During this current road trip I've been tracking Alexander Edler's on-ice results closely since, in general, I've been duly impressed with his start to the year. As of this writing he's 8th in the league for points from a blueliner and leads TOI/60 at ES and on the PP.
In the process I found myself wondering how the rest of the blueline was performing offensively in respect to last year's group. Granted it's a fractured start with injuries to Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard in addition to Sami Salo being MIA. Nevertheless, after the jump, a quick look at how the offensive numbers from our defense stack up against the rest of the league.
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The Canucks are average in this respect and there's nothing wrong with being in the middle of the pack as we approach the quarter pole of the season. The heavy lifting falls to Edler and Ehrhoff: both are #1 & #2 at ES and PP TOI and both lead the defense in offensive zone starts. Last year was the same story. In fact, if both players maintain their current point pace, Edler will end with a career-high 59 points and Ehrhoff with 46, two better than last season.
However injuries, jumbled pairings, bad luck or flat-out poor starts have robbed support outside of these two. Last season Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo were ranked just behind Edler and Ehrhoff; Bieksa had a .40 ppg and Salo had a .41 ppg. This season Bieksa struggled to get on the stat sheet through much of October and is only at a .17 ppg. Hamhuis currently has a .30 ppg (and a .31 last year) but he won't bring near the 35-40 pt range that Salo or Bieksa can provide. Same story with Ballard and he's pointless this season after having 28 points (a .34 ppg) last year. Andrew Alberts, Aaron Rome and Ryan Parent can't be counted on for consistent production and Salo isn't due back soon.
The brunt of this may fall to Bieksa but he's picking up the tougher minutes usually occupied by Salo (and to a lesser extent Willie Mitchell). Unlike Edler and Ehrhoff, he's used liberally in all three zones and, along with Hamhuis, faces the toughest minutes on a nightly basis. Say what you will about his on-ice decisions, but we shouldn't bemoan his lack of production if he's cast in a shutdown role. In fact, Edler playing above his average at the moment softens the blow from Bieksa's slow start.
As long as top guys like Raymond and Samuelsson sputter to find their game however, it will only behoove the team if the Malhotra line and the defense continue to chip in. It's holding steady for now, but some additional blueline offense could make the difference in tighter games and make any Andrei Markov-type potential injury down the line easier to stomach.
There's always the Manitoba route too where Kevin Connauton (3-4-7) and Lee Sweatt (3-3-6) could provide a punch.