Canucks adjust as Edler lost until April, at the least
If Keith Ballard needed a taste of how his hockey life might change with fellow defenceman Alex Edler out of the Vancouver Canuck lineup, he got it in Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
Ballard logged a game-high 23:53 of ice time, a season-high for him.
And with Thursday’s news that Edler is likely gone until at least the playoffs due to pending back surgery, it’s clear that Ballard will have to step up and play the kind of major minutes commensurate with his $4.2 million US salary.
“I don’t think you replace him,” general manager Mike Gillis said of Edler, who will have surgery on Monday to repair a torn disc in his lower back. “We have to do things by committee like we have done most of the year here. But it gives guys like Keith Ballard an opportunity to step up and play more minutes, which is a role he wants. We have a lot of depth down in Manitoba and a lot of depth here. So we’re hopeful we can get through this period and maintain where we are in the standings.”
Edler’s injury is a serious blow to a Canuck team that had for the most part managed to avoid serious injuries to key players this season and heads into the all-star break tied for the overall lead in the NHL.
Edler has, arguably, been the team’s best defenceman this season.
He leads the team in ice time, averaging 24:23 minutes per game, leads the Vancouver defence in scoring, is a big part of the first-unit power play and brought a vital physical element to the back end.