Canucks Ekman-Larsson Ready for Redemption in Vancouver

Over the last few seasons, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has seen his play steadily decline as a member of the Arizona Coyotes, both offensively and defensively. After a blockbuster trade in the offseason that sent the defenseman from Coyotes to the Vancouver Canucks, Ekman-Larsson is ready for a redemption season in 2021-22.

With the ghosts of the Coyotes behind him, there is a real opportunity for Ekman-Larsson to redeem himself and get back to the player he once was. Whether it’s a change of scenery north of the border, having a new defensive partner or having a new perspective as a whole, this could be a bounce-back season for the 30-year old.

Change Of Scenery

It’s been seen over and over again. A player within an organization either doesn’t seem to be the right fit or isn’t working out and is forced out of the organization. Whether it’s via trade, free agency or buy-out, a change of scenery can be all a player needs to get back to being the player they knew they could be.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes
Canucks defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There is no shortage of players who have been dealt and either continued to play well or reinvigorated their careers. Some examples include Miroslav Satan going from the Edmonton Oilers after two years to the Buffalo Sabres. In his first two seasons with the Oilers, Satan had 63 points across 126 games. Once he got to Buffalo, he recorded seven straight seasons of at least 55 points. There was Cam Neely in 1986, getting traded from the Canucks to the Boston Bruins (sorry to bring that one up). After failing to put up more than 40 points in each of his first three seasons, Neely went on to score 75 or more points in four of his next five seasons with the Bruins. Finally, there’s Markus Naslund, who was shipped to Vancouver in 1996 from the Penguins after just three seasons (that’s better). Though he produced 52 points in his final season with Pittsburgh, the former first-round pick was sent to Vancouver for Alex Stojanov. Naslund is now the Canucks’ franchise leader in goals and captained the team from 2000-2008.

Related: 10 Canucks’ Must-Watch Games in 2021-22

Not to mention, going from a city where there are numerous other sports that take precedent over hockey, including baseball (Arizona Diamondbacks) and football (Arizona Cardinals), along with college football (Arizona State Sun Devils), hockey isn’t necessarily on the priority list at times, especially when the Coyotes don’t succeed. Vancouver is a hockey city. They have the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Major League Soccer (MLS) but make no mistake when the Canucks are going, everybody is on board. Back in 2011, they were Canada’s team en route to the Stanley Cup Final. Even a couple of years back going up against the Vegas Golden Knights in the bubble, the energy was electric. Going to that kind of fan base and energy in a Canadian market can easily get any player up and excited to start a new chapter of their career and something that Ekman-Larsson could thrive off of.

New Defensive Partner

Being a defenseman in the NHL is all about the chemistry you share with your partner. It’s about one’s strengths playing into another’s while balancing out the weaknesses. Sometimes the partnership and chemistry are strong, and it can last for years and prove to be extremely effective. Other times, no matter how hard they work at it, it just isn’t there. A new defensive partner can make all the difference for Ekman-Larsson.

Back in Arizona, Ekman-Larsson played alongside the likes of Jason Demers, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Zbynek Michalek and Michael Stone to name a few. While Demers and Hjalmarsson have had their times in the past, it was not with the Coyotes. Michalek no longer plays in the league and Stone is down the roster right now with the Calgary Flames. Now playing on the top pairing with Tyler Myers in Vancouver, Ekman-Larsson has an opportunity to play with a guy who can complement his game as more of an offensive threat and push the puck up the ice. Doing this allows for play to be driven down in the opponent’s end, and stay out of their own.

Tyler Myers Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Myers, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even if he bounces around and plays with Tucker Poolman, Travis Hamonic or even Luke Schenn, they are more stay-at-home defensemen. This gives Ekman-Larsson the freedom to go be a more offensive threat and take more chances, knowing he has a partner who’s more likely to stay back and cover the defensive duties.

A Fresh Perspective

Complacency is certainly not a bad thing, but it happens. Whether it’s a job, a workout routine or even life, things can certainly dull out. Playing in one city for a decade could very well do that to a player, but once they are surrounded by new teammates, a new city, and a fresh perspective, a fire can be re-ignited within.

After a deep playoff run early on in his career with the Coyotes back in 2012, Ekman-Larsson has only made the playoffs in one other season, that being the 2019-20 season. Now at 30 years of age, some things become more important than stats and money as a player trying to reach that elusive Stanley Cup. Well, he’s started his season off scoring in his debut and is locked under contract for the next six seasons, and with the Canucks missing the playoffs this past season and adding to all three position groups in the offseason, that perspective might be in every player’s mind throughout the Canucks locker room.

Is Ekman-Larsson guaranteed to bounce back to form this season? Of course not, but a few varying changes might be enough to start seeing glimpses of the player who had at least 30 points in seven straight seasons and was regarded as one of the top offensive defensemen in the league.

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