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