Having recently turned 34 years old, it’s almost hard to believe that Alexander Edler entered his 13th year donning a Canucks sweater this season.
Drafted in the third round in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Edler is considered one of, if not the best defenceman the franchise has seen, and he holds the record for games played, assists, and points by a defenceman.
Just prior to free agency last summer, Edler put pen to paper on a two-year, six million dollar contract that keeps him in a Canuck jersey for the foreseeable future. Once regarded as a potential Norris Trophy candidate, Edler has remained steady throughout the course of his career.
As a coach, you know what you are getting from Edler — a big physical body that eats a lot of minutes and mentors the younger core. In recent seasons, Edler has been leaned on heavily due to the lack of depth on defence. With one injury to either him or Chris Tanev, the team has had a tendency to crumble, stringing together multiple losing streaks.
However, as the 2018-2019 season was coming to an end, the Canucks highly-prized stud defenceman Quinn Hughes made his NHL debut. Hughes has quickly become the team’s best and most exciting blueliner. The emergence of Hughes has taken the load off Edler at a time his game is starting to see a regression.
Day and night
When the season thus far is broken down into four quarters, the start of the season was tremendous. In the first 21 games, averaging 25 minutes and racking up 14 points, he was one of the best players on the team.
Mostly paired with newly acquired defenceman Tyler Myers, the two had a strong start on the ice for a CF% of 68.91% and CA% of 56.74%. When this duo was on the ice, the team produced a good amount of offence, but in retrospect, they also gave up their fair share of chances.
As for the second and third quarters, Edler dealt with an upper-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for nine games in December. While rehabbing his injury, some players struggled with more ice time and a bigger role than they were used to. Richmond’s very own Troy Stecher and Victoria native Jordie Benn come to mind. The pair played with each other the most during Edler’s absence. They were on the ice for a less than spectacular CF of 45.86% and CA of 79.07% in that span.
Guys moving up the lineup and playing more minutes took a toll on this group. However, with the play of rookie sensation Hughes and MVP-calibre goaltender Jacob Markstrom, the team stayed afloat. Since returning to the lineup, Edler couldn’t reach that same level he was playing, at the start of the season.
With limited powerplay time, Edler’s numbers and performance dropped. Paired with Stecher, the pair’s CF% was 59.44% and CA% was 69.07% and when Edler was with Myers, albeit for a short period of time, they couldn’t regain their early-season magic with a CF% of 53.65% and CA% 68.45%. Despite his own struggles when he is in the lineup, Edler provides stability among the blue line for others to play their natural positions and minutes.
What he still brings to the table
Edler is first among skaters in average ice time with 22.37 minutes per game and was third in hits with 108 and first among defensemen. He still is a dominant force on the backend with his physicality, especially on home ice. In 27 home games Edler lead the defence group in points per game with .0.81 while second place was Hughes at 0.71. In addition to his PPG, you have to remember that Travis Green has last change at home and uses Edler against the other team’s top players.
It's amazing how Alex Edler can just casually decide to be a wrecking ball from time to time pic.twitter.com/EbT3XikQJF
— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) January 19, 2020
Edler remains an integral part of the blue line. He provides leadership throughout the team and is still relied upon from the coaching staff to eat up minutes. Suffice to say, when the day comes and Edler hangs up the skates, there will surely be a space available for him in the Ring of Honour.