Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin -- USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Alex Edler

Father time is undefeated in the course of human history, and he’s an unyielding appetite in the world of sport. You can count Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler among his victims last season.

On a good night, the Canucks could rely on Edler to play a solid if unspectacular 20-plus minutes and keep his head above water. Nothing’s changed in that regard. It’s just that those nights were so few and far between.

And on those numerous bad nights, every intercepted pass and every missed read seemed to result in the Eagle digging pucks out of the back of his net. The 2.66 goals the Canucks were surrendering each hour Edler played are the highest mark of his ten-year career.

We tend to stray from using goal-based data because of the year-to-year variability and the many factors beyond a player’s control, like save percentage, impacting their results. In that sense, I’d like to be able to tell you this is a blip and not a developing trend and that his shot data is far more telling.

That wasn’t the case last season though. The Canucks save percentage with Edler on the ice wasn’t exceptionally low — certainly not when one compares it to what Edler usually plays in front of — and his expected goals against rate is actually higher than his real goals against rate.










It’s not like the underlying shot-based metrics paint a better picture either. This season was Edler’s worst by score and venue adjusted shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts ratio. Perhaps most distressing given the calibre of defencemen behind Edler is that he fares no better when we compare the Canucks’ results with him on the ice as opposed to off.

No matter how you slice it, this was a rough year for Edler. It’s been a few rough years for Edler, but this one really takes the cake.

This development shouldn’t be overly surprising, though. Edler is 30-years-old, and that means he’s played a fair amount of hockey to this point and suffered more than his fair share of injuries — including a back surgery — along the way. Expecting longevity might’ve always been a losing bet.

Even still, I think the conclusion to draw here isn’t that Edler is a bad defenceman. Far from it. He’s probably their third best defenceman at this stage of his career, behind Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev, and it’s perhaps time his role reflected it.

When Edler was in the lineup last season, the Canucks played him for just short of 40% of their minutes at even strength and on their first unit penalty kill and power play.

If the Canucks new head coach Travis Green can be more judicious in his usage of Edler, if only ever so slightly, I tend to think they’ll get more out of those minutes and get a better net result on a night-to-night basis.

For everything Edler did poorly (and oh, how the vanguard of Canucks’ media relishes each opportunity to point those things out) it’s worth noting that each of his most frequent defensive partners still faired better with him than without last season.

The Canucks aren’t shy about why they want to keep veterans around, even when it might not seem prudent to those among us who want a scorched earth rebuild. Part of that reasoning is that they help guide the next wave of Canucks players along.

I don’t think that’s an added value play over the long haul, but in the short term, there might be something there. Certainly, I’d struggle to formulate an argument to suggest Edler didn’t play an instrumental role in guiding Stecher along to a successful first season in the NHL.

The Edler the Canucks hold isn’t the same one that they could count on for 30-40 seasons like clockwork. He’s probably not the shutdown defender he’s recreated himself as since. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest the Canucks can get solid second pair minutes out of Edler for at least another few seasons.

This was a rough year, certainly. It wasn’t the death knell of Edler’s career, though. There may be another gear in the towering Swede yet.

  • TD

    I think the telling player on the chart was Stecher. Together they were better than apart, but all three circles were in the same area. The Canucks used Edler and Stecher as the first pairing, generally against the toughest competition. That means Elder went from having Tanev help him shut down the other teams best players to a under sized undrafted free agent rookie who wasn’t expected to be on the team. I am a Stecher fan and think he will have a good career, but that was a lot to dump onto Stecher and Edler. Any rational thinker being told that scenario would have predicted Edler would post worse stats.

    • Vintage

      Couldn’t agree more. I didn’t watch a lot of games last season, but the few I did (one in particular when Edler was lambasted by the media), Stetcher made several mistakes that put Edler in a bad situation. Not saying he’s Shae Webber, but he is a definite improvement on Matt Bartowski…

  • TheRealRusty

    You can tell the character of a player when they refuse to budge on theIr NTC/NMC in order to move to a playoff contender….

    Elder = a talented but unmotivated player

    • Fred-65

      OR ….. OR… he and his family are settled in vcr and want it to stay that way. Just like Tryamkin put life style ahead of career so to is Edler. One thing about Edler he’s a repeat offender for suspensions and I think would have the book thrown at him ( plays for vcr remember ) if there is a next time and that’s expensive

  • SJ

    I’ve thought for a long time that Edler was better suited as something like a #3 defenceman. Anchors the 2nd pairing, gets some PP time, and would fare much better with the slightly easier matchups. To do that, however, you need another 2 top pairing guys in your lineup.

  • wojohowitz

    Edler has been the go to guy for years and Willie knew competence when he saw it. He has led all Canucks in average TOI for the past 3 seasons. The year before that it was Hamhuis. It has been gospel that the Canucks defence was a strength and that`s why they dumped Garrison, Hamhuis and Bieksa but in hindsight were those wise decisions. Successful teams tend to have a `big three` but for the Canucks their top three defencemen I could call adequate and not much else. The glaring hole is the PP guy on the point so maybe it is time for Subban to get a look. When a team like Nashville has a foursome like they do even Weber looks good. Edler is still their best defenceman but what does that say about the group.

  • Neil B

    Just a minor quibble: Tanev is, by far, our best defenceman. Stecher or Edler is #2, depending on whether or not Edler is playing with an injury. Other than that, until I hear rumblings otherwise, I’d not waste any effort even outlining why we’re not trading Edler, for two reasons: because he’s not going anywhere; and because the universe will die of heat death, and using any electricity dispensing the reasons for said will just hasten the collapse of all thermodynamics by that little bit.

    • truthseeker

      He’s not even worth trading at this point. I’ve argued the value of D men on these boards like crazy but even at the inflated rate D men go for, the return for Edler wouldn’t be near the value he actually provides the team. He had a bad year for sure, but he’s not completely useless.

      If at some point they can talk him into leaving they’ll also need a productive, long stretch of games for him to have decent value.

      We just need to wait on this.