Born: March 2, 1984
Birthplace: Karlskrona, Sweden
Drafted: Detroit, 9th round (252nd overall), 2002
Contract Status: Signed through 2020 (oh god), $4,250,000 cap hit (double oh god)
When I watch sports, I try to separate an athlete from what he does on the playing surface to what he does off of it. There have been many players who seems like great guys, but I just loathe the way they play sports. I'm sure Jonathan Ericsson is a very nice person who would be fun to get a beer with. But I hate watching him play hockey. The wonderful and intelligent Prashanth Iver put together a great post that details why it's so hard to watch him and asks the question of why he's in the lineup every night.
This season he tied a career-high in points with 15--a total he reached for the third time in his career. While he put up a blistering offensive campaign for his standards, the possession numbers are hard to look at. His CF% dropped for the fourth consecutive season to a career low of 48.8 and his FF% was even worse, clocking in at 46.5, per Hockey Reference.
He spent time with a few different defensive partners before being reunited with fellow declining defenseman Niklas Kronwall. This pairing in 2011--back in the halcyon days of Kronner having knees and Ericsson being not awful--was fun and actually pretty good. This pairing in 2016 was atrocious, serving up a 47.6 CF% at even strength. When Kronwall got away from Ericsson, his actually CF% rose to 50.5%, per Puckalytics.
Danny DeKeyser spent the most time of any Red Wing defenseman paired with Riggy at even strength and similarly saw his possession numbers jump when away from him. With Ericsson, DK's CF% sat at 46 while it jumped to 49.8 without him.
What He Did vs. Expectations
With the amount of complaining and cringing that comes with watching Ericsson's style of play, I can't say that it defied any expectations this past season. Red Wing fans knew what they were getting from a declining, physical defenseman and he more or less lived up to the billing. If you weight his contract against what should be expected from him, then yeah, this becomes a different story as he's a fringe botttom-pairing guy at best making top-four money.
It's encouraging to see his ATOI drop to 18:32--his lowest since 2011. Maybe that's an inkling that the coaching staff sees what the rest of us are seeing. But at the same time, it'd be nice for the team to accept the mistake and send him to the minors and give some different players a shot. It's not unheard of to send big-money players to the minors (see the Bryan Bickell situation in Chicago last season) and it'd be nice to see what people like Robbie Russo, Nick Jensen and others could do at the next level.
Final Grade: D+
He just isn't that good at hockey and if the Red Wings can find any way to rid themselves of his contract without giving up too much, I think they should jump at the opportunity.