The writing is on the wall for Keith Ballard. All signs are pointing towards a return to AV's doghouse, and this time there's no excuses: no hip surgery, no head injury, no new scenery - just disappointment.
Ballard burst out of the gates with a highlight reel goal in the season opener against Gino and the Pens, since then he hasn't scored or even assisted on a goal and is a team worst minus-9. He's been given near 20:00 in ice some games and is typically on the third pairing. Kevin Bieksa was minu-9 but went up two points after the Caps game, only he's on the top pairing and draws the harder match-ups, Ballard, again, is sadly out of excuses, and probably out of time.
Aaron Rome is practicing with the team. He hasn't played an NHL game since his infamous hit in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals last season. When he returns it will be difficult to replace Alex Sulzer and so it seems Ballard will once again be banished to the press boxes early.
Sulzer has demonstrated a natural flair for break-out passes and showcased his powerful point shot in the pre-season. He might even work his way on to the second powerplay unit at the rate he's going. Chris Tanev was sent down to Chicago of the AHL to clear space in the Nux press box. As a young d-man he could benefit from more minutes and his contract wouldn't see him going through re-entry waivers, but it is only a matter of time before he is up again.
Trading Marco Sturm only a handful of games in to the season wasn't much better than dumping his salary in the minors but the Canucks might not get so lucky with Ballard as his contract is 4.2 million/season for this and three more years, eerily similar to David Booths; coincidence? I think not.