We continue our series where Canucks Army will profile various players of interest leading up to the new season.
As the youngest of the top six defenseman, Alexander Edler has long been groomed as the future cornerstone on the blueline. Though he enjoyed his best season point-wise in 2009-2010, there were some negatives sprinkled in here to go along with his season-ending ankle injury (what’s that you say? A defensive injury? Who’d a thunk it?!) that came from your friend and mine Dustin Byfuglien. With a summer of healing behind him, can E-Train polish some of his rough edges and take another step forward to being a true #1 NHL defenseman?
All Edler fans and puck bunnies should write a thank you note to Thomas Gradin because, without him, Edler would probably be a Red Wing. It was Gradin who discovered Edler playing for the Jämtlands HF and tipped off the Canucks that he was worth selecting in the early rounds of the 2004 Entry Draft. There was speculation that Håkan Andersson, Detroit’s European scout who helped sell their organization on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, had also seen Edler play and was angling for him as well. So Vancouver traded their 2005 third round pick to Dallas for their 2004 third rounder and selected Edler 91st overall.
It’s worth noting that Gradin is also responsible for unearthing Eddie Lack, the Canucks goaltending prospect who is turning heads left and right this preseason.
Like every good Swedish boy, Edler went on to play for Modo before skipping across the pond and playing for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. Edler signed his ELC in 2006 and jumped between Manitoba and Vancouver before making the roster full time in 2007. In four NHL seasons he’s played 253 games and strung together three straight 20+ point systems. He’s currently inked to a four year deal that ends in 2013.
Fun fact: Edler’s #23 is in honor of Gradin who also wore the same number.
Counting Stats: 5g-37a-42pts
Quality of Competition: -0.004 (4th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
CORSI Rel QoC: 0.267 (4th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
5×5 GFon/60: 2.58 (6th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
5×5 GAon/60: 2.34 (4th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
5×4 GFon/60: 7.73 (2nd amongst Vancouver defensemen)
5×4 GAon/60: 0.83 (3rd amongst Vancouver defensemen)
4×5 GFon/60: 0.75 (5th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
4×5 GAon/60: 6.73 (5th amongst Vancouver defensemen)
Edler has a truck load of positives, including leading the Canucks blueliners last season in offensive and defensive zone starts and blocked shots (115) while being second in ice time. He can be used in any situation and definitely has the poise and patience that defensive greats have showcased. However there were times his play seemed a bit erratic; he was caught floating too often or his shots were (like other Vancouver blueliners) wildly off the mark.
With Willie Mitchell injured, Edler assumed more defensive responsibility and he may have suffered from that uptick in ice time (almost a 90 second increase from the year before). Now that Hamhuis and Ballard are around to contend with the harder zone starts, it’s probable Vigneault will look towards Edler and Christian Ehrhoff to once again carry the offensive load from the backend. That means Edler’s shooting percentage – which sank from 6.1% to 3.1% last season – needs to improve. Edler also needs to use his body more effectively; anyone who watched the first round against the Kings saw a version of Edler we rarely see, but as his defensive contributions to the team continue to grow, we’re apt to increasingly see him throw his weight around.
There’s nothing to suggest Edler will take a step back this season. He’s topped his career best in points each of the last three seasons while facing the best of the opposition in the process. If he’s given more of a leash, it’s possible he records another double digit goal, 40 point plus season. On the other hand if he’s leaned on to continue his shutdown duties, he should be expected to be just as stingy as he was when paired with Ohlund and Mitchell in previous campaigns. If he can use 2010-2011 as an all-around stepping stone, then we may not need to debate Vancouver’s lack of a clear #1 defenseman any longer; it will finally be Edler’s time in the hot seat.