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Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Larsson was encouraged to explore offensive game at World Hockey Championship

It’s no secret around these parts that Adam Larsson is best known for his defensive shutdown abilities, and that there won’t be much offence to go along with it. However, Sweden’s coach at the World Hockey Championships, Richard Gronborg, was convinced that there was more to Larsson’s game and gave him the green light to explore the offensive side of the puck. What did he find? Let’s check it out.

Since coming over in the Hall trade, Larsson has been more or less what was expected: a tough defensive defenceman with the ability to play the hard minutes and shut people down, but not one that will necessarily produce a whole lot of points. But in an interview done with his coach, Richard Gronborg, prior to yesterday’s gold medal game against Switzerland, he thinks that there’s more offensive upside to Larsson’s game than we’ve seen so far.

“He’s been tremendous, just tremendous.”

Good to hear! I mean, I saw the abs picture too but what, specifically, are you impressed by?

“I think you can see that he’s more than just a shutdown defenseman.”

I’m intrigued. Go on.

“It’s kind of fun to see him let loose a little bit here in the offensive end and, obviously, we encourage that because we don’t see him as just being a shutdown defenseman, but we also know he’s very dependable in his own end and break up plays and get the puck out quickly.”

If there’s one thing we know about Larsson, it’s his ability to play tough in his own end but we’ve never really seen too much of this offensive upside you’re talking about. Break it down for me.

“I went over to see him play a couple games at the end of the season and I was really impressed.”

Okay, I’m happy you were over here to check him out and that you were impressed (probably had the Bobby Nicks burger) but I still want to know about this offensive side you’re talking about. You can eat all the Bobby Nicks burgers you want but that still won’t help us get more points out of Larsson.

“He’s just become so strong and dependable.”

Yes. yes he has excellent genes, there’s no denying that, but we all want to know about the offence. — that’s what we’re here for. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.

“He’s taken pretty big steps, but we also know there’s a little bit more offensive in his game than he’s been able to show in Edmonton.”

Wait, let’s back it up there boss. What do you mean “than he’s been able to show in Edmonton?”

“When he was younger, I saw a lot of that offensive game from him. Now, he has a little bit of a different role on his club team, but it’s not like he forgot how to do those things offensively. That’s why we’re playing him a little bit differently here. We know he’s got another dimension to his game and we want to see what he’s got.”

This one confuses me a little bit. I’m not saying that Larsson wasn’t an offensive guy when he was younger, his SEL days show some of that, but why wouldn’t the Oilers be encouraging that side of him to come out a little bit more? If it’s in there, why wouldn’t they want access to it? That’s like having gold bricks in your basement but you’re scared of moving them because they’re also supporting the walls. I mean, it’s not like he shot the lights out at the Worlds, registering one goal and two assists in 10 games, but maybe there is something else there?

When asked about adding offence to his game, Larsson said he spent the tournament keeping a watchful eye on his Swedish teammates Oliver Ekman-Larsson and John Klingberg.

“I’m watching them a lot but especially with their offensive game. I want to see if there’s anything they do that I can add to my game and help me become more active on the offensive side of the puck too. I don’t play very offensive in Edmonton, but here the coaches encourage me to do a little bit more and be more involved with the offence and not just a shutdown guy. I used to play that way – more offensive. Why not do it again?”

Now, I don’t know how much watching those guys play will help to add offence to Larsson’s game but I certainly hope there’s some kind of skill-transferring-osmosis (STO) that can happen there. But who knows, maybe winning the gold with a few of his offensively gifted countrymen will help kickstart the creativity — I’m certainly cheering for him. If Larsson could add a few points to his total on a yearly basis then the Oilers would be in a much better position to develop offence from the back end, and that alone would be invaluable. Can a gold medal at the Worlds become the Game Genie we needed to unlock those points? Dare to dream.

LARSSON’S NHL CAREER SO FAR

Season GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG OTG S S%
2017-18 63 4 9 13 10 34 0 0 0 0 1 0 92 4.3
NHL Career 416 17 84 101 44 244 0 4 0 5 4 1 451 3.8
  • Oiler Al

    McLellans idea of a top defenseman is a guy who lays on the ice and blocks shots all night long.[ala: Russell and his 4 yr, NMC deal.] Its the same story with the obsession of a RH puck moving D.What the guy on the left side isn’t allowed to move the puck. Nevada’s two RHD ,…. England and Miller.Not exactly Karlsson and Doughty!, Yet
    Neveda is on its way to the cup final.These issues are coach related , yet Toddy stilol has his gig.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Vegas is living proof that you don’t have to have a franchise d-man or a “true” #1 d-man to have a shot at winning the cup! the Pens even won the cup last year without any contributions in the playoffs from Kris Letang so it can be done ! i too wish the Oilers would stop obsessing so much with trying to find a RD only who’s a #1 or franchise d-man and concentrate on trying to make this team play defensively responsible as a TEAM and add a good d-man when you can get them without selling the farm !

  • Consultant

    Wow, just re-realizing he only had 13 points last year. thirteen
    Maybe after he has a 20 point season we can really start getting excited…
    Or maybe he is just a shutdown dman, teams do need those as well.

    • A-co

      You don’t go straight up for HALL for a 3-4 shutdown defenseman…even if he is RHD… I really can’t see the oilers telling Adam to tone down his offense just to be a more defensive defensive defenseman….BUT # OILERS

        • Make Another Bad Trade or Signing!!

          Horrible trade, likely worst that Oilers have ever made. Hall is a driver, Larsson is a solid 4th D-man. Good defensive D-man, but slow to move the puck up the ice and does not contribute offensively. Look at defensive units still playing in 3rd round, and you see players that move the puck really well. They don’t look up the ice, move back defensively, and pass to their partner. Saw too much of that from Larsson and the entire Oilers D. I think that Larsson has more to show, but footspeed will remain a barrier. Successful teams don’t trade a top line wingers for a 3-4 D-man. Not Larsson’s fault, squarely on the management group that has mishandled trades, UFA signings, and player development. None of that looks fine to me.

    • ScottyPrime

      Considering he scores all his points at even strength or shorthanded (what with the zero pp time), here’s a short list of “name” defencemen Larsson either tied or outscored (EV points only) the last two years:
      2017-18:
      Kevin Shattenkirk
      Travis Hamonic
      Justin Faulk
      Niklas Kronwall
      Derrick Pouliot
      Alec Martinez

      2016-17:
      Shea Weber
      Rasmus Ristolainen
      Shayne Gostisbehere
      Hampus Lindholm
      Sami Vatanen
      Matthias Ekholm
      Kristopher Letang
      Aaron Ekblad
      Jonas Brodin
      Jake Muzzin
      Brett Pesce
      Noah Hanifin
      Damon Severson

      The whole team had a rough year, and Larsson was really leaned on to try and keep them afloat in their own end, and without much help. He also went though injuries and tragedy and STILL managed to be as good offensively as some of the guys people are talking about trading our only other good defencemen for. Larsson is a big part of the solution in Edmonton and criminally underrated. Last year, when the team had a much better year, he was legitimately providing good even-strength offensive support, more than a lot of the more hyped D in the blogosphere. People should be talking about giving HIM some more PP time instead of Benning, because Larsson DOES have that gear, he just needs to have the support around him that he doesn’t feel like the only guy who’s gonna have an eye on what’s behind him. World class players on Team Sweden agree and this isn’t the first time outside observers have noted he has more offence to him than he’s usually allowed to play with. Sweden had Lindholm, Ekholm, Klingberg, and Ekman-Larsson on D and only the latter got more playing time and opportunity than Larsson. They won Gold playing like that. Edmonton has a lot of issue with having good players and not using them to their potential. Larsson is an example of that.

      • Make Another Bad Trade or Signing!!

        Adam Larsson was 140th in scoring by defenseman last year. I believe that he has some offensive upside, but he likely is just what his results say he is – a defensive defenseman. Oilers need much more offense from their D, but I don’t think that Larsson is the player to do it. That is not his game.

  • Mahaloeh

    watched all the Swedish games & Adam played great! There’s a lot he can offer the Oilers on the PP. Steady with the puck & great first pass. He also gets the puck through for tips etc. It’s not unrealistic for him to be successful on offence especially when he has Connor, Nuge, Leon to feed those passes through!

  • Arfguy

    I honestly don’t think Larsson will bring an offensive flavour to the Oilers line-up next year. While I do think Larsson has mobility, intelligence and a great shot, for some reason the Oilers think they have to play him as a defensive player. I think he can do both and it was frustrating to watch McLellan continuously go to Klefbom when the results weren’t there. Even when it was revealed that Klefbom was fighting an injury, McLellan insisted on using Oscar.

    I get it. Larsson didn’t look great in that one game at the point when he bobbled the puck and it led to a short handed goal, but when something isn’t working…you can’t be stubborn.

    I think Larsson can play a strong offensive game. I just do not expect it to happen with the Oilers when our coach has stubborn tendencies.

    • Arfguy

      It is easy to say that we traded a Hart candidate in hindsight. Truth is, Taylor Hall was not a Hart candidate when he was traded. The fact is, Taylor Hall also didn’t hit 30 goals in a season until his 9th. If fans are going to look at the Hall trade as trading a Hart candidate, they might as well be sore about not drafting a better player in Tyler Seguin over Taylor Hall.

    • MrBung

      It will. He has squandered a lot of opportunity and pissed away value. You add up everything he has done with the Oilers the bad outweighs the good. The team is not as bad as last season but they are not a playoff level team either. Their performance against the Canucks and Flames toward the end of the season is not a good sign.

    • We already know, you people bring it up 3000 times every time someone says Larsson’s name, give it a break already smh. Larsson never chose to get traded for Hall. The trade already happened and there’s nothing we can do about it. Can you atleast participate in a discussion about Adam Larsson instead of puffing your cheeks every time?

      • McNugent

        What do you want me to say. The guy had 13 points and we are talking about his offence.

        This article is a joke. The fact we traded Hall who was our best player almost every night for a decade it terrible.

        • Dr

          Revisionist history. Hall has said he didn’t want to have a conversation with his coaches about playing without the puck. Reading between the lines, Hall probably didn’t want to even consider being an all around player. I’m sure Chia made more phone calls than those of us posting here and knew how much value Hall had around the league. The way Hall was playing back then, he wasn’t going to garner as much as you critics think he would now.
          It’s funny how no one seems to remember that Hall was a give away machine, or how he would pout after a missed chance, or how he would turn away from a scrum with his head down when a teammate was getting a cooper wash, or how he would try to beat everyone on the other team and not pass.
          Hall was not the same player here as he is now. I think it’s obvious that he had to mature.

  • MrBung

    As long as whatever offence he brings doesn’t result in more goals against because he is too busy cheating or pinching for offence.

    The reasons for this getting attention is that the Oil lack offensive defensemen. They are desperate. Also to make the Hall trade look more palatable because it is looking big time lopsided in NJ’s favour.

  • He did have 24pts in 64games a few years ago. There is definitely something there. Im not saying give him PP QB duty but I think with a new set of coaches now’s the time for McLellan to try something different and give Larsson the green light to get more involved on offense.

    • OnDaWagon

      You have to encourage players to try things, that’s how they learn. Todd seems to be so unwilling to allow players to make mistakes, they are scared to try anything not scripted.

      Just in case you never knew:: When you are scared to lose, you lose

  • Vanhellian

    I’m having a hard time not seeing the development/usage of Larsson as another coaching failure. Why is there a coach with no association to the Oil talking about wanting to develop this guy?

  • TKB2677

    If Larsson has more offense to his game, by all means Larsson, let’s see it. I have a hard time believing that the Oilers coaching staff would pull him aside after a game and give him crap for showing any offensive flare in a game because even they know they need all the help they can get offensively from the blueline. But if there was ever the hint of hold back from Johnson who I believe coached the defense, perhaps him being gone will help that.

    • Kr55

      Can be a combination of things. This last year his D partner was almost always a tire fire in their own end. There is no hope to try to cheat offensively when your D partner is a pylon. McLellan was also railing on all the players about mistakes from day 1 last season. And every mistake was turning into a goal against because our 2 goalies couldn’t stop anything. So, coach going nuts about every mistake (getting Woodcroft to make guys custom videos of their mistakes even) plus every mistake turning into a goal is a very bad situation for players to feel like they can take chances.

      Last season Larsson wasn’t that bad in terms of EV points. Top 60 I think. That was the first time in a long time he got some kind of opening. In NJ he was buried in his own zone for the last 2 years. Their whole game plan was to ride the heck out of Greene/Larsson to shut down everyone, and try to win games on the PP. Not much chance for offense when you are leading the league by a mile in defensive zone start %.

      I hope McLellan is learning a bit from these playoffs. Going insane about every little mistake is a huge drain on your team. Lots of good teams now are letting their D be more creative now.

  • GRC

    Pretty tough to know if Larssons lack of offence as an Oiler so far is system related or due to his lack of confidence. Hopefully he gets more involved this coming season.
    As for the trade….of course if its framed around Larsson being a #4 Dman the trade looks horrible. I dont like the trade but this kind of hyperbole has to stop.
    The reality…Larsson is not a #4 dman….never has been.