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.

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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.

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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:

    • CMG30

      Too many people keep pretending that that those who were angry with the trade didn’t like Larson. Anybody who believes this should go back and read the comments. The people angry were angry at the waste of an asset, the massive overpay. Larson filled the hole on the back end adequately but it’s a hole that didn’t need to be there, not if the Oilers had handled the Petry/Schultz situation properly. The Oil could have made the same deal, but from a position of strength and gotten a far better return.

    • NateDog07

      You’re not wrong, but Chia had to deal with the hand he was dealt. I think he made the most of a bad situation and the team is better because of it. The cap hit that Larsson is, given the job that he does on the top pair, will be hugely valuable when we sign Drai/Connor vs getting a “better return” for a larger cap hit

  • anjinsan

    It was a large overpay in terms of hockey player value. Chiarelli did get fleeced.
    However, the Oilers became a better team in the here and now via the trade.
    Larsson is not the key reason for the Oilers’ improvement.
    The key reasons are 1) McLellan (and the cultural, professional and systems transformation he brought), 2) Health and maturity of the whole team, especially McDavid, Draisaitl, Klefbom, and Talbot.), 3) Toughness, both physical and mental.

    • Connor'sGotHart

      How is it an overpay if the trade did exactly what the Oilers wanted? If you have a ring that nobody wants but one guy is willing to give &100,000 then to him it is worth it.
      Larsson was definitely worth it!

    • mb

      Let me explain basic economics, what something is worth is what someone is willing to pay for it. Nothing more and nothing less. Just like selling your car, you may think it worth a certain amount but the truth value is what someone is willing to pay you for it.

    • Dan 1919

      It wasn’t an overpay at all. Hall is a winger that had 53pts last year with injury. Larsson in a #2 NHL dman. You want a # 1 dman like Doubty or Keith you’ll need a forward like Tavares or Kane going back. Larsson just isn’t a flashy player but defense is just as important as offense… Once you realize that you realize that Larsson is pretty much just as valuable as Hall.

      • Dan 1919

        To say that a young developing kid is a cancer or an attitude problem only reflects poorly on that team’s leadership and managent. Most young kids are still raw and developing physically and mentally. Hall is aggressive and competive by nature from what we can see from his own ice play. Those are both assets if developed properly. Get over the whole cancer thing.

          • There are very few people right now that would prefer Hall and Schultz over Lucic and Larson. If you look back to when we traded Schultz, there were very few people that would have even resigned him at the league minimum. He had next to zero value and the Oilers got better simply by removing him from the team. Schultz needed a fresh start more than almost any player in history and was lucky to go to a team that rebuilt his confidence by sheltering him and using him as an offensive specialist.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            Oilers just had a 47 win, 103 point season without Hall while the Devils just had a 28 win, 70 point season with Hall….tell us all how it will turn out to be a “huge loss” again?

  • Homer

    Change for a perpetual losing franchise is a good thing so I was excited to so it finally happen I’m willing to admit that I wasn’t sure what we where getting but hindsight says that trade was a win! Hall didn’t help NJ win as much as Larrson helped us

  • Mangiant

    I wonder if a reason the shooting percentage increased with him on the ice, is that the forwards knew he was back there, trusted him to have their backs, and took more risks as a result?

    • Jonathan Willis

      The last three seasons Larsson has had an average to well-below average on-ice SH%, so if that’s the case it didn’t happen in New Jersey. I’m skeptical; you don’t usually see this sort of thing with defensive defencemen, no matterh ow good.

    • Jonathan Willis

      Larsson was awfully good, but he ended up fourth among Oilers defencemen in average ice-time, as well as fourth in average penalty-kill ice-time (where you’d expect him to be top option). I think you’ve got a case, but based on usage it would appear that Todd McLellan didn’t see things as that clear-cut. I don’t either; for all his usefulness, Larsson is something of a defensive specialist, and the versatility of Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera to play multiple roles (including offensive) gives them a leg up in my view. But, as I said, it’s a question reasonable people can have different answers to.

      • Spydyr

        Was he the best offensive defenceman not even close. Was he the hardest defenceman for the other team to play against not even close. Was he the most physical defencman again not even close. Was he the guy that was on the penalty kill or for the last minute when the team was protecting a lead, yes.

  • cherry picker

    Chia had some serious balls to make this trade for Larsson. A risky move that paid off.
    Larsson played great and delivered all season. i wonder what management wants him to work on in the off season?? Speed and size!! Everyone probably left with that as an off season goal!

  • jonnyquixote

    >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.

    I suspect that this has a lot to do with Larsson contributing to quick turnarounds, including those that create odd-man rushes, in the defensive zone.

  • Himynameistaylor

    I’ve followed him since his teenage years playing for Skelleftia and the offence IS there, he’s just always played for teams with low scoring offence. Skelleftias top scorer over three years in a row going back to 2008-2011 was like 47 points or something, so Larsson has never had the opportunity to put up bigger numbers.

    I think the offence will come, and we’ll have a 30-45 point blue liner for some time in him.

    • Himynameistaylor

      Sorry, Skelleftia’s top scorer over the seasons Larsson played for Edmonton had 60 points, once. And Larsson played 37 games and had 19 points.

      Just fixing my original comment.

  • Bruff16

    The playoffs should have put this to bed a long time ago. If people could not have realized the impact Larson was going to have, they should now. Monster minutes, healthy and reliable…A+ in my books from day one, I was not sad to see Hall leave, two to go.

  • ScottV

    The only downside is his inability to play the back side one timer shooter on the #1 PP.

    That puts a lot of pressure on the need for another top 4 RH d man, who can handle it.

    One of the major reasons that Russell is not a good fit.

  • While I hate resorting to water-cooler gossip, anyone I’ve ever spoken with who had an interaction with Taylor Hall or knew Taylor in some capacity said he was an arrogant dickhead.
    I never met the man, so hold nothing against him personally, but it’s hard to ignore when you never hear a positive thing said about the guy from his off-ice interactions.
    I’d be willing to bet TMac at the end of last season said we have a great core, but this team is not moving forward with Hallsy on it. Again, pure speculation and gossip but I think there is a ring of truth to all of the mumblings.

    • Dan 1919

      Sounds like your full of bullsh*t. I don’t think prominent NHL coaches go to their managers and say my job will be easier without this star forward on my team, please get rid of him. Larsson was brought in because of his skill and contribution to the team, not because of the supposed lack there of, of Taylor Hall.

  • hockey1099

    Anyone else think Willis was actually watching games. He barely wrote during the playoff run but has been churning out boring stats since we lost game 7. We need to stop mentioning hall all together. Here is a WOWY stat Playoff games with hall 0, without 13. Larsson is cheap and effective. Corsi fenwick and wowy are all useless it’s a team game and you need to build a team not gather a bunchof corsi’s. Think of a team like an engine and larsson like an exhaust system. Sure there are more free flowing exhausts then larsson but the engine needs some back pressure and if we had a more wide open exhaust we would actually lose horse power.

    • Roast Beef Curtains

      This analogy makes no sense, as Larssons sole purpose is to try and create as little pressure as he can. He’s more like a check valve, allowing flow one way and stopping it the other.

  • dolenupnorth

    If NJ had also gave up there first rounder, Edmonton would be picking first overall, I think the first overall pick and larson for hall would have been a huge over payment! Also twitter and bettmans head would have exploded which would have been really messy!

  • Oil4Ever

    From a hockey value perspective, one could say we overpayed for Larsson. I was one of those people that thought we should have got more for Hall.
    But to my eye, this comes out as a win for the Oil. Larsson filled a gigantic hole on the backend, and he did it with a ferocity that I absolutely love. And he has a very reasonable long term contract.
    The emergence of Draisaitl as a line driver also makes the loss of Hall a lot easier to handle.

  • Markeejay

    Are we a better team now than 365 days ago.?…..difficult question …..NOT…Larsson trade = good trade …it happened Hall lovers now move on…next question please…

  • Oil9744

    At the time of the trade it was a bit of an over pay for a young developing defencemen, but HUGE credit to Chiarelli to recognize the player that Larsson is and he’s only going to get a lot better, he’s young with a great contract and already is our best defencemen, and is only going to get better only being 24! Edmonton won this trade hands down no question, and if you want more proof of that look at Jersey’s record since Larsson left and Hall joined, I hope Hall get’s some success in Jersey though with all that being said, he’s still a great player

  • Roast Beef Curtains

    I loved Hall, I really did. However, at the time of the trade and even continuing up to now I was shocked at how much value people gave to a defensively meh winger that has trouble staying healthy and has only had one really good season. For a supposed sniper I find it odd that he’s never even broken 30 goals despite frequently playing with both the Devils and OIlers best forwards. Wingers with decent offensive production and questionable 2-way play are far more easily had than top level shutdown dmen with snarl. I didn’t understand at all why everyone was upset the day of the trade and I can’t believe people still feel that Chiarelli got “fleeced”. Personally, I think a lot of people are still giving him way too much credit for his draft status and one great offensive season.

  • DanoMano

    It would be interesting to know what Ray Shero would give up to get Larson back. Would it be Taylor Hall plus the 1st pick, 2nd round? What would PC want back in return. PC definitely would not take a one for one trade back. PC won this trade hands down!!

  • oilerjed

    I know i am being glib but my first thought after reading the headline: Uh Duh.
    It seems so obvious but if there is still anyone out there who doubts the Hall/Larson trade, please review all 2016/17 games tapes, including playoffs, and reassess what makes good hockey teams great.

  • RJ

    I’m sure if Gryba was part of a McDavid 5-man unit, he’d have very solid +\-, Corsi and Fenwick. Wouldn’t make him the Oilers top RHD.

    What do his numbers look like without McDavid/Drai?

  • rivid

    Personally l don’t think the trade was an overpayment, I think both teams got exactly what they needed. Larson was everything he was advertised and with a mean streak. People forget you build from the backend and up. Stud defenders are hard to find and obtain, wingers not so much…