Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

CanucksArmy Year in Review: Alex Edler

For years now, people in the Vancouver market have said that Alex Edler would be a second-pairing defender on a good team. Edler’s always been a tough player to get a read on, but for most of his career the numbers have suggested he’s a perfectly fine first-pairing defender, even though the offence hasn’t always been there. In 2017-18, the opposite was true. Edler had a renaissance season offensively at both even strength and on the man advantage, but posted the worst shot metrics of his career.



Edler seemed to truly get his groove back thanks largely to an improved power play under Travis Green and good offensive seasons from the Sedins, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a pair of memorable moments: garnering the assist on the last Sedin goal at Rogers Arena, and breaking Matthias Ohlund’s record for all-time points by a Canucks defenceman (combining with Henrik on a Daniel Sedin goal, fittingly).

Edler’s been so unfairly maligned for much of his career, it seems unfair to pick apart such a great offensive season; but the truth is that Edler’s play has been on the decline for the past few years, and his shot impact dropped precipitously in 2017-18.

With the exception of Erik Gudbranson and oddly enough, Chris Tanev (who had a bizarrely inept season by shot metrics even considering his injuries) all of Edler’s partners performed better away from him than with him. One could speculate on a couple of different reasons this might have been the case. The first is that Edler undoubtedly saw the toughest deployment on the team both in terms of quality of competition and defensive zone faceoffs. I’m generally wary of this explanation because the effect of these factors is often overstated and the numbers we have available are sometimes unreliable, but Travis Green is a very tactical coach who favoured some extreme deployment strategies, so it deserves consideration.

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Edler also didn’t have a consistent partner this season. Edler performed reasonably well under Willie Desjardins playing the vast majority of his even-strength minutes with either Chris Tanev (2014-15, 2015-16) or Troy Stecher (2016-17). This season, Stecher was Edler’s most common partner, but they barely played half the minutes at evens that they saw under Willie Desjardins. The 470-odd minutes they played together were the least his seen with his most common partner since his infamous 2013-14 campaign under John Tortorella, when he posted good shot metrics but was burned by opposing offences for a 30% on-ice even-strength goals-for percentage.

But the likeliest cause for his dwindling shot metrics is just that he’s getting older. Edler just turned 32 and played slightly more minutes per game than he saw in 2011. As a strong veteran presence on a blueline that’s as soft as it is young, he’s also facing some brutal matchups. This season it seems to have finally taken it’s toll.

Alex Edler is one of the best Canucks defencemen of all time, and he deserves praise for the season he had offensively; however, it’s clear at this stage that he would greatly benefit from reduced minutes, especially at five-on-five. The “second-pair defenceman on a good team” label has never been more true than it is right now.

Obvously, that’s never going to happen on the Canucks. But an Edler-type could put a contending team over the top. Coming off a 34-point season, his value right now is probably the highest it’s been in some time with just a year left on his deal. With the Sedins retiring, it would be the perfect time to move on. But it looks like that’s a path both parties are reluctant to go down.

  • DJ_44

    I have to admit that I have never been an Edler fan……I just didn’t trust him…..all world one minute, Ben Hutton-type gaffes the next. This season Edler earned the my respect, and probably the respect I should have given him all along.

    He is not overly smooth or graceful, but when he is at his best, he is physical, punishing defender that can move the puck,skate, jump in the rush, hammer the puck, quarterback a powerplay (not taking the puck up the ice however), kill penalties, the works.

    If he want to move on, fine. If not, I would sign him for two more years.

    • steviewire

      If you watch any defenceman enough and you’ll see gaffes. Unfortunately when you’re consistently on the ice against the best players in the league, those gaffes often end up in a good scoring chance or a goal

  • argoleas

    “….. it looks like that’s a path both parties are reluctant to go down.”

    I agree, and expect Edler to be extended, probably for 3 years, this summer.

    Canucks better hope that either Hutton gets back on track, or that Juolevi can begin his ascend in the organization to eventually supplant Edler as #1. Ideally both for the organization.

  • Hack-smack-whack

    What I’ve noticed with Edler over the years, that when he can build up his confidence, he plays like a first pairing defender. But then starts getting overused, big minutes night after night, and against the opposing top players. After a few weeks of this he starts to look mentally fatigued and make mistakes, becomes tentative, backs in and gives too much space etc. And then confidence goes and cycle repeats.
    Apart from the Tortorella year where he just never found it, that is.
    I think he could be a very effective second pair defender for quite a few more years, hence our problem, who else is going to take up the job of #1.

  • truthseeker

    I have no issues with Edler. Guy has been a solid player for the canucks his entire career and I suspect nothing will change next season. Is he perfect? Of course not. But he’s the least of the canucks worries at this point. I’m glad he’s on the team. Just start surrounding him with better talent. No reason he couldn’t be a solid veteran D man for many more years.

  • Edler made it clear he would not accept a trade while under contract in Van. So, he likes it here and I’m happy to have him. He’s what, 33 when he becomes a UFA? Re-sign him and let him follow in the foot steps of Henrik and Daniel, retire a Canuck.

    All season, I read this nonsense about trade Tanev, trade Edler, trade everyone. Someone has to stay and play, and letting the kids play is fine, except it can’t be all kids. Oilers tried it and they’re still struggling. Quality vets have to stay and Edler is one of them.

  • Rodeobill

    I see hope in our upcoming crop of forwards, and our prospect goalies show reason to be optimistic, but I feel like there is this gaping void of question marks when I think about how we look on D going forward. With some exceptions, prospects on D take longer to develop than those at forward, so in a perfect world we would have them in the cupboard first. I hope this draft has some home runs, otherwise our prospects may be peaking at different times. If not, we might have to look to FA or some other way to address this when the time comes to compete. I like our guys, but who do you see in our top 2 in a few years that can compete with teams like Nashville, Tampa, Winnipeg, etc?

  • DeL

    I too was never been in Edler’s corner, in fact I was upset when he got his present contract with it’s no movement clause. I also felt successive Canuck mgmt. groups overrated his potential and abilities. Imagine my shock when I now find myself wanting them to re-sign him. We are very likely going to find the Canucks with two very young defensemen that are going to need support and mentoring and I believe Alex is one of those that can be valuable in this regard. I also think the team should weigh the pros and cons of making an effort to sign Carlson if he tests the market. They’ve got the money and they need to generate offence from their back end.

  • Jimjamg

    I think we are stuck with Edler until better options present themselves. When Edler is putting out the effort he is a great and can be a dominating Dman with a nice edge to his game. My issue with him is that as soon as he signed his big 5 year deal his effort level dropped like a stone along with his consistency. Only in the last half season after the Sedin’s gave him the heads up that they were done did he seem to give a **$$ again. He had all the tools to be a real leader for a D-core that desperately needed it that but couldn’t be bothered. If we do sign him again it must be a short contract, and no NMC of course.