How do you solve a problem like Edler?

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

It’s going to be a big offseason for Mike Gillis, who will likely be moving either Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider some time before September in what could be the biggest deal since he arrived in Vancouver. But, as important as that deal is likely to be, the goaltending situation is hardly the most pressing issue on his plate. Regardless of which backstop the team keeps, the Canucks will be just fine in goal next season.

Priority number one for the Canucks this summer has to be solving the curious case of Alex Edler. Either the Canucks need to go out and get him someone to play with, or they need to move him as part of a package for someone that can anchor a top pairing in a way that Edler can’t.

It’s hard to claim that Edler’s a problem when he’s coming off a career year all across the board, setting highs in goals, assists, powerplay points, and shots on goal. This was enough to vault the Swedish blueliner into the Norris trophy discussion, earn him his first All-Star Game nod, and see him take home the Walter “Babe” Pratt award as the Canucks’ best defenceman.

But, while Edler’s numbers flourished with the removal of Christian Ehrhoff, his steady partner of the last two seasons, he struggled visibly to cover for Ehrhoff’s absence everywhere else. For all the things that Edler does well, being consistent isn’t one of them, and the fact that Ehrhoff was never replaced, leaving Edler without a steady partner, only exacerbated this issue.

Edler played well with Sami Salo at the beginning of the year, but Salo’s age began to start showing around January, and the nasty hit he took from Brad Marchand in Boston only set him back further. By February, the team had soured on Salo in the top four and tried to find a partner more suited to Edler’s right side.

They never found one.

We were treated to several showings from a Bieksa-Eder pairing, which should have worked in theory. After all, Bieksa, like Ehrhoff, is a bit of a roamer. If it worked with Edler and Ehrhoff, why didn’t it work with Edler and Bieksa?

It just didn’t, and nothing else did either. Keith Ballard has been a big enough bust to rival Sophia Loren; Chris Tanev wasn’t quite ready for the promotion; Dan Hamhuis and Edler play the same side, and worse, their brief, awkward marriage left Kevin Bieksa without a top-flight partner.

The Canucks had a lot of issues versus the LA Kings — chief among them, the Kings were and are fantastic — but Edler’s struggles stood out like a sore thumb. The Canucks tried everything to stop him from being such an adventure in his own zone, but he remained the rickety rope bridge of the blueline all series, and unsurprisingly, the series was short.

Edler is by far the most talented member of the Canucks’ defence corps. He has, in his skillset, every aspect of the elite defenceman this team has never had. But, for whatever reason, he never seems to put them together all at once. On any given night, he could be a hard-hitting defenceman, an offensive defenceman, a stay-at-home type, or a powerplay quarterback, but you never quite know which of these he’ll be and occasionally, he’s not the right one for the occasion.

We’ve seen, with Kevin Bieksa over the past two years, the wonders a steady partner can do for a player. Dan Hamhuis has been a godsend to Bieksa (and vice versa), and the two have formed one of the West’s most reliable shutdown pairings. But Edler continues to go it alone, a fact that’s exposed his biggest flaw, the one skill of a top-pairing defender he lacks: the ability to carry a top pairing.

If Edler is back next fall and the Canucks haven’t found someone to complement him, this offseason will have been a failure.

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38 comments

  1. peanutflower
    May 16, 2012

    Great. Just great. Now that song will be stuck in my head all day. Thanks.

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    • pooroldbear
      May 16, 2012

      Same. Never really noticed how intense, almost menacing it is – “catch a cloud and PIN IT DOWN”.

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      • sarah
        May 16, 2012

        Those nuns were intense

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  2. scott
    May 16, 2012

    Moving Edler would be a HUGE idiotic mistake that was made by over reacting to his bad playoff. You don’t trade a 26 year old 45+ point d man due to a bad half a season. Its too knee jerk reactionary & would bite us in the butt in a few years. He might not be a number 1 now but he WILL be.

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    • B
      May 19, 2012

      What if Weber is coming back the other way?

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  3. By-Tor
    May 16, 2012

    I still have my hopes that Edler can put it all together. It took the Sedins years to become as elite as they are, there’s no reason why Edler can’t be the same. I still believe he can be an elite defenseman and Norris candidate in the near future.

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  4. Mark in Steveston
    May 16, 2012

    A couple of years ago, we saw Edler make a jump from up-and-coming-young player to solid NHLer. Methinks we’ll see the same from Chris Tanev next season.

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  5. akidd
    May 16, 2012

    you gotta wonder about that back surgery. edler wasn’t moving very well the last half of the season i thought and from my corner of the world, where i take various bits of information that float around and try to process them as a cohesive whole without a full understanding, i’ve heard that once you cut it’s never the same.

    if your body doesn’t do what you want it to it affects confidence and the mental game falls apart too.

    and it’s not like the canuck back doctors have a sterling record of diagnosis and treatment.

    i called it a dark day on the kurtenblog when it happened because imo back surgery is one scary proposition. d. sedin had back surgery years ago and has looked pretty dam recovered for a few years now. those sedins play a pretty mental game though and daniel did say that he hasn’t beaten henrik at tennis since the surgery(i imagine henrik with the cheeky drop shots/saucer passes–”run, daniel, run.” )it might not be such an easy adjustment for a physical dman.

    i hope there’s another reason but when a guy who had back surgery a year ago doesn’t seem to move well i get a little worried.

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  6. Nee
    May 16, 2012

    This doesn’t really make sense to me. So the options are: Find a defenseman who compliments Edler, or trade Edler and thus be down 2 defenceman instead? I know you say “they need to move him as part of a package for someone that can anchor a top pairing”…but that would still leave us down a defenceman. (I don’t think Tanev or KConn or Gragnani etc etc could fill that hole, and none of them replicate Edler’s combo of size and offensive skill)

    I agree that Edler has some issues, but he’s also a good defensemen, and I think we’re just creating even more headaches if we trade him too.

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    • Nee
      May 16, 2012

      Also:

      “How do you catch a wave upon the saaaaaaaaand”

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      • peanutflower
        May 16, 2012

        i’ve been laughing for an hour…

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    • Daniel Wagner
      May 16, 2012

      Harrison’s argument is that since Edler can’t anchor a top pairing on his own (he needs a partner), it might be better to move him for someone who can. While I don’t agree with this argument (I still think Edler has room to improve and will do so) the trade would not leave the Canucks down a defenceman, as one of the Canucks’ existing defencemen would partner with the one acquired in a trade.

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  7. Abby
    May 16, 2012

    Oh goodness. I just spent at least 2 minutes trying to figure out how I could sing “How do you solve a problem like Ed-ler?”

    You guys write sweet blog post titles. And sweet blog posts. And yeah. Sweet blog..

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  8. tom selleck's moustache
    May 16, 2012

    “Keith Ballard has been a big enough bust to rival Sophia Loren”

    Wow, that’s big.

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  9. HumanCannonball
    May 16, 2012

    If only all our D-Men could have 3 eyes like Edler…

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  10. Will
    May 16, 2012

    Another genius idea, move the best defenceman you have!
    I’m sure glad the author of this piece is not the GM!

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    • Daniel Wagner
      May 16, 2012

      Harrison isn’t advocating that the Canucks should trade Dan Hamhuis, so your comment makes no sense.

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      • Will
        May 17, 2012

        If you think Hamhuis is the Canucks best defenceman then you clearly do not know what “sense” is! Hamhuis is too easy to knock off the puck, gets knocked down too easy, and makes too many defensive zone gaffs. I’m not saying he isn’t a good defenseman, but all round, Edler is far superior!

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        • JDM
          May 17, 2012

          “defensive zone gaffs [sic]“? Really? You don’t actually watch the games, do you. Daniel’s right, Hamhuis is the team’s best and most consistent defenseman.

          In re: Harrison’s argument, if Edler needs a partner, well, we have a trade asset in our goalie that may be able to secure one. We alternatively could trade said goalie for assets that do not hit against cap and use the extra space (~2mil depending on Schneider’s contract) to sign a guy.

          Trade Luongo for picks, trade Edler for Weber rights, sign Weber? YAY FANTASYLAND

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        • akidd
          May 17, 2012

          there aren’t too many canuck fans that would disagree with the idea that hamhuis is the canuck’s best dman but i guess you’re one of them,will.

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  11. Smokey
    May 17, 2012

    Tough season for Edler, he was stuck playing with Salo who with his age and injuries just doesn’t have the speed to keep up anymore. The Canucks need to upgrade the blueline this offseason, that will benefit all the defencemen. “A high tide floats all boats” as they say!

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  12. Andre
    May 17, 2012

    Can we get Willie Mitchell back?

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  13. Raftgeek
    May 17, 2012

    I have to agree with the masses don’t trade Edler. No way that makes sense, normally I agree in whole with this blog but not this time. I understand you are advocating for a partner for him and that’s fine and dandy but even without picking up one dont trade him. At 26 he is still got two or three years of growth left, he will figure it out.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      May 17, 2012

      This is one issue where Harrison and I disagree: I don’t think trading Edler would be a good idea at all. That said, you can never say never. Every player is tradeable if the right deal came along. If a situation comes up where Gillis can legitimately improve the team by trading Edler, he has to do it. It would have to be a hell of a deal, though.

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      • Nee
        May 17, 2012

        “Every player is tradeable if the right deal came along”

        This I agree with. Very true. Though it would be a tough pill to swallow for me if the twins are ever involved.

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  14. Dr. Au Fu Yoo
    May 17, 2012

    Gillis has to make the trade of his life in the coming months. Just look at the Kings and how they dominate in the defensive zone. Defence and goaltending will carry the Kings all the way to the cup final.

    Erhoff was a huge part of the blueline corps and he was greatly missed on the Canucks blueline. Look how Willy Mitchell has continued to be a shutdown defenseman…Just imagine what the Canucks could have done with their former players who were traded or defected?

    Canuck’s fans will be waiting for a blockbuster move to acquire several missing pieces to the big puzzle. The first thing is to move Luongo for a significant asset that can help this drowning team. In my opinion, the window of opportunity has passed and it will be years before they make it to another cup appearance….But we can always hope just look at the solid post season play of the amazing Kings!

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  15. pmjw
    May 17, 2012

    The Canucks desperately need a shutdown Dman pairing. They should stop believing Bieksa and Hamhuis are the ones…they’re NOT!! Not even close. Until Boston, Edler/Salo were by far the Canucks best pair, at both ends of the ice.

    Maybe Edler could be more consistent with the “right” partner. But how do you just go out and find that guy? You don’t know until you try it, and as the article points out, its easier said than done. Nobody has really partnered well with Edler, so how likely could a trade find that chemistry?

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  16. goldtrail
    May 17, 2012

    The Canuck team ran into a HOT goalie on a team that is coached by the shutdown play of Sutter. Until now no other team has beaten this team in the playoffs. Vancouver out played and outshot them and were unlucky to not fare better. So lets not be tearing the team apart that has won the Presidents trophy two years running. How many G.M.s out there wouldnt love to have the problems the Canucks have?

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  17. shaking my head
    May 17, 2012

    Reading different articles, so far we are trading everybody except the stickboy (this I miss that article?).

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  18. Phileo99
    May 17, 2012

    Great article, and I agree with all points. In the movie, the problem was solved by finding a “complement” so to speak. Is that what is being suggested here?
    Ballard-Tanev was quite good pairing last season, I’m not sure why AV did not play them together more often this past season. My point being that if AV felt Tanev wasn’t ready for promo, and you’ve got a proven pairing combo, then keep them together. Unfortunately, AV’s love affair with Rome seems to be in an extended honeymoon, so Rome will be the 6th d-man, leaving Ballard the odd man out. It doesn’t make too much sense to trade one d-man to bring in another in hopes that the new d-man will have chemistry with Edler. I don’t see how that would improve the team. I’m more in favour of making Edler figure out how to work with one of the existing canucks d-man. Better the devil you know than one you don’t know.

    That said however, if the MGGM was able to pry Shea Weber from the Preds, I would trade Edler in a new york minute.

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    • Thursday
      May 22, 2012

      I actually think this is going to be the shut-down combo people think Vancouver doesn’t have.

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  19. bobsanchez
    May 17, 2012

    And don’t forget about Edler’s contract status as he’s on the last year of his current contract, so dollars also comes into consideration…do the Canucks want to commit to $5+mm/yr long term with this guy (and I might be conservative here) AND commit to having to find a partner for him? From a business perspective it might be a good opportunity to cash in while his stock’s high

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  20. khr
    May 18, 2012

    Play him with Tanev. End of story.

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  21. Chris T
    May 18, 2012

    You can’t move Edler unless a really tremendous deal comes along (say as a package with a goalie to Tampa for Hedman and more). Edler is part of a top flight shutdown pairing, and I agree that Gillis must find him a partner. I would be extremely weary of jettisoning such a young already borderline elite talent based on one playoff series. Get him a partner, then Hammer/Juice, and Ballard/Tanev makes an excellent group.

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  22. Lenny
    May 19, 2012

    Bring Sami Salo to the Fountain of Youth. Edler problem solved.

    Or trade a significant asset to get a top pairing defenseman to play with Edler. I still advocate trading Luongo to move up in the draft to get an NHL ready defenseman (Ryan Murray), or Schneider straight up to get that top pick. If it involves giving more than just the goalie, so be it.

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  23. Micheal
    May 20, 2012

    Gillis would be caaaaraaaazzzy to trade Edler.. for so many reasons. Gillis is so anti-knee-jerk and this would be the mother of all knee-jerks.

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  24. Natowar
    May 20, 2012

    Gillis wouldn’t trade Edler unless he was happy with the return. You can bet he’s looking at Nashville right now. Weber either agrees to a long term extension this summer or the Preds have to move him. There’s no doubt Edler is a very good player, Jensen is a great prospect..there’s not much I wouldn’t be happy about if it meant getting Weber.

    People get pretty upset over an idea of a trade without even considering who might be coming back.

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  25. Gimmic
    May 21, 2012

    Great post, totally agree.

    But I think their best option is finding a partner for Edler. Generally speaking, Gillis couldn’t make a good trade to save the team. Therefore, it’s less of a risk to bring in a partner.

    I wondered if they would try Tanev there next yr? Small sample size this season, but Tanev was a steady d-man. I thought he was the Canucks best d-man down the stretch. He could ‘steady’ Edler in the d-zone, and help move the puck forward to create chances. I think he’s ready for top 4 mins and increased time on the PK. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s a good PP option, at least not the Tanev we saw last yr. It would still leave a gaping hole on the 1st PP unit.

    I also like the idea of Garrison on Edlers right side. Garrisons underlying numbers are really good (on a statistically bad Florida team). He’s steady in his own zone, has the best on-ice corsi of all Florida d-men, bomb from the point (albeit on his offside). He’d help take some PK time from Bieksa (hopefully) – they need to get Bieksa and Hamhuis icetime down next yr.

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