Jonathan Ericsson, the Red Wings scape goat to just about every Red Wings fan. The apparent apple of Blashill’s eye. The apparent top-4 defenseman Ken Holland was looking for when he extended him to what is arguably the second worst contract in the NHL currently. (Thankfully David Clarkson is a thing). However, is Jonathan Ericsson truly deserving of all the hate he gets?
Looking at this, yes, he definitely does. If you’ve ever needed proof that +/- is a useless stat, look at this chart and then remember Ericsson was tied for the team lead among defensemen in +/- this season. The surprising positive to take from this is that he actually drives offense like a top-4 defenseman. His G/60 is underwhelming considering how ridiculously hard his shot is but he creates primary assists like a top-4 defenseman so that’s something at least. However, his possession numbers are just a trainwreck. Considering one could argue possession stats are the most important brand of stats for a defender, that’s, um, bad. He gets the ice time of a top-4 defender, produces points (surprisingly) like a top-4 defender and possesses the puck like a guy who should be in the press box on a nightly basis.
The biggest concern for the Wings isn’t how bad Jonathan Ericsson has been, it’s how he’s being utilized. He’s very clearly a player in need of shelter on the ice, a partner who could wipe out some of the many mistakes he makes. However, his primary partner has been Niklas Kronwall. Let’s see how they compare.
That’s bad. Really, really bad. Either Ericsson is dragging Kronwall into the mud with him or Kronwall is no longer capable of being a top-4 guy himself. One way or another, Blashill needs to change this.
The thing about Ericsson is that his raw numbers seem acceptable.
He put up modest offensive numbers for a ‘defensive defenseman’. He was a plus player. He put up about the number of penalty minutes you’d expect for a player in his role. Thids may be the problem, management sees this and thinks he’s doing an acceptable job.
He’s a negative possession player while maintaining a high PDO so he’s getting ‘lucky’ and still performing below acceptable. That has to be a good sign going forward, right?….. Hahaha, RIGHT??!!
The thing that separates Ericsson from the rest of the team is his penchant to just make the dumbest play possible from time to time….. Okay, frequently. When he’s playing well, he’s actually a very steady, usable big body on his own zone. He’s capable of clearing the front of the net, wins a decent amount of puck battles along the wall, makes acceptable first passes when he keeps it simple & can block the odd shot. However, when he makes a mistake, oh boy, it’s usually a game changer.
The frustrating thing about Ericsson is that the tools are there. He’s got the skill set to be a legitimate top-4 defenseman in this league but he lacks the mental capacity to put it all together for more than a game or two at a time.
Jonathan Ericsson is what he is. His contract is unmovable and the Wings brass seems to like him. As much as we’d all love to see him in the press box nightly, it’s just not going to happen and we need to accept that. The best case scenario is that he’s slightly better than he was this year and is utilized on the bottom pair. Worst case scenario is more of the same, he’s continually used in the top-4 against the opponent’s top-6. I lean towards the latter happening again.
Ken Holland needs to move this contract by any means necessary. He is a black hole defensively for the Wings. If he’s unable to, the Wings would be better served eating his cap hit and letting him watch from the press box every night.