With a recently re-signed defensive-minded coach and recently re-signed offensive-minded general manager, it is difficult to tell which path the Vancouver Canucks will take during the offseason. But one thing’s for sure – something went wrong with the Canucks’ defence this past season and something has to be fixed.
Big names like Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are virtually guaranteed to remain and young Chris Tanev has earned his spot in the top six defence. So it is highly possible that the Canucks will trade one of their other defencemen in a trade. Players such as Andrew Alberts and Keith Ballard are arguably unimportant to the team’s success, Marc-Andre Gragnani is an RFA and Sami Salo and Aaron Rome UFAs.
Twenty-eight-year-old Aaron Rome, signed by the Canucks on July 2, 2009, played 43 games this past season – his fewest yet with the Canucks. The season started off rough for Rome, who missed the first month due to a broken hand. However, his first four games back were possibly the best of his NHL career.
“We’re fighting over who gets on the ice with him, who changes for his partner so you get a couple seconds out there with him just in case (he scores),” Bieksa told Canucks.com of Rome in November. “Everything he touches is turning to gold.”
Rome had three goals and two assists in those first four games. The first was a power play goal in his first game back against Chicago. Then he scored the game winner against LA and the first goal of the game – followed by two assists – in an eventual 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. It all seemed to be a dream, and might as well have been, as Rome did not score again until February 24 in a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Rome was never known as a high-scoring NHL defenceman. He is tough player who is dependable in his own zone. He is not flashy or showy, neither is he a go-to type of player, but he has the uncommon trait of general dependability – and his skills have greatly improved throughout his time in the NHL.
In Rome’s first ever NHL season he played one playoff game for the 2007 Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks, and was therefore awarded a championship ring and a day with the Cup. From there he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he spent time with both the NHL team and their farm team, before finally arriving in Vancouver.
Rome used to make simple mistakes and struggle with giving the puck away easily. However, Canucks management had faith and trust in him as a player and a person and gave him the ice time and the chances to improve – and Rome has done well, considering the fact that he has had to battle for a spot in the top six defence against players such as Tanev, Ballard and Alberts.
Making $750,000 this past season, Rome had a total of four goals and 10 points while averaging 15:01 minutes per game, his NHL career best. He had 46 penalty minutes and finished the season minus-4. He had his bad games as well, one of his worst against his old team, the Anaheim Ducks, in which the winning goal for the Ducks was scored when Rome missed a pass on Anaheim’s blueline.
Rome is a good, dependable player. While he may not fit the role of an NHL superstar or a 30 minute-logging defenceman, he fits and plays the role as the fifth or sixth defenceman well. A difference-maker he has not been – at least not yet.
Rome played only one playoff game this season, as Ballard took his place after playing some of his best hockey as a Canuck. Last season Rome played fourteen, in which he had one goal, his first ever NHL playoff goal, in a 7-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. He probably would have played more games if it was not for his four game suspension for a hit on Nathan Horton in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Any time you can create some offence and it ends up helping you win a game, you feel good,” Rome said in November during his scoring streak. “It was tough being out, but I didn’t let it get to me. I just wanted to get back and do whatever I could to be part of this team.”
If he remains determined and continues his quiet yet dependable play, Rome could find himself with the Canucks for the next few years. But if team management decides they can trade for a better player or decide that they need more difference-makers, then Rome could find himself playing hockey somewhere else.