One of my favourite comic book concepts is the Legion of Superheroes, which can be summed up in a simple sentence: a thousand years in the future, superpowered teenagers battle to save the universe. One of my favourite members of the Legion of Superheroes is Ultra Boy, the result of a pure comic book question: what if a character had the powers of Superman, but could only use them one at a time?
Ultra Boy has many phenomenal powers: super-strength, invulnerability, flight, super-speed, and various vision powers, including x-ray vision and heat-vision. With that combination of superpowers, he ought to be one of the most powerful superheroes in the universe, but for that one weakness: he can only use one of those superpowers at any given time.
Why am I talking about Ultra Boy? Because he is, essentially, Alex Edler. (The main difference is that Edler has never been eaten by a space whale.)
Edler has all of the abilities of a number one defenceman. He has one of the hardest shots in the league, he can pass the puck with sublime vision, he can score goals on end-to-end rushes, he can make incredible defensive plays, he can hit like a mack truck, and he can play big minutes in all situations. His main problem has been putting all of those elements together at once.
It feels like Edler should be Superman, but, too often, he’s Ultra Boy: in one game he’ll be a physical defenceman, throwing big hits at every opportunity. The next game he’ll be a risk-prone, purely-offensive defenceman. In one game every pass will be tape-to-tape, but in the next he’s drop-passing the puck to the other team’s best player.
It’s possible that one of the reasons Edler meshed so well with Christian Ehrhoff is that Ehrhoff’s ability to skate with the puck and be creative in the offensive zone restricted Edler in a good way. Instead of trying to be a do-everything defenceman, Edler settled into a more limited role as the safe, reliable member of their duo. But Edler has all the skills necessary to be more.
We’ve been tough on Edler this offseason, which is a little odd considering he posted career highs in shots, goals, assists, and (of course) points, but he struggled down the stretch during the regular season and had some disastrous moments in the playoffs. But an oddball statistic I saw recently got me thinking about Edler and how much bounces, both good and bad, can shape a player’s season.
That statistic was most posts hit this season, which was tracked by Dirk Hoag at the Nashville Predators blog On the Forecheck. Edler tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for most posts hit by a defenceman this season with 8. Although Edler had a career-high in goals with 11, he also rang shots off the iron an additional 8 times. While this statistic alone doesn’t mean that Edler was particularly unlucky this season, as he took a lot of shots, giving him many opportunities to hit the post, if you start to look at other elements of Edler’s season, the bounces seemed to be against him almost all year.
Consider the epidemic of Edler’s broken sticks this past season. I don’t have any official statistics, but if I had to guess, I’d say Edler broken eleventy kajillion sticks while shooting, passing, stickhandling, and breathing. Many promising plays in the offensive zone died on Edler’s broken stick and many promising plays for the opposition came as a result of the same.
As for actual statistics, Edler’s shooting percentage was actually the second lowest of his career, despite his career high in goals. In addition, the shooting percentage of himself and his teammates when he was on the ice was the lowest of his career. The save percentage of the Canucks’ goaltenders when he was on the ice was also the lowest of his career, which means his PDO, which is a combination of on-ice shooting and save percentages, was also the lowest of his career.
All of this adds up to a player who, despite scoring 49 points and getting picked for the All Star Game, actually had a lot of bounces go against him this past season. And for a player who has lacked certainty in his own ability to be a top-tier defenceman, it’s not a stretch to think that those bad bounces could wreak havoc on Edler’s confidence. If enough bounces go against a player, it’s pretty natural for that player to start wondering if it isn’t the bounces that are bad; it’s him.
Combine that with the lack of consistent partner over the back half of the season and Edler’s struggles begin to make sense, at least to me. I’m sincerely hoping that this offseason brings a new partner and a dose of cockiness to Edler: I want him to be Superman next season, not Ultra Boy.Tags: alex edler, Bounces, Statistics, Super obscure comic book references, Ultra Boy