Monday, September 14, 2009

2009-2010 Player Profiles: Jonathan Ericsson...

OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 18 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:

Jonathan Ericsson

2008-2009 Regular Season: 19 GP, 1-3-4, +/- -1, 15 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 22 GP, 4-4-8, +/- 9, 25 PIM

Season Highlight: Scoring the Wings only goal in Game 7 of the Finals, and giving hope to Hockeytown faithful everywhere.
Season Lowlight: His poorly timed appendicitis. I still can’t believe he only missed one game because of that.

He turned out to be a major revelation during the second half of the season. Andreas Lilja’s concussion opened the door for Ericsson to play some big minutes down the stretch and all the way through the playoffs. His play during the second round when Rafalski was injured was absolutely crucial. I wouldn’t say he was rock solid, but he definitely didn’t look like a rookie most of the time. I was astonishingly comfortable with him in the defensive zone considering that he was a rookie. He also has the distinction of being the last Red Wing to score last season, for what it’s worth.

Like most fans, I’m looking forward to seeing a full season of Ericsson. If we’re lucky, his play last season was only a hint of what he’s truly capable of. He should learn a lot this season as he’ll be surrounded by good mentors, especially his fellow Swedes. He seemed to play better when paired with Lidstrom when Rafalski was hurt (Let’s face it, though, getting paired with Nick Lidstrom would probably make me look like an NHL-caliber defenseman), and he seems to have the ability to raise his level of play in pressure situations. I would love to see him teamed up with Lidstrom again from time to time this season so he can apprentice side-by-side with The Perfect Human.

Lilja’s continued injury issues will make Ericsson’s presence even more important. I don’t expect to see Lilja back in the lineup any time soon, and the Wings will need Big E to step up and provide some quality minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him score 15 goals. He’s got a pretty good shot from the point, and his four goals during the playoffs seem to indicate that he’s got enough of a scoring touch to contribute in that area. I’d like to see him use his size a bit more, which will hopefully come as he gets more comfortable playing at the NHL level. I’m expecting good things from Ericsson this season, and I really do think he’s going to have an influential year. On a side note, he’ll also probably continue to look like a pirate, but that’s beside the point.

What he needs to do to make me happy: Keep improving and soak up all of the wisdom he can from guys like Lidstrom and Rafalski.

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