At The Canuck Way, we’re analyzing and grading the Vancouver Canucks from 2018-19. Up next, top blueliner and pending UFA Alexander Edler.
The team’s longest-tenured player has been marred by injuries for several years now, and his production had dipped quite a bit (offensively and defensively), since 2015-16. Edler, now 33, is also set to hit the free agent market — unless the team can work out an extension.
But instead of setting himself up for bait at the trade deadline, Edler gave the Canucks every reason to retain him beyond this year. He had arguably the best season of his career, finishing with 10 goals and 34 points — despite missing 26 games. Had he played all 82 contests, Edler could have very well endured a career year.
Edler was Vancouver’s most consistent and productive blueliner this season. He showed no signs of slowing down and has plenty of good hockey left in him. It’s up to general manager Jim Benning to reach a new deal with his top blueliner.
That’s for another day, however. Let’s take a look back on his 2018-19 season, and what we expect for next year.
Season grade: A-
Vancouver’s biggest weakness, once again, was the blue line. Even though goalie and team MVP Jacob Markstrom tuned in a career season, he was simply left out to dry far too many times.
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Erik Gudbranson was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Tanner Pearson at the deadline. Ben Hutton endured another frustrating season. Chris Tanev‘s play decreased quite a bit, and worse yet, his trade value surely went down aplenty.
Only Edler and Troy Stecher played well in their own zone this season, and Benning has to find a way to build around this duo — and future superstar Quinn Hughes — who shined in his short five-game audition.
Edler not only had his most productive offensive season since 2011-12 (49 points), but he also played solid defence in is own end. He blocked 166 shots, dished out 127 hits, finishing with a plus-three rating on a team that had a minus-29 goal differential.
Before the Canucks visited the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 4, they stood at 24-22-6 and were right in the thick of the playoff race. In that game, Edler suffered a concussion and missed three and a half weeks of action.
In the time that he missed, the Canucks lost eight of 11 games and fell out of the playoff race in the blink of an eye. That brutal month of February went to show Edler’s value to the team — especially on defence.
He got the job done at both ends of the ice and more than deserves a shiny new deal from the Canucks. Edler was Vancouver’s best blueliner all season, no question about it. Thus, he deserves a nice grade here. He also fared better than most of us could have expected, so that makes this A- an easy grade. to hand out.
Expectations for next season
Well, we don’t know yet if Edler will be with the Canucks. Obviously, the team will want to be cautious in extending a 33-year-old who hasn’t played 82 games since the 2011-12 season. But as of now, it’s hard to envision the Canucks letting Edler leave — so let’s just assume he signs a new deal and stays with the only NHL team he’s played for.
Expectations may rise a bit for Edler next season, especially if head coach Travis Green decided to pair him with Hughes. The latter could certainly use some mentoring from the best bluelienr in franchise history.
Together, Edler and Hughes would form quite the dynamic defensive pairing — with both of them displaying strong offensive (especially puck-moving) skills. If Edler stays healthy and draws Hughes as his defensive partner, he really could enjoy another productive season.
Edler has regained his strong offensive form under coach Green, and 2018-19 may have been his best season in terms of defensive play. But given his age and injury history, we should be cautious in raising the bar for Edler next year.
If anything else, expect the 2017-18 and 2018-19 versions of Edler to show up in 2019-20. Unless, well, Hughes finds a way to elevate the game of his partner on defense. Stay tuned until October.