Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks X-Factor

A lot has been said about the Sedin twins needing to rebound, and why wouldn’t there be? After all, they are the engine that drives the Vancouver Canucks. But there’s one other player that desperately needs to rebound for the Canucks to be successful, and no, it’s not Alex Burrows. It’s the other Alex, Alex Edler.

Simply put, it was an absolutely horrific season for the Swedish defender last year. He posted a plus-minus rating of minus-39, had his worst offensive campaign since the 07-08 season, and he may as well have had an entire section reserved for himself in John Tortorella’s doghouse. He could not have done worse if he tried. It’s hard to believe that this is the same guy that just a couple years ago was named to the NHL All-Star team and posted a 50-point season. That’s the problem with Edler; the talent’s there, the consistency is not. One night he’ll look a Norris winner, the next he’ll look like a sub-par minor league defender.

When he’s on his game he does stuff like this and this. He drives the offensive play, he shuts top players down, he lays out fantastic hits. When he’s off his game he looks panicky, he makes boneheaded decisions and he takes stupid penalties. If the Canucks want to have success this season, Edler will need to be better.

With all the talk about his disastrous defensive play, his lack of offensive production has flown under the radar, but that’s an aspect of his game that has to be drastically better than it was. For a guy known as an offensive-minded defenseman, 22 points isn’t nearly good enough. He’s a player who should push ten goals and 50 points.

Under Willie Desjardins, Edler’s numbers should improve drastically. Tortorella and Edler was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, they just don’t work. Tortorella’s system was one that relied heavily on strong positional play and structure, whereas Edler’s game is one that requires a lot more freedom. On the other hand, Desjardins’ uptempo style fits Edler to a tee, and with uptempo hockey comes more offence. Edler should thrive in this environment.

Another issue last season, not just for Edler, but for the entire Canucks D core, was the rotating door of partners. Lots of that was due to injuries, which the Canucks certainly piled up on the back-end last season, but it was also because precious few defenders were able to gel with each other. Now with everyone healthy, it looks like the Edler will get a chance to play with the durable Chris Tanev. Why is that a good thing? Edler has played his best hockey alongside calming veteran Sami Salo, and Tanev conveys that same calmness in his play. That’s a promising defense pair for Vancouver.

So what impact does Edler have on the Canucks? Well, when he’s playing well, the Canucks seem to win because he’s dominating. When he’s not playing well, the Canucks tend to lose, because he more or less hands the opposing team goals on a silver platter. Having a bounce back year is crucial to the Canucks success.

Now two games into the 2014-15 campaign, Edler seems to have re-found himself. He looks poised, he looks calm, he looks like All-Star Edler. Now, two games is a small sample size, but it looks promising so far. Whatever the case may be, the successes or failures of Alexander Edler will be pivotal to the successes or failures of his hockey club.

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