The more and more I watch Canucks games this year, the more I find myself thinking “what does Keith Ballard got to do to get some playing time?” The guy blocks shots, hits (hip checks!) and fights. He does this while having a great upside given what he has accomplished in the league and the fact that he’s relatively young. Still, Alain Vigneault treats him like a Manitoba Moose call-up by giving him minimal ice time and even sitting him as a healthy scratch on multiple occasions.
I don’t get it, and I haven’t gotten it all year long. Take last Sunday’s game versus St Louis for example. He received just over 13 minutes of ice time (fewest among Canuck d-men), was a +2 and was a goal short of the Gordie Howe hat trick. AV, give this man some ice time!
7 - Ballard ranks 7th among Canucks defensemen with 14:08 of average ice time. That’s a full three minutes per game less than Aaron Rome. That’s also just barely more average ice time than Ryan Parent.
2 - As in +2 in plus-minus. He ranks third in plus minus among Canucks defensemen (tied with Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis and well ahead of Andrew Alberts, Aaron Rome and Ryan Parent who all are at -3).
8 - Keith Ballard averages 8 seconds of power play time per game. Aaron Rome averages 1:05 per game.
34 - As in 34 blocked shots, good enough for 2nd best on the team.
The prevailing wisdom has been that Ballard’s lack of ice time was due to his recovery from off-season surgery and his concussion early on. Canucks fans better hope this is the case. To get passed over by Hamhuis on the power play is questionable and to get passed over by Aaron Rome is lunacy. It appears things may be changing, as Alain Vigneault had Ballard practicing on the second unit power play on Monday. I think ideally, Keith Ballard will find himself on a top shutdown pairing with Dan Hamhuis, playing 20+ minutes a night. Power play time might be just gravy for the 28 year old, but he should be a fixture on the PK.
So what does Keith Ballard need to do to get more ice time? Well, get healthy I guess but otherwise I think he’s doing just about everything he can. Hit, block shots, fight and play well defensively. There’s not much more that you can do than that.