At around this point last year, media in Vancouver were trumpeting the rise to prominence of Alexander Edler.
Most lauded his putative status as a gem unearthed by Canucks European scout Thomas Gradin. Nearly all extolled his virtues as a much needed mobile, puck-moving defenceman.
In early October, Edler was rewarded for the promise he showed last season with a new, four-year contract worth around $3.25 million per season, which is due to kick in next season. A move, I might add, that I applauded at the time.
At the risk of being perceived as capricious with my analysis, given that less than two months have gone by, I think it’s worth pointing out that Edler has been tremendously disappointing this season.
Before proceeding further, I want to make clear that the impetus for this post is most certainly not last night’s third period gaffe by Edler that led to the game-winning goal by Curtis Glencross. Sure, it was a terrible play. But any hockey fan worth his/her salt knows that young defencemen are, above all, prone to such lapses in judgment.
Truth be told, I have become increasingly sceptical of Edler as the season has carried on. Moreover, I think that the evidence of a decline in his play near the end of last season has become even more remarkable after the first quarter of this one.
Edler’s mobility is undoubtedly impressive. He is blessed with remarkable size for someone with his skating ability. And he can certainly shoot the puck.
Edler’s primary and glaring deficiency is hockey sense. Seldom is there another Canucks defenceman who makes as many head-scratching decisions, particularly in his own end of the rink, as Edler does.
For a defenceman, this is a problem that can be especially acute from the standpoint of your average armchair analyst. Of course, it is not a unique one among NHL defencemen. Except that those who are particularly prone to poor decisions in their own end of the rink tend to mitigate this with significant offensive production.
Edler, though, has one goal and six assists, seven points in 21 games. This puts him at about 73rd overall among NHL defencemen. Not altogether impotent, I’ll admit, but also not entirely considerable in terms of potency. Put another way, no one is going to mistake Edler for Mike Green, Brian Campbell or even Joe Corvo. To put the point more starkly, perhaps, his production-to-date lags behind teammate Willie Mitchell.
For Edler to be an effective defenceman in the NHL, he either needs to be a lot more productive or to shore up his defensive zone play considerably.