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Canucks Player Autopsy: Alex Edler

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Few players had a year to forget more than Edler coming into the 2015 season. How did he fare after stepping out from the Torts storm cloud?

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Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Who is this guy?

Alexander Ulf Niklas Edler. Some folks just go with Alex. True fans call him Eddie Ulf.

Position: Defense

Shoots: Left (duh)

Height: 6'3''

Weight: 215 lbs

Born: April 21st, 1986 in Osterlund, Sweden. Also home to Ross Mair, the "cutest living thing in the universe." Thanks Wikipedia, now I smell a conspiracy.

What'd he do?

The last time we visited our friend Eddie Ulf, he was coming off his worst season to date: a league-worst -39, the worst PDO of any blueliner over 1,000 minutes, several visuals of making his coach nuts. It was, in a sense, not good.

He was a prime target to be approached by new GM Jim Benning, waive his NTC and find a fresh start somewhere else while the re-tooling Canucks wiped his cap off the books. But nope, instead the new brass threw their support behind Edler rebounding (perhaps noting - correctly - that there's few ways to replace him from within the organization) and Edler rewarded their faith and investment in him with a strong season.

With former line mate Jason Garrison banished to Florida (I recognize it's hardly a banishment considering what two teams are left playing right now), Desjardins paired Edler with the right-handed Tanev and the duo quickly became the most reliant defensive pairing on the roster. On the offensive side, while he wasn't as productive as in previous seasons, he was largely consistent and enjoyed his best numbers since 2012, including tying his career best with 5 PP tallies.

A lot has been said about how the Canucks got great depth scoring during stretches filled with injury and the same can be said about Lack replacing Miller when he was sidelined, but look at Tanev and Edler together (via War-on-Ice) in comparison with the rest of the defense. That's why the blue future is locked in with those two.

So was he any good?

Season

Games

Points

SH%

Corsi For%

Fenwick For %

DZSO%Rel

PDO

Ice time/gm

2014-2015

74

31

4.6

52.3

58.4

32.5

101.5

23.9

2013-2014

63

22

3.9

54.8

51.9

32.9

94

23.3

2012-2013

45

22

7.1

55.2

50.7

28.4

99.7

24.1

2011-2012

82

49

4.8

56.1

51.3

27.3

101.3

23.9

With his increased defensive responsibilities, his Corsi began slowly trending downwards which can be expected. However his PDO and shooting % jumped from his 2013-14 blackhole which, looking at the HockeyAnalysis graph above, is really where his problems were most felt. Overall his numbers started trending in the right direction and, while he may never achieve that Norris-like proficient 29 minutes a night, he's shown himself to be dependable against the stronger opposition while also being a threat on the other end of the ice.

What'd we like?

LOVE that aggressive stick tapping on the Nashville goal.

Cool. So what did we hate?

As mentioned above, the increase in Edler's top pairing responsibilities meant his offensive contributions would take a hit. Obviously there's a slew of factors involved, but if you compare Edler's ZSO%Rel of -.47 (the relative fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts) last year with what it was when he notched his career-best 49 points in 2011-12 (18.24) you can best see how zone usage affects his production. Not the end of the world, but considering his price tag, you'd hope for a bit better numbers. Then again, the devil's advocate in me (I take house calls) says he can score zero points if he's an absolute beast in the defensive zone night in and night out and 31 points isn't chump change when he's playing 24 minutes a night (for comparison Brent Seabrook had 31 points too but had a more favorable ZSO%Rel and less TOI than Edler) so I should just shut my mouth and nod approvingly....annnnd done.

So what now?

No blueliner is locked up at a bigger salary (with a NTC) than Edler. As it comes to the gradual change of the guard with players like Corrado and Clendening knocking on the door at perhaps the eventual expense of Bieksa or Hamhuis, the lion's share of the blueline responsibilities remain with Edler and Tanev. As great a story as Tanev is, Edler quietly remains one as well, showing resolve in bouncing back statistically from his previous campaign and playing dependable, perhaps at the expense of his offense, with increased minutes. Tough to know what next season will look like, but as we saw this year a solid campaign from Edler goes a long way to staying in the playoff hunt. A negative campaign though? Nah, let's not consider that happening ever again.