Everything’s coming up Keith Ballard these days (inasmuch as is possible so long as he continues to play under Alain “My defenders should defend” Vigneault, that grump). Sure, he remains the sixth or seventh defender on the Vancouver Canucks’ blueline depth chart, but due to a rash of injuries up front, he’s skyrocketed all the way up to ninth on the depth chart for forwards. Huzzah!
What’s more, like Brent Burns in San Jose, Ballard hasn’t looked out of place in this temporary reassignment. In two games up front, he’s generated scoring chances and been a part of cohesive lines. Granted, he hasn’t been as productive as Burns, who has 7 points in 7 games as a forward for the Sharks — but on Sunday night, Ballard got his first, an assist on a lovely goal by Alex Burrows.
Even more valuable than the assist, however, was the additional reward: the hockey hug.
Look at the Avalanche fan in the tuque. He wants to be upset, but he can’t.
But while I’d love to join that guy in appreciating this moment, especially as one the hockey world’s most ardently pro-hugging personalities, I just can’t. It’s a great hug photo, sure. And it’s great to see Ballard having success after everything he’s been through. Heck, it’s great to see him on the ice hugging a teammate instead of up in the press box being hugged by the high-quality wool of his game day suit.
Furthermore, I totally agree with his stance regarding pirates. (“Fictional pirates are pretty cool, but real pirates are scum,” he recently told Jordan Bowman, wisely.) But all these things aside, it’s hard to shake the unsettling feeling that he’s staring right at me.
Actually, I think he is. Computer? Enhance.
More. Enhance more.
AUGH. HE’S STARING RIGHT INTO THE CAMERA. WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT.