Rapid Reaction: Edler Out Indefinitely
Alex Edler Keith Ballard Lee Sweatt Chris Tanev
Edler has been, in my opinion, the best and most consistent Canuck blueliner this year. I thought he's been so good this year that he was my second choice for the Norris, ahead of All-Star Kris Letang. He's a very quiet player who plays a quiet yet steady game, no doubt a reason for the lack of media attention. Playing on the west coast doesn't help matters either, but he leads the west's top-ranked team in points, ice-time, and blocked shots among defensemen.
Edler was held out of last night's game vs. Nashville because of back spasms, thought to have suffered on his open-ice hit on Jamie Benn vs. Dallas. However, Edler is now going under the knife for microdiscectomy surgery, which is a type of microdecrompression spinal surgery usually performed on herniated discs. While the general post-surgery recovery time may vary, it is usually between 2-4 weeks before regular, normal activity can be resumed. Since Edler is a hockey player, that recovery time may be longer, perhaps up to 2 months, although the exact time frame will not be known until the surgery is performed. Edler has never played a full 82-game season.
With Edler held out of last night's game, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Kevin Bieksa all logged more than 23 minutes of ice-time, with Chris Tanev logging 11 and Lee Sweatt with a shade under 9. Expect that trend to continue, as Alain Vigneault will surely rely heavily on his four veterans post-All-Star break. With one of Vancouver's trigger men on the point gone, the onus will fall on Samuelsson, who may be moved up to the first powerplay unit on the point opposite Ehrhoff. Hamhuis and Bieksa will be on the second, giving the Canucks another left-right shooting blueline combo. Ballard led all defensemen in total ice-time last night but logged just four seconds on the powerplay and was the only blueliner to record a minus, but he has a real opportunity here to show Vigneault what he can do. If not, Tanev and Sweatt, both good skaters and have shown adept at moving the puck, may get looks over him.
With Edler gone, it doesn't necessarily mean Sami Salo will be back soon. The pressure for him to return has increased, but it would be unwise to rush him back before he's ready. The Canucks enter the All-Star break in good position, with a 5 point lead over second-place Detroit and a 15-point cushion on Colorado. The worst thing the Canucks can do is rush Salo back and risk losing him to re-aggravation or another injury before the playoffs. The long-term picture here is the postseason, and if that means losing the Presidents' Trophy (very possible) or the third-consecutive division title (very unlikely), then so be it. For now, we'll just have to see what Chris Tanev and Lee Sweatt can really do.
EDIT: Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun believes the injury may cost Edler up to 3 months. It's possible, but that could be the safe prediction. It is my personal opinion that Edler will be ready for the first round of the playoffs, and maybe even before that.
EDIT #2: The hit itself was awkward, with both Edler and Benn colliding and falling over in awkward angles. The Stars have now announced that Benn is out indefinitely as well because of the hit.