what AV *wishes* he'd done - Because make no mistake - there is no way that a torqued up Chris Tanev, after the freakish composure he's shown TIME AND AGAIN, could have played worse.
Yes, he's as skinny as a school girl with a complex. True, at this point he has next to zero offensive upside as was evidenced by his short time on the PP in San Jose, and the way he passed off even when he had an open shot. Yes, he's an unknown *somewhat* in the sense that he has yet to play on the BIGGEST stage and perform as he has all year - but until he's given the chance, why not give him the benefit of the doubt, given the UPSIDE.
He's a kid. Even he simply doesn't even know how good he can really be. Those who DO have some whiskers and should be in the know, former coaches and scouts etc., say that he'll soon be quarterbacking the Nucks powerplay. But right there, right now he's shown GIGANTIC puppy paws with his ability to:
1) Move the puck with the first pass-ability of a seasoned 4 Million dollar a year blueliner. Sammy and Juice could take a page from his book at times... And compared to Chris T, Hoff really earns the epithet "Errorhoffer"
2) Not panic, EVER. This kid drinks Hot Chocolate and pisses ice cubes. Simple. Anyone who's paid the least bit of attention can attest to the fact that he simply NEVER panics with the puck. He has a world-class ability to hang on and make a heads up pass.
3) He doesn't make many mistakes at ALL -and those that he HAS made, are easily attributed to the fact that he had to MAKE *some* (albeit practically imperceptible) adjustments to the speed of the "Show". But he also stepped into a real series in the WCF and performed like he has ALL year long - Like a champ.
What you have in comparing Ballard and Tanev, is someone who STILL has a Napolean Complex, and someone who has, quite literally, grown out of his.
Ballard was brought in and paid over 4 million bones per year to bring superior puck moving and OFFENSIVE ability. He managed over 30 points last year with a basement team. Granted, he was a much bigger fish in a smaller pond in FL, but he was certainly expected to adjust better than he has, and the numbers he put up, 2&5 for 7 points total just aren't acceptable. I have a suspicion, and of course, it's pure speculation, that there's more to the whole story.
I think it's highly likely that around late Feb, early March, the Suits and AV sat Keith down for a little "come to Jesus" meeting. They challenged him at that point and told him to step up and earn that fat paycheck, or there would be consequences come playoff time, just like there were regular season. Obviously, he didn't answer the bell. His "good soldier" routine notwithstanding, I and many others have spent hours in idle speculation wondering precisely *what* it is that has caused AV to bench such a high priced asset.
Not anymore. It's painfully obvious. With Wee man's offensive ability dried up like the hind teat of sow nursing 2 litters, he simply lacks the physicality and mental toughness to contribute when the Canucks need him most. Throwing the occasional hip check just doesn't cut it. And the liability that Wee Man brings to the game was never more evident than tonight, when he lay down behind his OWN NET and simple gave Boston the goal that broke the Canucks back.
Goal 3, Mr. Ballard, was on YOU.
.The Wookie played great tonight, and it doesn't matter that he's not the most fleet of foot. Alberts has shown that he deserves to stay in for game 5. But not Keith Ballard, aka - Wee man. He's shown this writer at least, that AV had very good reasons for sitting him. So, AV - Give the kid a chance. He's earned it! Put him in Coach.