Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Larsson is a long-term solution to a longstanding problem for the Edmonton Oilers

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 6 RD Adam Larsson

The Edmonton Oilers gave up a lot to add Adam Larsson to their team; possibly even too much. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that Larsson is a valuable player who fills a position of dire need for the Oilers cheaply and effectively and for a long time to come.

It’s important to separate the player from the acquisition cost. Regardless of whether you feel Taylor Hall was an elite even-strength player and a massive overpay, or that 200 hypothetical hockey men would all unanimously agree that the Larsson trade was a win for Edmonton, the trade was entirely outside of the defenceman’s control.

What has been inside the defenceman’s control is his play, which went more-or-less as expected.

When Larsson was acquired, there was hope among some fans that he was a late-bloomer offensively. GM Peter Chiarelli himself sent mixed signals, stating repeatedly in his post-acquisition press conference that the defenceman “had more skill to show” before ultimately declaring, “he’s not a sexy defenceman.”

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Where that hope existed, it was misplaced. Larsson didn’t get power play minutes, and delivered roughly what he always does at even-strength, collecting 19 points on the season.

The offence was a hope. The defence was an expectation, and there Larsson delivered. Projected as a matchup defenceman who could start a lot of shifts in the defensive zone and against talented opponents, he did just that. As a bonus, he brought some welcome snarl to confrontations along the boards and in front of the net.

It’s worth taking a moment here to go into Larsson’s plus/minus. Larsson was plus-24 on the season, which for a certain type of analyst is a good place to stop looking and declare victory. But the real story is told when we delve into that number.

Larsson was a 50 percent Corsi player and 51 percent Fenwick player at even-strength. In either case that puts him at right about the team average in terms of puck possession, which is a formidable achievement for a player in a tough minutes role. He did well regardless of partner; very well with Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera, passably so with Kris Russell, while playing tough minutes in each.

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Plus-24 is not a “good in a tough minutes role” number, though. That’s an elite number, a play-driving number. It’s also misleading. Edmonton’s save percentage, which might potentially be attributable to Larsson’s presence dipped (very slightly) when he was on the ice relative to when other defencemen were. The team’s shooting percentage, on the other hand, exploded, and as a result Edmonton scored more than 3.0 goals per hour when he was on the ice. The only Oilers with a better number were Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon, the team’s top line for much of the year.

Given Larsson’s modest offence, it’s difficult to attribute this ridiculous offence to him, and if it wasn’t attributable to him it seems likely that his on-ice goal numbers will fall more in line with his on-ice shot metrics next season.

That would be perfectly alright, though. All the Oilers need from Larsson is for him to be part of a pairing that wins battles in the most difficult minutes. He does that. He’s only 24 and signed for four more years at a modest cap hit, so he’s a long-term solution in that role. Edmonton needed a right-shot defenceman who could play those minutes and now they have one.

Bottom line: Love or hate the trade that brought him to Edmonton, Larsson did a good job in a tough assignment in 2016-17 and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the people who always hate the trade because they supposedly “lost” the trade are missing a big point here. sometime a team can actually win a trade they have appeared to lost talent for talent with “addition through subtraction” and that’s what happened with the Oilers. Hall clearly was some kind of problem in the dressing room and was sent packing and i for 1 was thrilled to get a d-man of the quality of Larsson back, though somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a pick of something coming back as well. sorry haters but the Oilers CLEARLY won this trade hands down !!

    • btrain

      I was with you until the dressing room problems. There is no need to poor that gasoline on the fire to justify this trade. The Oilers traded from a relative position of strength (Left wing) for a position of horrible weakness (right D). Regardless of what you want to say about Hall’s attitude and his dressing room stuff, the guy is a terrific hockey player and no doubt would have had another great season with the Oil. However, the Oil were desperate for a defensemen and they did what they had to do to get one. Fortunately Larsson fills the void extremely well and Hall’s offense was not all that missed thanks to McD and Drai. The best thing with Larsson has to be his contract. If he and Klefbom continue developing as they have, they may become one of the best top pairing duo’s while making significantly less (i.e. less then 1 Subban combined). For a team needing to sign its captain and its German, that is incredibly fortunate and another reason to look positively at the Hall trade.

  • madjam

    Did the Devils overpay when giving up Larsson for Hall ? Stats wise hard to tell because one is so proficient at keeping opposition off scoring , while other (Hall) is efficient at scoring . Team value wise Larsson might have been the superior addition . In a nutshell , Larsson probably better at keeping opposition of scoreboard than Hall actually scoring – thus Larsson probably the more valuable team player . I like Hall , but do not see where he brings more than Larsson to our team in the grand scheme of things . Would have been even better for Oilers if Eberle or Hopkins would have been the trade , rather than Hall . In retrospect the trade was pretty equal in importance to each club .

    • Reg Dunlop

      Have to agree, especially with the last sentence, but only if you think winning the draft lottery was important to the Devils. Otherwise, this was the most absolute steal of a trade in recent memory, solidifying Chia’s status as an astute GM.

  • madjam

    Oilers in a fair position defensively going forward with Larsson , Klefbom , Sekara , Russel , Nurse and Benning by the looks of it . I forsee Oilers signing a very useful Russel .

  • Regoils

    Larsson has been absolutely excellent this season and will be a very important piece of the core moving forward. He filled a void that desperately needed filling and did exactly what was expectedof him. Maybe (and I can’t emphasize maybe enough) Hall was the only way we would ever be able to fill that void so say what you want about the trade, but in no way should the trade be an excuse to bad mouth the only player worth going to watch during the dark days at rexall. Despite the poorly managed/coached team that lacked defence, depth, and goaltending, hall continuously left everything on the ice and season after season put up great offensive numbers. MAYBE (we’ll never know) we couldn’t have made it this far without larsson, but I’d like to believe that if we did, nuge and Ebs wouldn’t have gone scoreless and been ridiculed and I know that hall is the type of player that will make an impact in a game 7 situation.

  • Dobbler

    I still feel like in terms of the overall market value of the individual players we “lost” the trade, but it’s a loss I’m happy to absorb for the much larger win of having a more balanced, and ultimately dangerous team. I don’t know what goes into negotiations, and although it feels like Chiarelli could’ve gotten more for Hall or paid less for Larsson, I’m just an armchair manager, so what do I know? Bottom line is it’s worked out pretty well for us in hindsight.

  • Ryan68

    This trade was clearly about need. The Oilers needed a right shot d-man who could play tough minutes, and Hall was the price. I’m sure Chia gave up only what he had to. This isn’t the old-boys’ club anymore. I actually have faith in this management group to make the right decision. I hope that everyone will stop with the Hall-Larsson comparison. The trade was about need. A need Larrson filled admirably.