Bieksa battling on front lines

GUTS MCTAVISH, 24 HOURS VANCOUVER

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Two years ago, in his first full season with the Canucks, blueliner Kevin Bieksa caught everyone around the league off guard with a solid 12 goals and 42 points.

Add that to his willingness to play with a mean streak, and it becomes fairly obvious the scouts actually found themselves a true diamond in the rough at 151st overall.

That breakout season landed him a three-year extension worth $11.25 million. This year he stands to make $4.25 million, making him a prime candidate to be packaged away for more scoring punch. I figured Gillis, with his $20-plus million available on his NHL Discover card, would have, you know, discovered some scoring.

Why should we package away a rare find like Bieksa? I am aware he was playing sub-par last season even before he had his calf filleted by Nashville's Vernon Fiddler. But he is now back to 100 per cent and looks faster than he did at the end of last year.

Even more noticeable is the trust Alain Vigneault is showing in him. Bieksa clearly has the green light when it comes to jumping into the play to help create an odd man rush; I counted five separate times in Sunday's shootout win vs. the Ducks that Bieksa went deep in the opposition's end with the puck, dishing the puck or looking for the puck.

It's obvious this is possibly a first look at the new offence-first mentality. If you're like most pundits keeping a close eye on the team, you must also be wondering where all the goals will come from. In 2005/06, a fairly healthy Canucks D contributed 47 goals.

Last season, a decimated blueline netted just 33. If the team sticks to their promise of more open play, then asking 50 goals from this blueline suddenly seems doable.


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