I won’t pin Wednesday night’s disaster of a night (solely) on the defensive prowess of Jonathan Ericsson. In that respect, you’ll have to excuse the timing of a post like this. Truth be told, I had it in the hopper as soon as I read the Khan article that is about to be referenced.
Anyone that’s familiar with The Production Line, or has heard me on the podcast — dating back to The Obstructed View days — will know that I’ve never even tasted the Big Rig Kool-Aid. When Red Wings fans were moistening their panties during his playoff debut, I sat in the seats at the Joe scratching my head wondering what the hell everyone else was seeing that I wasn’t. And that was his peak.
In the years since, he’s only devolved — and he’s done so quickly. Yet, on Wednesday morning, MLive’s Ansar Khan delivered some quotes and some information that don’t seem to be in lockstep with what we’ve all noticed by now: Jonathan Ericsson is a completely and totally useless player for the Red Wings.
From said article:
Veteran Ruslan Salei and rookie Jakub Kindl are competing for the sixth spot on defense for the Detroit Red Wings with six games remaining in the regular season.
Well, that was unexpected. Ruslan Salei has missed a few practices — and a handful of games — to be with his wife as they welcomed the family’s third daughter. And, like everyone else that plays our game, I’m sure he’s a little banged up after seventy-whatever games. I chalked up his “healthy” scratches to that, and not a budding competition for the final blueline spot.
Ruslan Salei has more than earned his spot on the roster. And so has Jakub Kindl, if you ask me. The player that’s not included in this competition, and — hence — safe from rotation is Jonathan Ericsson.
I’m sorry, but I’m lost.
I get that Coach Babcock likes Ericsson’s size and we’re all waiting for him to “regain” that playoff form he had, but he is — by far, mind you — the biggest liability on the entire roster. He often loses sight of his assignments, and he flails at loose pucks before giving up and allowing his counterpart to walk right around him. I won’t get into the specifics and the hockey talk, but it’s bad. And it’s often.
If it’s about potential, the scales tip way in the favor of Jakub Kindl again. While Ericsson making the NHL at all after being such a late round pick is nothing short of exceptional, Kindl’s upside is lightyears ahead of Ericsson’s, having been a first round draft pick, etc etc and so on and so forth. Losing a potentially very good hockey player like Kindl, so that a moderate-at-best 5/6 defenseman like Ericsson can stay, would be a tragedy.
For his part, Ruslan Salei sounds pissed. And rightfully so:
I’ve been playing the whole year and now he feels like we have to fight for it, so I guess I have to fight for it.
Frankly, players should never stop fighting for their spots in the lineup. No one should get comfortable and just assume that a role is theirs. There should always be youngsters coming up that nip at the veteran’s heels. That’s called competition and it’s good for everyone — including the guys that lose the battle and spend more time in the Leino Lounge than they’d like.
If we’re talking about which two of the “bottom three” deserve to be in the lineup every single night, Ruslan Salei is the only one that’s a lock, especially if you’re not yet sold on Kindl (although, in that vein, what the hell’s the matter with you? Kid’s good). The Red Wings have always had a way of bringing their youngsters along slowly and if Kindl has to spend the majority of his rookie year upstairs, so be it.
The point of the diatribe is not that Kindl shouldn’t be in this battle. It’s that Jonathan Ericsson should be.
Ericsson will be an unrestricted free agent this summer — as will Ruslan Salei. If the current rotation is to be trusted, Ericsson would be re-signed before Salei. And that just don’t add up, Jim.
Photo Credit: Claus Andersen, Getty Images