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Canucks: The Positives in the Keith Ballard Situation

Written on November 17, 2010 at 09:19, by headtothenet

Today, the Keith Ballard saga finally comes to an end; rest assured, it won’t soon be forgotten by the long-memoried Canucks fans of Vancouver. One of the team’s off-season acquisitions, earning a salary of $4.2M this season, most were expecting him to fit in easily into the top-4 on defense, so when he was scratched for more than one game, even experts like Jason Botchford of The Province were left speechless:

@BotchonCanucks: Ballard did’t check back in after a loss and unlikely to check back in after a win. So, uh, I’m stumped.

I’m not going to get into the mixed messages that came from Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis on the issue, but honestly, they fly together around the continent, how did they never have a chance to talk to each other and get their stories straight?

Despite being a decision that has raised the ire of many fans, many of them questioning Vigneault’s competency, there are some positives that have developed out of the situation.


1027 NHL Ballard.jpg

First, it speaks to the depth of the team’s back-end that they can afford to have one of their top-billed guys take as much time as necessary to get his body back into top form.  It’s a nice luxury to have – allowing Ballard’s health to return to 100% and not pressing him into action – and not one that many other NHL teams can boast.

Note that they managed a 2-1-1 record – all road games – with him resting-up.


Second, it shows a lot of integrity on partsteelballs of the organization and coach Alain Vigneault.  When he claims that he dresses the best possible line-up every night, the one that gives him the greatest opportunity to win each game, how can anyone argue?

Sitting a $4.2M man despite all the pressure to play him – it takes serious balls.  But it also proves that he doesn’t concern himself with contracts, only performance.


Third, although it may have not been meant as one, this has been a test of the character of Keith Ballard himself.  Ballard’s immediate response to being scratched last week was, “I need to play better, that’s the bottom line.” (The Province)

No whining, no complaints.  He took full responsibility.

1108 NHL Ballard.jpg

Set to return tonight after four games in the press-box, and that attitude remains, “It’s part of being on a good team — you have to sit out. Hopefully, the last week has been beneficial and things will go better.” (The Vancouver Sun)

If you’re saying to yourself that these are just words, and his reaction is a given, he could have easily reacted like this:

“I am at the point in my career where I think I need to play. If they don’t think I’m worth playing… maybe it’s not the right situation.”

Ring a bell? Hint: a year after voicing the above, this same player was scratched for being late for practice and out of shape. (the above quote is from an article in The Vancouver Sun)

Don’t get me wrong, I was a believer in Shane O’Brien’s talent level and potential, as I wrote here after last year’s playoffs, but character-wise, he wasn’t exactly what Gillis would describe as “Canucks material.”

Following training camp this season, the team decided they’d had enough of O’Brien’s act, and after trading him to Florida, he’d only prove them right with the following parting shots at his head coach:

“Last year, I stepped up when we had some injuries and helped our team win the division… After two years, it was still the same thing. No matter what I did, I didn’t seem to stand a chance with that guy” (The Vancouver Sun)

Hey, I don’t have a huge problem with him airing his grievances, but how hard would it have been to let it go and move on?

Point is, Ballard’s reactions to what he’s faced in the past week could not have been further from O’Brien’s.  At the end of the day, it shows the homework Gillis and his team are putting into every player acquisition they make, and the swift reaction they have to those who don’t fit the Canucks mould.

With everyone on the team pushing in the same direction, believing that the team comes first, it can only bode well for their chances this season, and for this, Canucks fans can only be thankful.

-to see our scouting reports on the Canucks’ games this week, click here

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  • http://twitter.com/transcendwebs Bruce Ng

    there’s no “I” in team (although, there’s M and E, but that’s a totally different discussion).

    Team before the individual. this seems to be more in line with #Canucks hockey. Ballard’s reaction to the scratch is professional and polished. i’m not entirely sure he was a completely “healthy” scratch, but for sure he could have reacted differently.

    thanks for the post!

  • Dave

    nice piece; definitely an angle that the fans have overlooked

  • Glen

    Good stuff httn