Next up, the cousins and I take a look at…
Last Year: 2-7-9, +1, 96 PIMs, 102 hits
Career Average (per-82 games): 2-6-8, -16, 186 PIMs
Feerless’ Take: Fans take to stars, but rosters accommodate 23 players, generally seven or eight of them being defensemen. John Erskine is probably not going to be a star in the league, but he can be valuable as a 5-6-7 defenseman. Last year, he filled in for 51 games and was on the minus side of the ledger for only 14 of those games. In fact, except for a four-game struggle from February 15-23, during which he was -6 and on the ice for seven of 14 goals scored against the Caps, he played rather well for his role. In the eleven games he played after that streak to finish the year, he rebounded to 0-1-1, +5 (with no minus games), averaging 14:30 in ice time a game. He is not a top-four defenseman on this team, but he is not a liability on it, either, so long as he plays his role and is not asked to take on major minutes or shifts against top offensive lines.
Cheerless’ Take. Cuz, I love ya, but you’re trying too hard here. Imagine a Stanley Cup contender…say, Detroit. Do you think John Erskine is going to be playing on that team? The guy’s a warrior, and he does some of the dirty jobs that teams have to have done to win, but he’s probably not going to hold onto a regular spot in the lineup if/when the young guys coming up are ready. With Steve Eminger gone and Brian Pothier still on the shelf, he could get some regular time early, but he could lose playing time to Karl Alzner as time goes on this year, even though Alzner is an entirely different kind of defenseman.
The Peerless’ Take: Last year was the first year in Erskine’s career in which he played more than half his team’s games and finished on the plus side of the ledger (he was -15 in 60 games split between Dallas and the Islanders in 2005-2006). Does that mean anything? We’re trying to figure that out. Perhaps at the age of 28, having passed the 200-games played mark in his career, and playing at least semi-regularly, he’s reaching his peak as a player. When you average playing 34 games a year in your first five seasons, it might be a reflection of the tenuous hold on an NHL roster spot that talent permits, and it might be an indicator that a player hasn’t had enough time to establish a presence at the NHL level. Erskine played in 51 games last year and gave a good account of himself in the role of a third pair, physical defenseman. He has a role on this team – he did, after all log almost two full minutes per game more in penalty killing (2:16) than did his blue line teammate, Mike Green (0:20). This is not to say Erskine is of equal value, only that he has played – and can play – a part that contributes to success on this team…a guy who will give a good effort for 14-16 minutes a night, kill some penalties, wreak some havoc among opponents, stand up for his teammates, and give the top four guys a breather without putting the club at a disadvantage. It’s a role that is underrated.
Projected: 54 games, 2-8-10, +2