Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (R) tries to shoot the puck past Dallas Stars right wing Radek Dvorak during overtime in their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas February 26, 2012.

MIKE STONE/Reuters

Jim Benning remembers looking down at sheets of statistics during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Benning an assistant general manager for the Boston Bruins, up against the favoured Vancouver Canucks. The impact of a 25-year-old Swedish defenceman, Alex Edler, was obvious, a physical force up and down the ice.

Game 1, a Canucks win, Edler with seven shots, two hits, two takeaways, and five blocked shots.

Game 5, the third, and last, win for the Canucks, Edler booking a bang-up 10 hits, and two blocked shots.

Story continues below advertisement

Game 6, when Boston wrested the series back, Edler still potent: three shots, four blocked shots, six hits.

It was such performances, especially in the crucible of hockey in June, that had people thinking the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Edler was poised to become a Norris Trophy candidate.

It never happened and by last year, Edler's game was a mess, no confidence, hurt by injury and suspension, and badly compounded by rotten luck.

Expect a revival. Potentially a big one.

It began on the ice in Whistler, B.C., on Friday morning at the Meadow Park Sports Centre, where new coach Willie Desjardins had Edler, a left-hand shot and offensive-minded defenceman, paired with his seemingly obvious partner, the right-handed defensive force with a powerful outlet pass, Chris Tanev.

The two saw little ice time together last year. Edler instead spent most of his time with Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison. The Edler-Tanev pairing looks and feels ideal, full of potential, with Dan Hamhuis and Bieksa partnered as the shutdown pair.

Benning's betting on an Edler renaissance.

Story continues below advertisement

"He was a dominant physical player," Benning said of the 2011 Cup final. "He'll get back to where he is a dominant player."

Edler and Tanev, a 24-year-old from Toronto, are similar guys, quiet, get the job done. In their little time together last season, communication was smooth, their style and tenor simpatico. Neither would shout or grind at the other. Miscues were talked on the bench out civilly. "We go together very well together," Tanev said on Friday morning.

Mike Sullivan, the assistant coach last year who was fired along with John Tortorella, was less quiet. He would berate Edler, chewing over the many times things went wrong. Shouting didn't work.

What worsened the situation was awful luck – and this is the fount of the revival. When Edler was on the ice at even-strength, the Canucks scored an abysmal 3.5 goals per 100 shots, a shooting percentage of 3.54.

This put Edler dead last games in on-ice shooting percentage out of 174 defencemen who played at least 50 games in 2013-14. Edler was an incredible full percentage point below the next worst showing, John Scott of Buffalo.

These numbers illustrate what hockey people mean when they talk about bounces, and Edler's bounces are surely set to improve, at least somewhat, if not a lot. Defencemen at the bottom of the list in on-ice shooting percentage in the truncated 2013 season saw their numbers surge in 2013-14. Edler can expect the same.

Story continues below advertisement

In 2013-14, the median figure was 8 per cent, which means average luck would have seen eight goals per 100 shots for Edler at even-strength, not 3.5.

One example of a rebound: Defenceman Brendan Smith of Detroit was near last in 2013 with an on-ice shooting percentage of 4.43 per cent. His figure nearly doubled to 8.55 per cent in 2013-14.

"I know I'm a good player, and I know we have a good team," Edler said on Wednesday. On Thursday, the 28-year-old Swede said: "I've just got to believe in myself."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies