You know the old adage, all good things must come to an end.
Really, they came to an end for the Canucks after the 2011 playoffs. If you’re really generous, perhaps it ended when Alain Vigneault was fired in 2013.
There was a time when Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa were the glue on our blueline, mixing responsible defensive play with physicality and tenacity. The effective pairing shutdown the other teams top line, while even chipping in some offence of their own.
Think of it this way, Alex Edler was even freed up to be a second-pairing defenceman in his prime. Now? The 32-year-old is the clear-cut number one defenceman on the rebuilding and, in terms of league perception, largely irrelevant Canucks.
Yes, the good times have long since come to an end. That is, unless you’re excited about this current rendition of the Canucks blue line.
Regardless of your opinion of the Canucks blue line, it’s unlikely that any of these guys would help give a boost on the back end. Still, it is surprising to see a couple of them available as free agents.
2017-18 NHL Stats: 5 GP, 0-0-0
Remember when everyone was up in arms about losing Frank Corrado on waivers?
Come to think of it, maybe that just shows how desperate fans are for talented young defencemen in Vancouver.
In Pouliot-esque fashion, Corrado couldn’t stick with the big club for very long. He played a grand total of seven NHL games with the Pens over the last two seasons, spending the majority of his time in the press box or in the AHL. Because of injuries and the healthy scratches in Pittsburgh, Corrado only suited up for 32 games in the AHL, registering 14 points.
At 25 years old, Corrado will be hard-pressed to find another NHL gig. At least he can say that, even as a fifth-round pick, he has more NHL points than any other Canucks selection from that draft.
2017-18 NHL Stats: 8 GP, 0-1-1
The pride of White Rock, B.C. endured a difficult season in Vegas, errrr, Chicago. And not the Blackhawks, the Wolves.
After beginning the season with the Golden Knights, Garrison soon found himself surpassed on the depth chart by Shea Theodore. The Langley native outplayed his Lower Mainland counterpart and earned a job with the big club.
Garrison meanwhile, suited up for 58 AHL games with the Wolves, posting eight goals and 28 points in the process. As a 33-year-old defenceman with declining production, it looks like his career may soon be coming to a close.
2017-18 NHL Stats: 59 GP, 0-8-8
Boom Boom Bieksa will forever remain one of the most beloved Canucks defenceman of all-time. Although he didn’t have Dustin Byfuglien’s physique, he sure knew how to dish it out.
He is forever one of the toughest and smartest Canucks of all-time. Bieksa knew how to trash talk, and he backed it up by kicking some ass.
People also forget that he was a prolific offensive defenceman in Vancouver, at least as prolific as we’re accustomed to. It wasn’t until the disasterous John Tortorella season where Bieksa’s game started to decline. Throughout his three years in Anaheim, he was more of a liability than a part of the solution.
With Bieksa playing only 59 games last year, is this the end of the line for him? He was ruled out for the season because of hand surgery in March, and has over 800 games of NHL experience on his body.
If Bieksa does retire, it’s time for him and Alex Burrows to cause some mischief behind the Laval Rockets’ bench. Perhaps Bieksa can hide in disguise as a team trainer.
2017-18 NHL Stats: 79 GP, 3-21-21
Even though the Smithers, B.C. native will be 36 years old in December, it’s surprising to see him unsigned after he enjoyed a decent season in Dallas.
There are some sour feelings in the organization after Dallas went on a terrible 4-8-4 run in March. That self-destruction led to them missing the playoffs.
Of course that wasn’t all on Hamhuis, who was the defensive workhorse for Dallas last season. Only Greg Pateryn has more defensive zone starts that Hamhuis. Even though Hamhuis played hard minutes, he finished with his best points total since he had 24 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with the Canucks.
My guess is now that defensive-guru Ken Hitchcock is gone, Jim Montgomery is looking for some more punch on defence. That being said, Hamhuis should still land an NHL gig next season after a good performance in Dallas. He was also incredibly durable after his last two season in Vancouver were riddled with injuries. Look for him to land a contract in September.
2017-18 NHL Stats: 30 GP, 2-12-14
Perhaps one of the most perplexing players in the NHL last season, Luca Sbisa remains unsigned after a surprisingly decent season in Vegas. Even though he missed a chunk of time with injury, Sbisa was on nearly a 40-point pace through 30 games. He also was one of the Golden Knights to don the “A” on his jersey.
Sbisa didn’t even post 14 points in 82 games with Vancouver in 2016-17. Then again, he also spent a lot of time during the regular season with the Golden Knights number one defenceman, Nate Schmidt.
After noticeably contributing to his team’s collapse in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final, perhaps it’s not a surprise to see Sbisa on the open market. He was a sheltered, third-pairing defenceman in Vegas in the playoffs after playing top-four minutes in the regular season.
At 28 years old, you’d think someone would take a chance on Sbisa. Then again, the hockey world was watching the Stanley Cup Finals.