Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Posted by Harrison Mooney
Considering the success the Anaheim Ducks had last summer in prying an impact player out of Vancouver for very little, it's hardly surprising that, this summer, Jim Benning's phone rang once again.
And once again, the Ducks got their man, adding Kevin Bieksa to their collection of former Canuck pests. Now they need only Alex Burrows and they'll finally have all three blue properties. Then they can start building houses and hotels.
Bieksa joins Ryan Kesler, and while their journeys to the Honda Center are but a year apart, they're very different. Kesler jumped ship. Bieksa nobly swore he was going down with it. Either way, they both washed up on the same island. Turns out loyalty isn't worth much in hockey.
In the end, the Bieksa trade turned out to be a small one. When it looked as though he was headed to the San Jose Sharks, there were more pieces involved in the trade. But now he goes to Anaheim, and in return, the Canucks get a second round pick.
That doesn't sound like much, but it's important to remember that Benning spent the whole weekend trying, and failing, to get a second-round pick. It's all he ever wanted. It was his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, and every time he thought he was close, someone would dash his dreams, saying, "you'll put your eye out." In the end, though, he got it. Benning is probably pleased as punch right now.
Canucks fans, not so much. This trade, like the Eddie Lack trade, is a confusing one. On the one hand, it's really not a big deal, and the Canucks probably won't miss these players all that much. But it is a big deal, dammit, because we will.
Kevin Bieksa was awesome. He was hilarious. He could always be counted on for a quip. And when the Canucks were down, well, he didn't always pick them up, but he usually provided a little catharsis by fighting somebody. As bloggers, we'll miss him, because the majority of these guys give us nothing. Kevin Bieksa gave us a lot.
On the ice, though, the team won't suffer this absence much. At 34, Bieksa's lost a step. He's not a core player anymore -- he's reached that stage of his career where his best bet is to complement a core. In Vancouver, it's a safe bet that his role can be filled by Yannick Weber, if he returns. Weber filled in for Bieksa on Dan Hamhuis's right side after Bieksa's injury, then never relinquished the gig. And if he's not re-signed, one of Frank Corrado or Adam Clendening can likely do it. Either way, the Canucks have at least two options commensurate to what Bieksa was giving them. And now they're out from under the final year of a contract that was set to pay him $4.6 million. Plus Benning got that second.
Same goes for Lack, a fine goaltender, but hardly the sort that makes you change your entire organizational plan. He was good for the Canucks in the back half of last season, but only good enough to be included in a goalie market that included Cam Talbot, Robin Lehner, and Martin Jones, and few were even willing to say he was the cream of that crop.
In the end, the Canucks got less for him than Jones and Lehner drew, and while you can argue that this is because GMs have Lack miscast as a backup, it's also possible that GMs have Lack properly cast as an average goalie with a very nice smile. There's nothing wrong with average. Some of my closest friends are average. And in some places, like Carolina, average is a serious upgrade. But in Vancouver, the Canucks aren't losing anything but their best tweeter. Jacob Markstrom, two years younger than Lack and with a higher ceiling, can do what he did.
Again, this isn't to say Lack's a bad person. My word, Lack is the complete opposite. But you can't wring an extra draft pick out of an opposing GM because your asset is funny. As Wyatt Arndt said after the Lack trade, the real loss is Eddie Lack the person. But if it's any consolation, the Canucks will still have a full team of players next season, and your resilient human spirit will probably allow you to move on from Eddie Lack and find a new favourite player before training camp is even through.
What the Canucks lost in Lack and Bieksa can't really be measured. Both players were intangibles personified (which is sort of a strange phrase, since if your intangibles come to life, they're pretty tangible, I'd say). The team didn't really get weaker. But the room is poorer without question.