After being a healthy scratch for the Canucks over their last 2 games, it appears that Keith Ballard, who has handled healthy scratches with the utmost class in his tenure in Vancouver, has had about enough. His agent, Ben Hankinson told News1130 today:
#Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard's agent Ben Hankinson says he will be calling the Canucks today regarding his client.— News1130 Sports (@News1130Sports) March 4, 2013
Hankinson says Ballard is "obviously frustrated with being healthy scratch last 2 games".— News1130 Sports (@News1130Sports) March 4, 2013
Hankinson says Ballard is trying to be patient but it's tough being in doghouse again.— News1130 Sports (@News1130Sports) March 4, 2013
Ugh...first of all, I hate it when player agents go to the media like that, but whatever.
Secondly, unless Alain Vigneault is seeing something that NONE of us fans, pundits, MSM are, I really hate the short leash he has on Ballard. Maybe in the past there was some erratic behavior in his consistency or decision-making, but not this season. Ballard and Chris Tanev have been the Canucks' most consistent and energetic duo where the others that sat around during the lockout looked like slugs. It was a solid pairing. Then the rest of the regular defencemen decided to collectively shit the bed, and even take turns doing it. So what does AV do? He splits up the Ballard - Tanev pairing to seemingly get the other slugs going.
I still thought Ballard looked good. Then the game vs Phoenix happened. I will use the 2 videos that Canucks Army provided in their Ballard post as an example and rebuttal.
The first one is Kyle Chipchura's goal:
I'm not sure where one could even blame Keith Ballard at all on this one. What the fuck where Maxim Lapierre and Andrew Alberts doing there? Getting crossed up over one Coyote. Oh well though, hey? -1 Ballard!
The second Coyotes goal from Boedker:
Now that's just an unfortunate bounce off Lapierre's skate / stick or nobody even talks about it. Oh well! -2 Ballard! Time to ride the pine! And that he did. Am i missing something? Is there a defensive assignment he missed there? Because I don't see it. For the record, Ballard, and the entire 4th line Weise-Lappy-Kassian were all -2 each on the night.
Ballard was also a team-worst -2, along with Kassian and Hansen in the Detroit drubbing the game before that. But you know how +/- stats go. They only go so far. The team played like shit, especially on the penalty kill.
Now, I don't know where all this is headed. I am pretty sure Ballard and his contract are near impossible to move with Vigneault doing nothing to help that cause by scapegoating him and not showcasing him thoroughly. It all adds up to poor Keith getting lucky enough to get dealt or he gets bought out under the new CBA cap compliance rules.
Another thing that irks me to no end is Vigneault's scapegoating one guy. I understand that Andrew Alberts and even Cam Barker needed some playing time at some point so that none of the roster has rust. But there have been far more blunderous defencemen of the roster than Ballard. Anyone not named Tanev should have been a healthy scratch after the Detroit and Phoenix losses. But do you ever think we'll see AV bench a Bieksa, Hamhuis, Garrison or Edler? Whatever happened to that reward system that he has in regards to playing time based on performance? You can't have untouchables in a system like that. To me, picking on Ballard is school bus mentality and I don't like it.
Vigneault said prior to the Kings game that he iced the team that gave them the best chance to win. Ballard was not included on that roster. I don't get it. Explain it a little clearer to me, Alain, because this just reeks of you having favorites and picking on the rest.
I do have to say this though, I have heard from a Canucks player that Keith Ballard is probably the most gifted defenceman with his offensive game and skill. The team sees it in practice but it disappears as soon as he plays in a game. You can see his skills when he rushes the puck up the ice. He has terrific speed. In Florida and Phoenix he played a bigger role in the offence.
Vancouver already has plenty of those kind of guys. What Ballard needs is to be a top 4 defenceman, somewhere. Obviously anywhere but here.