Montreal Canadiens: Joel Edmundson Quietly Playing Pivotal Role For Habs

Mar 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Joel Edmundson. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Joel Edmundson. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson is one of the names least likely to be heard by an announcer when watching a Habs game.

He doesn’t really do anything flashy with the puck, he doesn’t often jump into the rush to join the attack and most importantly, he rarely is the reason for a goal against.

The old saying goes that the less you notice a defensive defenceman, the better he is playing. Well, if you were to watch a Canadiens game on mute, which isn’t a bad idea with the quality of announcers Sportsnet offers these day, you might not know Edmundson is playing.

The Habs last game was a lacklustre 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Though it was rare to see the Canadiens play as poorly as they did that night, we saw something far less likely when Edmundson registered a minus in the plus-minus category.

I know that plus-minus is a flawed stat and that you can’t make any sweeping generalizations about a player based on their plus-minus. However, when a plus-minus becomes an outlier on a team, or in a league, it is noteworthy.

Plus-Minus simply measures the number of goals a player is on the ice for, excluding shorthanded goals against and power play goals for.

When Edmundson was a minus 1 in the Habs loss to the Flames, it marked the first time that he was a minus player in over a month and only the third time he was a minus in a game this season. he currently leads the entire league in plus-minus at plus 25.

Like I already said, plus-minus has plenty of flaws as a statistic, but when a player becomes an outlier on his team it is something worth looking into more. Edmundson’s defence partner, Jeff Petry, is only a plus 14. He is next best on the Habs roster but is well behind Edmundson.

Now, the Canadiens are a good team at 5 on 5 so that helps, but again, no one is even close to the same goals for to goals against differential as Edmundson.

What Edmundson does do well, which isn’t obvious when watching the games, is he just simply and casually moves the puck up ice. He doesn’t jump into the rush and carry the puck, but he is one of the Habs best players at just getting the puck cleanly from the defensive zone to the neutral zone. He doesn’t fire it off the glass and hope for the best, he doesn’t ice it a bunch of times and he doesn’t throw it away and turn it over.

He just consistently gets the puck out of trouble and gets it to the Canadiens forwards as they move up ice. He also plays a physical style in the defensive zone that makes it difficult for opponents to cycle the puck effectively or get any traction in front of the Habs goal.

Edmundson does these subtle things so consistently and so well that he is rarely on the ice for a goal against. After 27 games, it is no fluke that he is leading the league in plus-minus.

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Debate the value of the statistic all you want, it clearly shows that opponents have a hard time scoring when Edmundson is on the ice, and the Canadiens forwards constantly create chances when Edmundson moves the puck up ice.