Out of the Infirmary and Into the Lineup, Part 1: Alex Edler Returns

In advance of a tonight’s big game against the Los Angeles Kings, news has trickled out that Alex Edler is expected to make his return to the Canucks lineup after a 16-game absence. With Edler back in the mix on blueline the team has gone ahead and sent Frankie Corrado back to Utica, to continue his development and see more ice-time.

Read on past the jump for a quick take on what this means for Edler, Corrado, and the Canucks.

Regardless of how you feel about Edler as a player – which by my calculations, features about as wide an array of opinions as any player in Vancouver – there’s no denying that this is a huge upgrade for a team that has really been floundering as of late. It sure seemed like the Canucks had hit the breaking point with the injuries piling up, resulting in quite the dramatic dip in the rate at which they were controlling possession. We figure that should go up as the reinforcements roll in, and the infirmary empties out, the first of which is Edler.

The Swedish defenseman has received his (and everyone else’s) share of criticism in the past, but particularly this season, and while some of it is justified, a large portion of it is not. Something we need to take into account when evaluating his play is that he’s logging by far the toughest regular season minutes of his career under John Tortorella. That fact has come as a bit of a surprise to me after I had explored the idea of sheltering him, and letting him feast on the opposition in cake minutes back in the preseason. 

His 49.2% offensive zone start rate is the lowest of his career (56.6, 57.8, 59.6 the previous 3 seasons), and his Corsi Rel QoC is the highest it has ever been. It also doesn’t help his cause that he has been the subject of some rather unfortunate bounces through his 27 games on the ice; his 5.19% on-ice shooting % is a far cry from the ~8% he has had next to his name for pretty much his entire career. As a result, he has a 9.58 PDO (remember when Dan Hamhuis’ was this low early on?), and a -12 rating which his critics will undoubtedly point to as a sign that "he’s a bum".

But I assure you, he’s not. He’s shooting the puck at a nearly identical rate to ’11-’12, when he scored 11 goals and registered 49 points. The thing about that season – and the year prior, when he was on pace for 53 points before a back injury sidelined him for a large chunk of the campaign – is that he was enjoying being part of a wicked power play unit next to a prime version of the Sedins. That obviously hasn’t been the case this year, as he had been moved down to the 2nd unit in an attempt to shake things up and provide some balance.

While I agree that the team definitely needs him to play better than he has thus far, and that he hasn’t reached the peak of his potential, I think we need to stress the importance of context when gauging his performance. I’d say it’s a testament to how revered he is in the hockey community that he was named to the Swedish Olympic Team despite his perceived struggles. 

Meanwhile, it’s difficult to take anything from Corrado’s 6-game stint up with the team considering he was averaging fewer than 9 minutes/game, topping 10 just once. It makes sense that they’d send him down for more seasoning, especially since Mike Gillis had made it abudantly clear in the preseason that getting Corrado the reps was the most important thing on the agenda. 

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Tongue-in-cheek, but still kind of true.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    “I’d say it’s a testament to how revered he is in the hockey community that he was named to the Swedish Olympic Team despite his perceived struggles.”

    And I’d say it’s an even bigger testament that he was named to that team despite the fact that he’s not even eligible to play in the first two games of the tournament.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I think the two game suspension is being made a bigger deal than it actually is.

    What, is Sweden just never going to use Edler ever again, ever? Yeah, they’d love to have him on Olympics and World Championship teams to come, but you know, there are two games he’ll never play as opposed to the potentially dozens he could, so just leave him off forever.

    That would be stupid.

  • acg5151

    If what you say is true, and I do have some trouble believing then the pairing of Edler/Garrison have been the ones facing the toughest competition thus far, Torts should have his head examined.
    I know Edler has been playing the most minutes per game average, but it has been only because he also leads the team in minutes on the PP.
    Tanev leads the team in minutes on the PK per game, and the difference in mins played between him and Edler is nothing if you take into account Edlers PP time.

    Edlers utilization under AV was just what it should be. Sheltered OZ starts against competition he can feed on. Im sure Torts expects more from his top players, but you cant make them what they are not.

    With Tanev stepping up and showing what he is capable of I assume Tanev and Hamhuis will be facing opponents top lines from here forward (how was this not the care anyway?)

    I cant say I am excited about the prospect of Garrison and Edler uniting as a pairing outside of the PP. There is a lot of defensive liability there.

  • acg5151

    Swedens first two games – Czech Republic and Switzerland.

    I’d say the Swedes have faith in their D group to leave out Alex Edler for those games. At least he will be back for their game against Latvia!