Joel Edmundson brings another stay-at-home option to Maple Leafs blueline still lacking in quality

Photo credit:Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
When you take a look at some of the other defencemen that have moved in the recent days; Noah Hanifin, Byram Bowen, and Sean Walker, and you take a look at who the Leafs brought in earlier this season with Ilya Lyubushkin, you can see that the Maple Leafs are making an effort to prioritize the traditional stay-at-home role over what seem to be more complete players. The benefit to this is the Leafs aren’t spending too much to make these moves. The issue is how much moves like Lyubushkin or Edmundson actually move the bar. I guess with that in mind we should learn a little bit more about Joel Edmundson, a player that has at least made life difficult for the Maple Leafs in the past.
Let’s start with the basics on Joel Edmundson. He’s 6’5 and you can’t teach that. You can teach 220 lbs, but he’s that too. He’s a big boy and the Leafs seem to want some big boy hockey on the blueline. The 30 year old only has 59 hits so far this season and 49 blocked shots. It seems likely we’ll see him increase these outputs in April/May, but Edmundson is most certainly a defender who is going to battle in front of the Leafs net with the opposition even if that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. This season Edmundson has been playing an average of 16:26 a night and ranks 5th of the Capitals defencemen in PK icetime at 1:31 a night.
Edmundson was a 23 minute a night player when he was last in the playoffs, which was in 2020-21 for the Habs. He was a big part of why the Leafs didn’t have a good time and I guess the plan is that three years later Toronto is hoping he can do the same for them. I’m not sure if aging supports that theory, but that is the blueprint.
We can take a bit of a look at Edmundson’s on-ice numbers, but they are predictably aligned with what you’d expect of a stay-at-home defenceman on a non-playoff team. Especially one that is getting bottom pairing utilization.
Overall Edmundson is in the bottom quarter of league defencemen, but when you consider he’s in the bottom third on his team, and his team is in the bottom third, Edmundson is exactly where he’s supposed to be and there’s no real surprise here. He’s an acquisition based on style of play, not someone who is going to do much in the way of flow of the game and it’s questionable how much he really needs a stick when he’s on the ice.
Edmundson’s goals above replacement again support the notion that he’s a player who belongs in that third pairing role. His shorthanded numbers do offer some hope that he can make the Leafs better in that regard and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in that role sooner rather than later.
Finally, it seems like it worth comparing Edmundson to Simon Benoit and the numbers support Edmundson being a better option for offensive situations than Benoit, although Benoit (who has had the benefit of being on a better team with a strong regular partner) has been better at keeping the puck away from the goaltender.
I’d wager that with both Lyubushkin and Edmundson, Brad Treliving is hoping to turn them over to Mike Van Ryn to achieve similar results and in the smallest of samples, Lyubushkin’s numbers offer some encouragement.
Like Lyubushkin, Edmundson is bringing a heavy shot that he rarely uses and some slow feet that might make them hard to pair together or to put with either Brodie or Giordano.
Edmundson has primarily been playing with Nick Jensen, another supposed trade target of the Leafs and here are his key on-ice against rates this year:
If there are numbers to be encouraged by it is probably the HDCA/60 and possibly the HDGA/60. Edmundson has also seen a significant improvement compared to his previous year in Montreal and that speaks to how much a better team, partner, and a more appropriate deployment has benefitted him.

Failed to load video.

Where does Edmundson fit?

Like with Lyubushkin, there isn’t much point in talking about whether he has a future in Toronto. If he does it would mean re-signing on a cheap deal to be a bottom pairing defenceman. It could happen but Edmundson isn’t the type of player you start thinking about that way before he’s set foot on the ice. He’ll have a lot to prove.
In the short term, despite being someone who has at his time been on both the left and right side of the blueline, Edmundson seems destined to stay on the left, and as such he finds himself most certainly behind Morgan Rielly (his former teammate in Moose Jaw) and whichever of Simon Benoit, TJ Brodie, and Jake McCabe will be on the left side of the ice. Things seem to be going well with Rielly and Lyubushkin so far and Keefe has shown no interest in breaking Benoit and McCabe. Does that, at least in theory put Edmundson with Liljegren right now as a potential third pairing? What of Brodie? And is Edmundson in fact the 7D option for the Leafs at least to start?
It seems like Edmundson might be putting the Leafs back on the path to overthinking defensive matchups in the playoffs. It could be Toronto embracing a more conservative style on the road when they need more defensive defencemen to ensure they have responsible players on the ice or it could be driven by depth charts. No matter what, it seems like someone is sliding into the Erik Gustafsson role of being the guy the Leafs should want in the lineup but can’t get a sniff.
While it is fun to believe that the Leafs are gearing up for something bigger and better before the deadline, it is likely that Brad Treliving is more interested in having a 23 player roster that provides Sheldon Keefe with options on who to bring in and out of the lineup than he is on having an optimized 20/21 player roster for the next 20 games and trusting that Marlies callups can fill in the blanks in the post season. Edmundson is part of that philosophy. It doesn’t seem like a good philosophy but it certainly aligns with Treliving’s Calgary track record.
Data from NHL.com, Evolving Hockey, and Natural Stat Trick

Check out these posts...