Even attending a Whitecaps game with his girlfriend Amanda, Alex Edler prefers the left side.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen 2000′s “Remember the Titans” and, despite the urging of the title, I’ve forgotten most of it. That said, I’ll never forget the “left side, strong side” mantra, especially since it’s through this mantra that the film effectively ends racism. (No, seriously. If the first clip didn’t drive it home, watch this second clip from the hospital towards the end of the film, and enjoy the unsubtle moment when the camera pauses for poignancy on the interracial hand-clasp. Left side, strong side. Racism, cured.) Anyway, this is a hockey blog, not film class.
It would appear that the T.C. Williams High football program isn’t the only team obsessed with bolstering their left side. The Vancouver Canucks, too, have had an overflow of left-handed defencemen the past three seasons, and yet they went out and paid nearly $30 million for another this summer.
The Canucks succeeded with a surfeit of lefties in 2010-11 because Christian Ehrhoff was capable of playing his off-side. But when he left for Buffalo, the team discovered how rare Ehrhoff’s painless transition was. Keith Ballard couldn’t do it at all, and his inability to play with his stick (and left hip) away from the boards left him behind Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler on the depth chart. Edler couldn’t do it either, and when Sami Salo regressed right out of the top four in January, the Canucks found themselves one right-sider short. We pegged addressing this deficit as Vancouver’s major offseason need.
Instead, the Canucks paid $27.6 million for six years of left-handed Jason Garrison. Now, Garrison spent much of last season in Florida paired with another lefty in Brian Campbell, occasionally playing Campbell’s right side, so we were confident that the Canuck scouts saw enough to be at least semi-confident in his ability to go “the full Ehrhoff”.
Apparently not. Here’s Rick Bowness from Wednesday afternoon on the Team 1040 on who Garrison might play with:
“We’ve talked a lot about that, with losing Sami the right side obviously changes a lot. We’ve got to sort out, if we’re going to move someone over who that is… I know Jason is more comfortable on the left-side, so his teammate will most likely be either Kevin [Bieksa] or Alex Edler on the right side. I know he’s more comfortable on the left-side and that’s where we’re planning on playing him.”
Oof. I need a moment to compose myself. In the meantime, I’ll let this compilation of dramatic moments in pop culture express how I feel:
Yeah, pretty much.
As mentioned, Alex Edler’s adventures on the right side are probably best categorized as, well, adventures. He wasn’t good there. What makes the Canucks think he can be the right-side solution this time around? Something something the definition of insanity something something.
What’s more, unless the Canucks also acquired Calvin’s Duplicator this offseason and have used it to clone Kevin Bieksa, playing Juice with Garrison breaks up his very successful pairing with Dan Hamhuis.
That also seems like foolishness, both because it neutralizes the team’s best duo outside of the Sedins and because what the Canucks are left with is a pairing of Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis, which we all saw towards the end of last season and I don’t think anybody has been clamouring to see again. “If Edler is back next fall and the Canucks haven’t found someone to complement him,” I wrote last May, after having seen him with Hamhuis for several games, “this offseason will have been a failure.”
It’s still to early to call anything a failure, of course. Considering the lockout appears to have extended the offseason into perpetuity, Bowness is really just freestyling at this point. He’s yet to have a single practice with his new blueline all together. Heck, the only time he or anyone else has really even seen Garrison wearing the Orca at this point was at the Vancouver Pride Parade.
It’s entirely possible that Edler’s been working on playing with his stick away from the boards — that he grows a little as a player and finds a new level of comfort there. It’s still possible that the Canucks eventually do move Garrison to the right side.
Heck, considering the pairings and experiments we saw last year weren’t kept up for any long stretch and weren’t deployed when anyone on the Canucks were playing their best hockey, it’s possible that it just works this time around. I’m also far more willing to watch the team attempt some new pairings at the beginning of the regular season than the beginning of what turns out to be a five-game long postseason.
But the team appears to be hoping they stumble onto a solution — in places they’ve already looked, at that — when they had an entire offseason to actually find a solution.
That’s a big gamble and I don’t think it’s a wise gamble. Considering they have what Alain Vigneault, recently banished to his parents’ basement, called a legitime chance to win the Stanley Cup, now doesn’t seem the ideal time for gambling.
Alain, from one basement-dweller to another: you guys had better know what you’re doing, because this seems like a bad idea.
Tags: Defensive Depth, Edler