Capitals Player Report Card: John Erskine

John Erskine

Stats: 73 GP, 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, +1, 94 PIM
Contract Info: $1,500,000 cap hit, signed through 2012-13
Player Card

Scoring Chance Percentage Ranking: 14/29
Defensemen: 5/10
Balanced Corsi Ranking: 19/29
Defensemen: 6/10

It certainly was a year to remember for John Erskine. He played in a career-high 73 games, scored a career-high four goals and 11 points and had what was one of the best fights I’ve seen in awhile against Eric Boulton back in November. His ability to play more minutes and take extra responsibilities earlier in the season earned him a two-year extension worth $3.00 mil which is a $250k raise on what he was making this season. I was a fan of this extension at the time because it is a good deal for a third-pairing defenseman who can go beyond the call of duty like Erskine did this year. However, while he did have an impressive start to the season, I still think Erskine’s ceiling is a third pairing defenseman and not  much more than that.

Other than his durability and toughness, the one thing I was impressed with Erskine this year was his offensive play. He finished the season with a very sturdy 53% scoring chance rate and as I mentioned earlier, he also set career highs in goals and points. His corsi numbers are not as impressive, surprisingly. He had a very low EV corsi percentage rate of 48.9% and a lot more goals than he was last season. However, he was on ice for a lot less shots this year than he was last season. In fact, he was on ice for fewer shots than he was since 2007 (this can be seen in his player card linked above). His PDO was a very high 1048 last season, which was mostly due to an on-ice save percentage of .942, showing that he got very lucky last season while surrendering a lot of chances. This year, his on-ice save percentage dropped to .926 which thus brought down his PDO and increased the amount of goals he was on ice for. Something that isn’t encouraging is that Erskine wasn’t able to get the puck moving in the right direction despite getting more offensive zone starts this year. Surprisingly with his scoring chance rating being as high as it was.

If you look at his player card from Behind The Net hockey, Erskine was mainly matched up with below average competition and couldn’t seem to outplay them despite that. He also seemed to give up chances whenever he was on ice as his negative corsi rate indicates, albeit, his relative corsi rate is better than it was in previous season so he is helping the team a lot more this year. I think all this data does is display what I said earlier; Erskine is a third pairing defenseman and nothing more (or less) than that. He was given significantly less ice time than his teammates throughout the entire season no matter the situation. The only time he got more was when other players were hurt. It makes you wonder if he would have been in the lineup come playoff time if Wideman was healthy. He didn’t have a terrible post-season but was on ice for six of the goals the Caps surrendered.

Speaking of the playoffs, I decided to look at some other playoff team’s 3rd pairing defensemen’s stats this year to see how Erskine compares with them.

All of these players see middling to below average competition and all have pretty lackluster corsi ratings as a result. One good thing is that Erskine seems to surrender less shots than most of them when he is on the ice and his corsi rating is more favorable than most of them, aside from Ruslan Salei. However, it should be noted that a lot of these defensemen get more defensive zone starts than he does which could explain some of their lower corsi ratings. What I’m trying to say tis that Erskine did about what you can expect him to do as a third pairing defenseman this year, which is what the team needs him to be.

My grade for Erskine is a B- because I felt that he performed up to my expectations and the offense was a nice bonus. I think he can do well in playoff time with sheltered minutes and fits the team well as a 5-7 defenseman. He is also a good player to insert into the lineup to add toughness to it because he has more qualities to his game than just fighting. He knows when it’s time to stand up for his teammates rather than pick a fight for no reason and get himself hurt. It was a solid year for him ether way you cut it.

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