Feb 21, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard (4) chases the puck during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Canucks defeated the Stars 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Defenceman Keith Ballard Finds Himself in the Doghouse

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard is suddenly in head coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse despite having a strong season thus far in the eyes of many fans.

In January, Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness called Ballard and Chris Tanev his best defence pairing while Jason Garrison was struggling to learn the Canucks system and Alexander Edler was trying to adjust to playing hockey on the right side.

Last Tuesday, Ballard had a sub-par performance against the Phoenix Coyotes. He was on the ice for two goals against and finished the game logging a season-low 12:49. On Friday, Ballard was spotted wearing a Millionaires jersey with an “A” on it fueling online speculation that he had been named assistant captain in the absence of Ryan Kesler.

There was no “A” on Ballard’s jersey Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. He didn’t even skate in warmup. With Kevin Bieksa a game-time decision, both Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker dressed and took part warmup, but Ballard was no where to be seen.

I wondered if Ballard had caught the flu bug that has been spreading around the Canucks dressing room and coaching staff. His teammate David Booth couldn’t play in his hometown Detroit, Michigan just a game before against the Red Wings because he had the flu.

After the game, Vigneault was asked about the decision to scratch Ballard. He wouldn’t say why and only responded by saying, “I felt the other guys gave us a better chance to win.”

Disagree, but understandable against a much larger Kings team. It’s not the first time Vigneault has sat out Ballard in favour of “bigger” players in Alberts and Aaron Rome. The decisions was still a headscratcher though considering Ballard played all five games against the Kings last year in the playoffs. But we’ll take that for an answer.

Ballard was a scratch again on Sunday against the Calgary Flames even though Bieksa reaggravated his groin injury against the Kings a night before. Instead of inserting Ballard back into the lineup, Cam Barker took Bieksa’s spot and made his Canuck debut.

Understandable that Barker needs to get into a game eventually, but Barker and Alberts’ lack of skating ability was evident against the much speedier Flames. Both players struggled with defensive zone coverage and couldn’t make quick decisions with the puck.

How did Ballard end up in the doghouse? That is the question Ballard and Canucks nation are wondering about.  Thomas Drance of Canucks Army thinks it was the result of Ballard’s two goals against the Coyotes even though it wasn’t his fault. His agent, Ben Hankinson, is not happy about Vigneault’s decision and spoke with Canucks general manager Mike Gillis today.

The Canucks have done well managing their goaltenders and taming the media’s attempt to create a goaltending controversy in Vancouver, but they might have just created a “Keith Ballard controversy.”

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