There was a time when every wings fan cringed at the site of Jonathan Ericsson stepping on the ice. It seemed every other time he touched the puck, the hulking 6’4’’ forward turned defenseman contributed to the other team putting the puck in the back of the Wings’ net. However, those days are long gone. Big Rig established himself over the past three seasons as a solid top four defenseman, slotting in nicely with Niklas Kronwall on the top pairing when healthy last season.
Ericsson contributed to last season’s injury woes by only suiting up for 48 of the Wing’s regular season games and none of the Wing’s postseason against the Bruins. With the Wings returning the same defensive unit as they played with last year, it is paramount that Ericsson stay healthy to provide stability to the top four. A healthy Ericsson allows the likes of Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff to eat up sheltered minutes when their play is faltering.
At 6’4’’ 220 lbs, Ericsson is the Wings largest defenseman, and while he does not play an overly physical game, his steady positioning and large reach force attacking forwards to go wide and stay out of the dangerous zones in the middle of the ice. Ericsson rarely ever sees power play minutes, but as an anchor on the penalty kill, his absence was sorely missed. He will probably never be an offensive dynamo, but it is realistic that if healthy Ericsson could put up about 20 points. His career high in the 2011-2012 season, where he posted 3 goals and 12 assists. Through 48 games last year, Ericsson had 11 points and was poised for a solid season, but like most of the team he was consumed with injuries.
Health is key for Ericsson’s return to form. He has proven he has what it takes to be a consistent defender, but has yet to play a full 82 games. Ericsson is a crucial part to the defensive core and he needs to find a way to stay on the ice consistently for the Wings to have a shot at getting out of the first round of the playoffs.