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.Tags: alex edler, Edler, Wild Speculation