No skater on the Detroit roster has been the magnet for criticism that Jonathan Ericsson has. In fact, no one in red and white comes even close. Most of this criticism, in my view, has been warranted. Much of it has been incendiary, and this blogger has been guilty of dishing out some immature drivel aimed at “Big E” in the past. But, criticism can be constructive and the view that coach Babcock should conduct an experiment, involving the metamorphosis of Ericsson into a forward, is one I hope gains some traction.
Ericsson spent most of his amateur career as a forward. It was a decision made by some unknown person to mold him into a defenseman. This was probably due do his size and powerful shot. But Ericsson, with a few exceptional moments, has not used his size or shot wisely. Furthermore, his decision making abilities in the defensive end of the rink have been questionable, frustrating and often catastrophic. I don’t want to spend very much time ripping the man who I pray will be made a forward, so let’s do some positive visualization here.
Imagine a situation, during a game in a season starting very soon, where Detroit is awarded a two minute power play in recompense for an infraction. Before this man advantage, Ericsson receives instructions in either Swedish or broken English, to get to the front of the opposing team’s net, keep his stick on the ice, and basically create havoc physically while whacking away at the puck when it comes close. Ericsson will be doing this as a winger to the right or left of one of Detroit’s three first line caliber centers (Zetterberg, Filppula, Datsyuk). A shot from the high slot makes it through to the opposing goalie, creating a scramble in front, and Ericsson uses his long stick and even longer body to chip a loose puck into the back of the net, ejecting both the fans from their seats and the players from their bench. As Budd Lynch would have said: “Red Wing goal…scored on the power play by number 52, Jonathan Ericsson!”
There is no reason why this could not happen 15-20 times, and it should.
In my view, the most intelligent players on the ice are defensemen. I say this as a former player whose experience is strictly limited to the forward positions. Defensemen spend as much time skating backwards as forwards, which makes their job more difficult from the get go. They are charged with keeping the puck out of their own net and confounding the intentions of attacking players. This requires great patience and awareness, two things I believe Ericsson does not possess in abundance.
A forward’s job is much simpler. I am not suggesting Ericsson is a simple person. Just a simple player, and orders amounting to “get to the net and hack away” are simple to understand. This should be given a try.
It’s true that Detroit lacks depth on the back end, and a foray into the forward corps by Ericsson would leave it even more depleted. But if this experiment turns out to be successful, successful meaning 15-20 goals, then a loss on the back end would be justified.
Detroit is going to add a defenseman sooner or later, which would give us the luxury of conducting this experiment. Should we try it now? Never? After a new defenseman is acquired? I don’t want to rage at the guy anymore. I believe this is the best way to turn rage into praise.
I began my career in hockey as a pre-scout for Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been writing about the NHL for multiple platforms since the 2007-2008 season.