Loui Eriksson scored 30 goals while playing with the Boston Bruins during the 2015-16 NHL season, his final year on his previous contract. The two-time 30-goal scorer tested free agency in the summer of 2016, subsequently signing with the Vancouver Canucks on a six-year, $36-million deal. Canucks fans knew the signing symbolized the beginning of something special in Vancouver. Boy, were they right.
Eriksson Scores in Debut
You read that right. Eriksson scored his first goal in his first home game in a Canucks uniform. The goal came against the visiting Calgary Flames. It was a momentous occasion that the newcomer and everybody watching would remember — because Eriksson scored on his own team’s net.
Yeah, that happened. Eriksson was battling for the puck along the boards near the benches and cleared the puck back to former Canucks’ defender Erik Gudbranson — except it was nowhere near him — resulting in the puck gliding listlessly into Vancouver’s empty net. Keep in mind that the goaltender was pulled because there was a delayed penalty call on the Flames.
To make matters worse, Gudbranson gave chase to the puck in an effort to knock it off its deadly course before subsequently sliding into the net after it. It was a bad look for the team and an even worse look for the recently signed Eriksson, especially when you consider the $6 million per year he was set to enjoy as the team’s second-highest-paid winger. Fans were left hoping that his initial misfortune was not a sign of things to come.
Spoiler alert: It was.
Grass Not Greener in Vancouver
Eriksson’s time in Vancouver can only truly be described as such: Eriksson, a scary 6-foot-2 Swedish businessman, convinces you to hire him with slick talk and an impressive resumé.
After the initial excitement of the hiring wears off and the standard three-month probation period comes to an end, Eriksson’s effort dips drastically and you’re left with a sub-par employee at a premium price.
Now, you offered Eriksson a six-year, $36 million contract that he very quickly signed before you could figure him out. Now he is guaranteed your money. He is going to give 50% effort for the next six years and won’t take responsibility for his poor performance.
Your new hire was supposed to blow everyone away. Instead, you’ve drawn the ire of your peers and anyone else watching. If Eriksson was doing what he was supposed to be doing — if his work justified his pay — we would be talking about him for different reasons. Unfortunately, his work didn’t justify his pay.
Blown out of Proportion
Despite Canucks head coach Travis Green’s unwavering support of the Swedish forward, Eriksson opened up to Swedish media about some of his on-ice woes while he was playing for Team Sweden at the World Championships in May 2019.
While the comments were made in Swedish to a Swedish news outlet, it didn’t take long for his words to reach the ears of fans back in Vancouver. To keep things crystal clear, Eriksson didn’t badmouth Green while addressing some of his concerns.
He did point out that he and coach Green don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on everything and that he has been disappointed with his mostly defensive role and decreased ice-time since the former Utica Comets head coach took over in Vancouver for the 2017-18 season.
Eriksson spoke to HockeySverige — a Sweden-based hockey site— in an interview following Sweden’s 6-4 win against the Russian national team on May 1. He explained that he still believed he was a good hockey player in the league. Eriksson is a guy who is frustrated by a lack of success — something most of us can relate to.
Eriksson cited Green’s lack of trust in him as one source of frustration, comparing it to the trust that former coaches showed him earlier in his career that has seen him amass 244 goals and 336 assists for 580 points so far. While it is almost certain that Eriksson will eclipse 600 career points during the 2019-20 season, it depends on whether or not Green gives him a roster spot come October.
A Nose for the Net
We as fans focus on the bad things a player does, but we tend to emphasize the bad things even more heavily when the player in question is making too much money. Eriksson is a perfect example of this.
Despite only scoring 32 goals over his last three seasons, the Gothenburg native has had some great games thanks to some phenomenal linemates such as Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. He even had some playing time with Elias Pettersson during the 2018-19 season. In Sep. 2017, Eriksson scored this crafty little goal with some sharp hand-eye coordination.
It was a bit of a ‘wow, he did that?’ moment for Canucks fans. That’s not to say another player couldn’t have done it, but we should at least give respect where it is due. When Eriksson is his most productive he is somewhere near the net. A lot of his goals with the Dallas Stars and Bruins came down low, in the face of the opposing team’s goalie.
Over the course of six games between Nov. 2 and Nov. 13 during the 2018-19 season, Eriksson scored eight points, proving that he can still be a productive player for the Canucks. However, he was streaky and inconsistent, going nearly a calendar month without a point between Feb. 4 and March 3.
A Silver Lining of Sorts
The issue lies in his crazy salary. If the Swede made $2.5 million yearly, the anti-Benning crowd would have nothing to work with. We can’t fault Eriksson for accepting such a lucrative contract.
He is going to get paid regardless of how he plays, whether it be steady paycheques or an enormous buyout. At the end of the day, Eriksson is still a Canuck. He has made some hilarious mistakes, but he has also made some pretty plays.
There is one thing we can never forget — he set up Canucks’ budding superstar Pettersson for his first NHL goal. Whether or not we want to entertain the possibility of such a ridiculous thought, Eriksson helped to kick-start a historical season for the Canucks’ new scoring sensation.
If Eriksson is only remembered by Canucks fans for one thing, it should be that.
Shane Wilson is a staff writer from Richmond, British Columbia. The former executive editor for Australia-based news outlet Rock Nation covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers and hosts a monthly comedy show in Steveston, B.C.