The Vancouver Canucks had a shaky start to the 2013 season, with a defence corps that looked uneasy, despite the good players it consists of. Even so, one of them is beginning to stand out and is already making a case as the Canucks’ best defender this season.
As the biggest of the Canucks’ top six forwards at 6’3″ and 215 lbs, 26-year old Alex Edler has been much more noticeable on the ice, both taking hits and giving hits. He ranks only second behind Kevin Bieksa for hits among the Canucks’ defence with 14. He also has blocked more shots than any other Canuck (21).
But what is even more important than his physicality is the fact that Edler has significantly contributed to the team’s offense. His most recent feat is scoring the only goal for the Canucks in regular time against Chicago on Friday, which ended in a shootout win for the Canucks.Coming off of a career best 11 goals and 49 points in 2011-2012, Edler currently leads his team in points and is on a three game point streak. The team fares well when Edler finds the back of net; they were 8-1-1 in games when he scored last season, and Edler is continually getting shots on net, ranked just behind Alex Burrows with 21.
However, not all of the soft spoken Swede’s statistics are positive. He has the most giveaways by a Canuck with seven, and although that is less than star defence Kris Letang’s 13 or Erik Karlsson’s eight, it is something that can be improved upon.
“I still remember his first year with the team and how young and raw he seemed and how kind of naive and gullible he was,” Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun after Edler signed a six year, $30 million contract extension in January. “He’s turned into a man out there.”
Edler started the season alongside newcomer Jason Garrison, who is two years Edler’s senior. They were made out to be one of the Canucks’ top pairings, but the expected offense from Garrison was non-existent, as he registered no points until the seventh game of the season. During their game against San Jose on January 27th the pairings were switched; Garrison now plays with Bieksa and Edler plays with Dan Hamhuis.
“We felt we needed to make a couple of little adjustments there,” head coach Alain Vigneault told The Province. “I thought it worked real well in the L.A. (a 3-2 shootout loss) game.” Hopefully playing with Edler can help Hamhuis improve his team worst rating of -3 and boost his offense as well.
Last season was the first time Edler has played in every single game of the season and the first time he has attended the NHL All-Star Weekend. The Canucks need this injury-free, All-Star player on the back end to continue playing the way he is. With at least six years left in Vancouver, he still has a lot to prove.