Vancouver Canucks: Giving Alex Biega the credit he deserves

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 26: Alex Biega #55 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena March 26, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 26: Alex Biega #55 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena March 26, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

There are several players on this Vancouver Canucks team who seem to attract all of the attention and praise. While the team’s stars quite rightfully receive the adulation they deserve, one main in particular always gets left out – Alex Biega.

When the Vancouver Canucks signed Alex Biega six years ago, very few fans even blinked at the news.

And why would they, when the Canucks had signed a former fifth round pick of the Buffalo Sabres who had never played an NHL game? He was to be roster fodder for the Utica Comets, nothing more. Yet, Biega has become so much more than an AHL afterthought.

Fast forward six years, and Biega is a player that Canucks fans root for. He’s not the most talented, he’s not the most flashy, and he’s not the most evocative player on this Canucks team – but something about our little Bulldog evokes memories of our 2011 Stanley Cup Final run.

He’s the type of player that every fanbase needs, and it’s time he got the praise his performances and contributions over the last six years merit.

Those early years

After a full season with the Utica Comets in 2013-14, Biega finally made his NHL debut on Feb. 16 2015, lacing up his skates for the Vancouver Canucks against the Minnesota Wild. He even scored on that debut, picking up the eventual game-winning-goal thanks to an unintended pass from none other than Henrik Sedin and a blast from the point.

Biega played just seven games in that 2014-15 season, but showed enough to Canucks brass that they kept him around. The following season saw Biega set his career high in games played (51). And while his measly seven assists and minus-11 rating weren’t eye-catching, his work ethic and willingness to put his body on the line (41 blocks, 124 hits) meant that he solidified his position as the team’s seventh defenseman.

Which, if you’re playing for the Canucks, means you’re pretty much guaranteed to play a lot.

Entering his prime

The 2016-17 season was where Biega really began to round out his game. Having played 62 times for the Comets in 2014-15, then 14 times in 2015-16, he featured just once for the Baby Canucks in 2016-17, having essentially graduated full-time to the NHL by virtue of his strong play. Biega played just 36 games for the Vancouver Canucks in 2016-17, picking up just three assists, but laid down 97 hits and 24 blocks in playing a career-low 13:10 per game.

More from The Canuck Way

By now, Biega was part of the Canucks’ furniture; having played just once in the team’s first 26 games in 2016-17, he featured in 35 of the team’s last 56 games, and gave them the solid presence they needed.

He also turned his hand to playing as a fouth-line winger, something that gives him additional value in the eyes of Canucks management.

The 2017-18 season saw Biega set new career highs in terms of his offensive contributions; he scored one goal in his 44 games, matching his career-high from his rookie season, but added eight assists to set a new personal benchmark.

This gave him nine points on the season — also a new high — and he also set his first plus rating of his career, with a plus-3 to his name. With career highs in blocks (53), hits (126) and takeaways (nine), this was the year Biega really made a case for a permanent bottom-pairing role.

Last season

Then we come to the season just ended and boy, did Alex Biega have himself a season. While he still played far less games than Canucks fans would have wanted, he posted 2-14-16 in just 41 GP to set massive career highs.

He played 17:40 per night, also a new personal best, and set a new best for Corsi For percentage at 51.0. This season, one in which Canucks fans had to witness the efforts of the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Michael del Zotto and Derrick Pouliot for large swathes of the season, Biega stepped up to the mark and blasted himself a home run.

There is no doubt that Biega fully warrants a place on this Canucks team. It would be an easy case to make for him to secure one of the bottom-pairing roles, because Biega has now added scoring to his physical game. If this team makes the playoffs in 2019-20, I don’t want to see another gaggle of mid-20s young men being muscled off the puck. I want to see the Bulldog on the ice, giving his all and bringing his snarl to the occasion.

Make no mistake: Biega makes this Canucks team better when he is in the lineup. Not bad for a throwaway pickup six years ago.

Biega is the absolute perfect depth defenceman. He’s not expensive, he doesn’t complain when he’s not in the lineup, he works hard, and leads by example for the younger players on the team. When he does play, he plays with minimal fuss, and had himself a brilliant but under-the-radar 2018-19 season.

Next. Looking at the Canucks' right-handed defense depth chart. dark

I, for one, am very grateful to see Alex Biega on this team, and hope that he remains with us for a few more years yet.