Alexander Edler turns 34 next month, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell by watching the veteran play this season. The 2019-20 season marked Edler’s 14th with the Vancouver Canucks and makes him the longest-tenured player on the roster. The smooth-skating defenceman has been a constant on the back end through all the ups and downs the team has experienced over the past decade, and he has done a formidable job acting as the number one guy during the majority of this time.
The stellar play and accolades of rookie Quinn Hughes have taken the most of the Canucks’ headlines this season (and deservedly so) but it has overshadowed another quality season from Edler, who has thrived as the savvy veteran in the defence corps.
Edler’s Early Canucks Career
Edler was drafted in the third round from the third division hockey league in his home of Sweden. Former Canucks’ legend and current international scout Thomas Gradin was a key player in bringing him to the team’s attention, as he also did with other Swedish superstars that have excelled for the team, such as the Sedins. Edler carried on this tradition of Swedish excellence in Vancouver and has been a mentor for Elias Pettersson who hopes to continue the trend.
Edler made his debut with the big club in the 2006-07 season and his skating and smooth play for his size impressed fans and management alike. His career and the team’s success progressed at the same rate and he was a key player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in the 2011 playoffs. He would produce 11 points throughout the 25 games and reports would later say that he played Game 7 with his fingers so broken he could not grip his stick. (from ‘Canucks’ Edler played Cup final with broken fingers,’ National Post, 08/29/2011)
Edler would have the best season of his career the following season, recording 49 points in 82 games and receiving four fifth-place votes for the Norris Trophy. That Canucks core would never repeat that level of playoff success and as the players from this magical finals run departed the team, Edler stuck around and was rewarded with an alternate captaincy at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.
Edler’s Present Day and Future
While there were some rumblings about Edler potentially upgrading his alternate captaincy to the full deal, he remained an alternate while Bo Horvat was named captain. The Canucks added many new pieces to the blue line before this season. As a result, they were able to reduce Edler’s minutes down to 22:37 a night.
Quinn Hughes burst onto the scene in a big way and for the first time in many years, Edler was not the number one offensive defenceman. He was relieved of first-unit power play duties, yet his production did not nose dive. Edler managed to put up 33 points in the 59 games and was a plus-13, all while starting in his own zone 57.5% of the time. All this is great, but his impact goes beyond the traditional box score as he has plenty of experience that he can pass off to the young Canucks core.
Going forward Edler has one year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million. Following that season, it seems as though “Eagle,” as he is called in the dressing room, will either take a smaller role or possibly hang up the skates for good. When he does retire, it will bring up the question of how the Canucks should honour him.
He holds the records for points by a defenceman and is seventh in games played among all Canucks with a high probability of at least finishing in the top five. It will be a good discussion whether he should be in the Ring of Honour or if they will lift his jersey to the rafters. Either way, Edler has been one of the Canuck’s most solid defenceman, not only this season but for the past 14 years.