Alex Edler: the Quiet MVP of the Canucks

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Don’t look now, but the player that many people in Vancouver wanted ushered out of town for most of last season is now the Canucks’ best player. Through 51 games this season, Alex Edler has quietly been the most valuable player in blue and green.

Nobody has contributed more to the success of the Vancouver Canucks this season than the 29-year-old, 6’3″ blueliner. With an average ice-time of 24:25, he plays more minutes than anyone else on the team (more than 3 minutes more than any other player). He is on the top shutdown pairing at even strength, the quarterback of the #15 ranked power play and on the top unit of the #3 ranked penalty kill.

Edler is gaining more of the confidence of the coaching staff as the season goes on. Edler averaged just under 23 minutes of ice time per game in October. Since the new year, Edler has been a workhorse, averaging almost 25 minutes per night.

It seems Edler’s play has instilled confidence with management too. Not long ago, the word “cornerstone” to describe Edler is something that would have induced giggles from fans. But not anymore.

Edler’s excellence was on display once again last night. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the high flying Penguins were kept off the scoresheet for the second time this season by the Canucks. Edler, who gets all of the tough matchups, had the best Corsi +/- of all Canucks defencemen (meaning the Canucks possessed the puck more often with him on the ice). He did this without his usual defence partner, Chris Tanev. He did this while picking up an assist on the first Canucks power play goal.

After the game, the talk was about Zack Kassian, Ryan Miller, Alex Burrows and the Sedins. Edler wasn’t named a star in the game and his post-game dressing room interview likely wasn’t featured on sports highlight shows. In short, it was yet another quiet good game.

Edler isn’t piling up the points this year, just 17 in 51 games, but that is masking just how good he has been this year. Blanking superstars like Crosby and Malkin on the scoresheet has become commonplace this season.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. With a -39 rating, Edler famously had the worst plus-minus in the NHL last season.

As Satiar (the producer of my favourite local morning sports radio show) points out, he was the poster boy for players that didn’t respond well to John Tortorella’s coaching methods. Edler was paired up, against all logic, with Kevin Bieksa for most of the year. Once a fixture with the Sedins on the power play, Edler was shuffled in-and-out of the top unit under John Tortorella.

But to pin it all on Tortorella would be a mistake too, as it has been a few years since we have seen this kind of consistency out of Edler. Don’t forget that one of the challenges presented to Torts when he was first hired was getting the most out of Edler.

By this time last year, many fans were clamouring about the missed opportunity to trade Edler to the Red Wings before his no-trade clause kicked in. That noise is gone these days. Seemingly gone are the bobbled pucks and Bambi legs on the ice, too.

So what gives? Having a steady defence partner in Chris Tanev has helped. Perhaps defencemen coach Doug Lidster is something of an Edler whisperer. Maybe his nagging back is feeling better. Or perhaps Edler has decided just to concentrate on defence this year, and let the offence take care of itself.

Whatever it is, it’s a treat to watch Edler resurrect his career and become a stud on the Canucks blue line again. I would hate to think where they would be without him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVheuSBwwwo

Feature Image: canucks.nhl.com

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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