This post has been a long time coming for me.. It seems like at any point in one game I find myself saying the same thing, in some shape or form. Perhaps it's just me, but I've reached a point to where I am frustrated beyond belief with one certain element of this team.
We have a great coach in Mike Babcock, he's one of the best hockey minds in the business, without a doubt. He's a stubborn one, and sometimes it bites him in the ass. He has no problem throwing his line structure and deployment for his forwards into the blender and mixing it up, even during the game. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. That's life, and that's hockey. Something has really pissed me off this season, and that's the defense. The bottom-four have performed decently on a consistent basis, I think. Sure, we've had some speed bumps there but given the assignments they are designated, they can handle it more often than not. What really ticks me off is what is going on with the top-pair for this team. Obviously, like with any team, they receive the hardest of deployment, and face the toughest amount of competition. Niklas Kronwall is one of those guys who probably exiting his potential as a number one guy. Keyword: Probably. The issue is with his partner, Jonathan Ericsson.
Let's get one thing clear first, I am not going to turn this into a crucifying of his character, or anything of that matter. I am simply trying to address how much this top-pair has underachieved all season long, and additionally has been unable to provide any sort of consistency. Here is what I see from Ericsson over the past 20 games, in terms of possession metrics:
As you can see, it is very often that the team is performing better in terms of shot-attempts when he is off the ice. So what do you do to remedy this? Because having this on your top-pair, the guys who you can depend on every night, is absolutely unacceptable for a team who wants to contend for the big trophy. Do you give him easier assignments? Do you move him to the 2nd, or even the 3rd pair? That could be a good start, but are we even confident that Riggy can handle easier assignments? I'm not so sure...
You see, the guy just looks clumsy. He isn't the best skater, and his decision making does him no favors to help that at times. Here's a good example:
I'm really not sure what the hell he was thinking here. Cam Atkinson is coming into the zone like a bat out of hell, and he changes strides which:
- Slows him down, and ruins his momentum
- Changes his direction
- Makes Cam Atkinson looks like Wayne *expletive* Gretzky
Then he does that awful turn, in which he finds himself staring at the other end of the ice, where no Blue Jackets are to be found. It was a horrible defensive play. You play the puck, not the man. He played the man on this play. The man who drop-passed right before he entered the zone, and made something the Wings always try (and usually fail) look effortless. Listen, I don't hate the guy.. I just hate the way he's used. He cannot handle his assignments with consistency, and certainly isn't doing anything marvelous in the offensive zone that warrants him getting those big-time minutes.
Simply put, the Red Wings are in a tough spot in terms of their top-pair. There are a lot of games where Ericsson will completely biff something, and Niklas Kronwall is able to cover him for it. On the other hand, there will be nights where maybe Kronwall is having a rough go of it, and needs some help.. Can Ericsson do that? The answer is no, not as of late, and he's not doing anything to show me that he'll be able to for the next five years of his questionable contract terms. What I'm showing you here is just one example in a sea of mistakes for Jonathan Ericsson. If this team is going to contend, something needs to change.