Canucks Post Mortem — Half Full or Half Empty? Defensemen Edition


Kevin Bieksa will be playing his ninth season with the team. Is the love affair over? Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports


Kevin Bieksa

current status: Signed through to 2016 with full NTC

#3 D | 6’1″, 198 lbs. | Age: 34

Bieksa is the Canucks go-to player for that Canadian style, in-your-face grit and leadership on a nightly basis.  On most nights he brings it with sound positional play and the occasional “Gordie Howe” hattrick, but he has nights when he looks lost on the ice as well.  His play is always noticeable on the ice whether for mishaps or the more usual big defensive play or timely goal.  Well liked, and well respected, Bieksa is about as unmovable a Canuck you’ll find on this roster.  As he ages, the Canucks will have to find him younger, more durable players to surround him with, as he is prone to injuries nowadays.

Dan Hamhuis

current status: Signed through to 2016 with a full NTC

#2 D | 6’1″, 209 lbs. | Age: 30

Hamhuis is another veteran Canucks D-man who is prized for his positional play and his ability to shutdown opposing forwards.  Skates well and has some offensive acumen, possessing an accurate shot from the point.  He  is a clever player who will seldom be noticed on the ice for anything spectacular but is the Canucks most reliable and consistent defenseman.  His size limits him from being able to consistently handle the bigger forwards in the league, however, and he is sometimes out muscled in zonal situations, especially in front of the net and in the corners.  That said, the understated Hamhuis is arguably the Canucks best defender as his IQ and common sense seem to make up for any physical weaknesses .

Jason Garrison

current status: Signed through to 2018 with a full NTC

#5 D | 6’2″, 218 lbs. | Age:  28

Apr 10, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison (5) takes a shot against the Calgary Flames during the third period at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Vancouver Canucks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Garrison’s first season with the Vancouver Canucks was hit and miss, but one thing became known as a certainty — the man can shoot.  Garrison has size and good skating ability with the ability to move the puck out of his own end fluidly.  He doesn’ t blow you away with anything fancy, but his poise on the ice is usually steady and mature.  Much like fellow BC counterpart, Dan Hamhuis, you won’t notice Garrison much on the ice because he plays a positionally sound defensive game and jumps up into the play less aggressively than fans would like.  He isn’t overly aggressive, but his role on the Canucks suits him without needing this element.

 Alexander Edler

current status: Signed through to 2019 with a limited NTC

#23 D | 6’3″, 215 lbs. | Age: 27

Fans are worried about which Edler they are getting for the next six seasons.  Is it the All-Star game Edler who was mentioned briefly in Norris conversations and trade talks with Nashville for Shea Weber, or the Edler who can’t seem to find his place on the ice anymore and is taking out Eric Staal’s knees almost by accident?  When Edler is on, he is a nightmare to play against.  He’s big, bruising and finds the open ice with the puck better than anyone in the league.  When he’s off, which this year was often enough, he looks about as potent as a merchant ship after being bombarded by pirates.  He skates better than most players in the league, forwards included, and his shot is a cannon but seldom hits the net.  He isn’t a true powerplay quarterback, and he has many nights when he is invisible on the ice.  Canucks fans want more of the good Edler and less of the mistake monster.

Keith Ballard

current status: Signed through to 2015

#4 D | 5’11”, 208 lbs. | Age: 30

Nobody is really too sure what to make of Ballard’s situation in Vancouver.  He had what most consider his best season as a professional, yet ye is benched in the pivotal moments of the season by (as of today, still current) head coach Alain Vigneault.  Ballard is feisty, skates extremely well, moves the puck out of his zone nicely and finds the forwards in the offensive zone well.  He even played forward for a while and looked like a more respectable grinder than what is currently on the wings in the Canucks bottom six forward group.  Additionally, Ballard’s chemistry with youngster Chris Tanev was

Ballard’s willingness to play sound defense, to fight for every inch on the ice and support his teammates was apparently not what coach Alain Vigneault wanted out of the veteran depth defender. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

undeniable this season, and Ballard has been a team-guy the whole time he’s been in Vancouver.  What gives?  While Ballard’s game has taken a turn for the better it appears he’s the odd man out for not having a right handed shot, or being able to play on his off-side when another D-man goes down.  In addition, he lacks the ideal size to contain the bigger forwards in the game, according to some, but if you ask me… Ballard can hold his own just fine in that capacity.  His bloated contract makes him a target for scorn, but make no mistake, Ballard is a fine D-man who has found himself on the wrong team.

Frank Corrado

current status: Signed through to 2015 on an entry level deal

#26 D | 6’0″, 190 lbs. | Age: 20

Corrado impressed most of the hockey world with his surge in a late season appearance in the Canucks lineup after an injury to Chris Tanev.  What impressed those who watched him play the most was his poise in big moments and his ability to move the puck.  Corrado’s has nice size and fits well on the Wolve’s powerplay at the AHL level, but will it translate to success at the NHL level?  God knows the Canucks could use a little more mobility from the back end on the powerplay, but having this young player in their stable makes for a nice future combination if the club can sign Chris Tanev this off season.  There are going to be some growing pains with Corrado, but so far he has not looked out of plays in the big league.

<a href=””>In your opinion, do the Canucks have an elite level defenseman going into the 2013-2014 season?</a>


There are several things the Canucks have to do this offseason, but perhaps the most important decision is how much they should pay Chris Tanev and for how long.  Tanev is the key to this whole Canucks puzzle and the team will have to pursue him vigorously in order to out-compete all of the teams who will be interested in this young, rock solid defenseman.  Tanev is no number one (yet?), but he certainly has all the tools necessary to be a successful top 2 or 3 defenseman for the Canucks going forward.  Simply stated, the Canucks need Tanev.  They must sign him or forever rue the day they did not.

The other question is, who is this team’s go-to number one guy on the back end?  If your answer is nobody, you’re right.  The recipe for winning a Stanley Cup has through the years has not been about size, or how much meat your team is willing to ice, for if that were the case then Tom Sestito, Andrew Alberts and Dale Weise would have been good enough for the team to advance past the Sharks this season.

Mike Gillis had better get started on making Chris Tanev a millionaire, lest he risk losing him to a team understanding of the fact that you need a number one D-Man to win the cup. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The real key is a defenseman who is your true, dominant anchor on the back end, and the Canucks don’t have that.  Going back over the last six years, the Kings had Drew Doughty, the Bruins had Zdeno Chara, and the Blackhawks had Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, two guys who are elite level defenseman in the NHL.  Three more years back and the names are Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Letang, and Chris Pronger.  With Bieksa and Hamhuis aging, and Edler proving he is more the bad Edler than the good Edler, time is of the essence.  Until the Canucks find that player, the team will not win a cup with this group of solid, but flawed defensemen.  Until that player is found, the back end will always feel a little like it has a hole in it roughly the size and shape of an Erik Gudbranson or, perhaps, with a little luck, one Chris Tanev.

Verdict:  Glass Half Empty Until the team signs Tanev