Three seasons ago, Alexander Edler appeared to be a revelation on the Vancouver Canucks blue line. His 11 goal and 49 point season showed him to be a threat to score both at even strength and on the power play.
Since then, his production has slipped and they could use that version of him more than ever now.
Last season, Edler battled injury and poor play as he had 22 points, the same as he had in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, but checked in with a minus-39 plus-minus rating – worst in the NHL. Say what you will about that statistic, but if you’re a defenseman you never want to have a negative number, especially not the league’s worst.
For Edler, he’s never been much of a possession-dominant blue liner but instead has relied on his physical play and offensively-gifted skill set to get him by. As Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden told Ben Kuzma of The Province back in June, he and Edler both know he has the skills to get his game back.
“He’s got all the tools to be a dominant No. 1 defenseman,” Linden said. “He’d be the first to admit he didn’t have a good year, and part of our job is to recapture the Alex Edler that we all know he can be. He has the skill-set that every team wants and we just have to get him back where he should be.”
Getting him back there may have a lot to do with keeping the Sedins healthy and perhaps getting back to playing more of a skill-style game as opposed to what John Tortorella was doing last season.
New coach Willie Desjardins brings an upbeat style of hockey and while he’ll work to implement that, making sure Edler can get back to the brand of game he knows best how to play will be vital. His skill set is unlike what other defensemen have in Vancouver and if he can’t get it going, the offense may stagnate.