(Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press)
If you search “Joel Edmundson” on Youtube, the results you get back are mostly highlights of his fights. At 6’4″ and 215 lbs. he is certainly one of the more imposing figures on the ice. But “Eddy’s” game is so much more than that.
After being drafted 46th overall in the 2nd round of the 2011 NHL draft by the Blues, Edmundson played for the Moosejaw Warriors, the Kamloops Blazers, and the Chicago Wolves before making the Blues roster in 2015. In his first three seasons with the Blues, the 25-year-old defenseman has improved his play each and every year. In all three seasons, he’s played about the same number of games with 67, 69, and 69 respectively. Last season, he scored a career-high 7 goals and added 10 assists for 17 points.
Now entering his fourth season, Edmundson signed a one year contract in the offseason and avoided arbitration. He will earn $3 million this season and will likely be paired with Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo on the 1st defensive pairing. His slot and playing time may also depend on the health of Jay Bouwmeester who is coming off hip surgery at the end of last season.
Let’s address what he brings to this team.
As stated earlier, Joel is a good-sized guy. He also carries with him an air of ‘nastiness’ that says, “When I’m on the ice, you’re going to know it. Come near me and you’re going to feel it. Hit somebody wrong and I’m going to hit you back harder.”
Long-time Blues fans will remember a big defenseman known for his physicality by the name of Noel Picard. He’s the big guy wearing a Blues sweater in the famous image of Bobby Orr‘s Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Blues in 1970 as Orr flew through the air with a little help from Picard’s stick.
Bobby Plager said of his linemate, “When I played and my partner was Noel Picard, I was 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. When he left our hockey team after 1973, all of a sudden I was 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.”
Joel Edmundson is a lot like Picard in that way. His Blues teammates play a little bigger because he’s on the ice. Since his rookie season, he has made his presence known, setting a rookie record for the Blues with 165 hits in 67 games. In a postgame interview during the 2017-18 season, he was asked about a fight that took place during the game. He nonchalantly smiled and said, “That’s just hockey for ya.”
In his 3 full seasons with the Blues Edmundson has shown improvement in several categories. Although he plays a physical game, he has reduced his PIMs each year. Last season he averaged .83 minutes in the penalty box per game played. He uses his size, but he’s learned to be smart with it.
His time on ice has increased each and every season by about 3 minutes per game. He was at nearly 21 minutes per game last year. With added responsibility and opportunity he continues to progress towards a bigger role.
Edmundson’s Corsi score was up 2.7 points to 51.5 in 2017-18. His Fenwick was up even more at 52.5. For anyone unfamiliar, these are stats that indicate teams possession when a player is on the ice. North of 50% means you possess the puck more than your opponents. Obviously, the higher above 50 the better.
Although his takeaways are way short of an Alex Pietrangelo (54), Eddy’s 17 was more than double his prior season’s thievery. On the other side of that statistic, his giveaways dropped from 1 every 47 minutes of play to just 1 for every 51 minutes of play last season.
He seems to be learning and growing, and his statistics show it. He added 55 more blocked shots to his resume from his sophomore season to last year, notching 150 and second only to Pietrangelo on the squad. One of those blocked shots broke a bone in his forearm and caused him to miss about 13 games down the stretch run of the season.
He has most certainly learned from wily veterans like Jay Bouwmeester, and his numbers are starting to outshine the ‘old guy’ who will be entering his 16th season in the NHL. Last season Edmundson had more takeaways than J-Bo had in the past 4 seasons. Eddy had more blocks last season than J-Bo has ever had in a season, and he tallied more points than Bouwmeester had in 5 of the last 7 seasons.
Although not necessarily known as an offensive threat, he is able to step into the play and contribute on that end of the ice, too. Coach Yeo’s system seems to be coaxing more offense out of him.
Edmundson’s shot attempts went from 171 in his 2nd season to 265 last year. His shots on goal increased from 81 to 124 during that same time frame. But more telling was his shot percentage, the number of shots on goal that actually hit the twine. He improved to 5.6%, second only to Pietrangelo among Blues defenders last year.
Playing for Team Canada in this summer’s IIHF World Championships, Edmundson had 3 points and a goal against South Korea. And what Blues fan can forget the game-winning goal in overtime against the Minnesota Wild in the 2017 Playoffs? He does have some offense in his game.
One need not look any further than the games that Edmundson missed down the stretch when he suffered the broken arm from blocking a shot. He missed 13 games and in those games, the Blues were 4-7-2, including 7 losses in a row. When he returned the Blues reeled off 5 wins in a row and were 6-1-0 in the first 7 games he was back on the ice.
As Joel Edmundson has been given more and more responsibility, he has responded. His defense has improved, and his offense has developed as well. All signs in his game point towards more playing time and I believe it will be on the top line next to El Capitan with 23 to 24 minutes of ice per game. And what a great top pairing that will be for the Blues this 2018-19 season. Training camp is just a few weeks away, and we can’t wait to see Edmundson and the rest of the Blues take the ice.