Born: Karlskrona, Sweden
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 lbs.
Contract: 2 years rem., $4.25M AAV
Jonathan Ericsson must have drank a magic potion during the offseason because he practically played a full year (81 games) for the first time since 2014-15. The veteran defenseman had been plagued by injuries the past two campaigns — missing a combined 42 games — and there were doubts about whether he would remain with the team during the summer of 2017. There was nothing flashy from the big man in terms of offense (Wings fans are used to this by now as he’s never had more than 15 points in any season) and even his defensive metrics lacked. Taking a deeper look at how he stacked up with the rest of the Red Wings blueline in CF%, he ranked sixth out of seven qualified defensemen with 47.6%. The only teammate behind him on the list? His defensive partner for much of the second half, Trevor Daley, with 46.1%. Never fear though as head coach Jeff Blashill continues to thrust the 34-year-old into a shutdown role, while playing significant time on the penalty kill. Blashill’s decision making is as much to blame for Ericsson’s putrid defensive metrics as it is on the actual player. Can we fault #52 for starting 67.9% of his faceoffs in the defensive zone? No. But, if he’s going to be Blashill’s guy against the skilled opponents around the league, then maybe it’s time to wake up and realize he’s just simply not the best option. The silver lining from this season might have been his career-high 84 blocked shots...I guess that’s one positive from the year?
What He Did vs. Expectations
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an Ericsson fan, and haven’t been for quite a while. But, I do realize there might be some believers (possibly a small group of you) that think the towering Swede provides some stability to this blueline. I just don’t see it. The foot speed isn’t there and this narrative that the coaching staff continues to favor its veteran core has still carried over from the Mike Babcock regime. Yes, he’s not a slick skating offensively gifted defensemen, but for crying out loud he has one job and that’s to play some resemblance of defense. This has been a pattern for Ericsson since the 2012-13 season in which his defensive metrics have dropped with each passing year and trust me, it’s not going to get better the rest of the way. Was I expecting a miracle to happen where he would lead the team’s defense in scoring? No. But, I was hoping he would be a workhorse on the point at the very least, especially if Blashill wants to treat him like one.
Final Grade: D
I was tempted to fail Ericsson here, but after all, the entire defensive group was below average again this year. The fact that Ken Holland missed a window to use a buyout option back in June still stings (some of you don’t agree because of the Stephen Weiss situation). But, I look at it from the perspective that they could have used that money to sign a young player (maybe Andreas Athanasiou) to a longer term rather than have that situation carry into the regular season. Plus, at this point, Ericsson is taking up a roster space that could be saved for a young blueliner from Grand Rapids (Joe Hicketts anyone?). Can the front office explore the possibility of a trade if they don’t want to be on the hook for a buyout, or is it a move as easy as sending him down to the minors and hoping he’s claimed off waivers?
What grade would you give Jonathan Ericsson?
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