Late last week Puck Daddy's Josh Cooper wrote about the struggles of Loui Eriksson, and how it has been compounded by the exponential success of Tyler Seguin. With the recent rumors of Taylor Hall and Evander Kane being on the block, the topic of just how terrible the Tyler Seguin trade was has yet again emerged. Hot takes, popping up left and right. Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser are all on the Bruins this season, but none of them (outside of maybe Smith) have been all too impressive.
With last night's game-winner against Buffalo, Eriksson has now scored 17 goals in a Bruins sweater—the last two giving Boston a very much needed two points. He has 56 points total over the last two seasons, 37 of which came in 61 games last year. And it all looks bad, because Tyler Seguin has 42 points already this year, in just about half the games. No one is arguing that the Bruins didn't give up a talented player, because the fact is they did. What Boston and Dallas sent in the deal isn't the issue here, because the value of the pieces is a separate argument entirely.
Regardless of how Seguin is doing, one thing is fore sure: Eriksson has underachieved. He's not what was sold back in the summer of 2013, and he's a shade of his former self. But the question is, why?
Looking at his games played up until the Brooks Orpik Incident, he was actually pretty productive. To be fair, really productive. He was one of the best Bruins on the team not named "Krejci", "Lucic", "Iginla" or "Bergeron". He was conked early on in the game against Pittsburgh, so let's discount that as a "Game Played." The Swede appeared in 23 games with the Bruins prior, and had 14 points--a points per game of .610. A full 82-game season of that would get you 50 points, placing you 7th on the team last year.
Loui didn't look right when he eventually did return, and was relegated to the 3rd line to skate alongside Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. Kelly had come back to earth since a career year in 2011-12, and Carl was playing a different position than he was used to his very first year in the NHL. Not exactly Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow. He looked better in Sochi. He looked decent in the playoffs. But we wanted more. And I too had been a part of the crowd, saying this guy should be giving us more. We want the production of the return to equal Tyler Seguin, and Loui needed to own the majority of it.
...but are we expecting too much of Eriksson, too soon after his concussion?
How long does it typically take for someone to get back to full speed? It can't be measured with any certainty, since every blow is different. Jonathan Toews suffered a concussion last week, and was skating a few days later. Marc Savard has been out for three years now ultimately because of lesser hits by Deryk Engelland and Matt Hunwick, not the initial hit by Matt Cooke (although that was still the major factor). But we can look at examples of production following a substantial concussion.
In Dallas, Lou's Points60 was 2.29 from Fall 2009 through the Spring of 2012. In 2012-13 that fell to 1.48, the lowest of his career, as he skated on his off-wing. Last year, it actually rose to 1.73, and this year it's fallen back down to 1.53. His role on the Bruins is different from the Stars, and the Bruins' system should account for less production. But the .5-to-.75 difference isn't anything to sneeze at. If he's just .5 higher than he is right now, you have another Milan Lucic in terms of production (Lucic is 2.05 over the last two seasons). For $4.5M, that's a bargain in today's NHL.
Bergy hit the 70-point mark twice early in his career, before the Randy Jones incident early during the 2007-08 season. Points-wise, he's yet to get back to that feat. It's also a different coach and system, and Patrice plays a different role on the team, but there's still evidence that his concussion issues lingered for a few years. Bergeron played 64 games in the 2008-09 season after returning from the hit, and his Points60 was down to 1.42—lower than Loui's over his time with Boston. The next year, it rose significantly, but was still only at 2.00. Bergeron really hit his stride in 2011-12 when it rose to 2.39 p60, up from 2.17 during the Cup year. It took four years for Bergeron to become truly elite again.
Umby suffered a concussion in January of 2012. While he only missed a few games (possibly, the return was too soon), his production has since plummeted. After a 1.98 p60 in 2010-11, it dropped to 1.56 the year of the injury, and 1.09 the year after. So far this season, R.J. has just 2 goals and 5 points in 30 games—a 0.70 Points60. He is also signed through 2016-17, and making $375k more than Loui Eriksson.
Briere, now 37, was starting to decline when he suffered his concussion back in January of 2012. He finished the season with 49 points, his lowest total in a full season since 2002-03. His Points60 was an electric 2.60 in Philadelphia the year prior, but fell over a full point, finishing at 1.51 the year of his concussion. While age and his role on the ice were definitely a factor, the freefall Briere's production had taken, along with the time at which it started to decrease, is directly in correlation to the head injury.
Semin was Ovechkin's right-hand (or, left-hand we're being honest) man for a ton of years in Washington, so his production was naturally expected to take a hit once he was shipped down to Carolina. But Semin finished the 2012-13 campaign with 44 points in 44 games before suffering a concussion in April. The following year, his Points60 fell to 1.60 (from 2.54) and is now 0.82, as Alexander is looking like a shell of his former self in Raleigh.
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These are only a few examples. Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, and a handful of others had their production cut significantly following devastating blows, if they were lucky enough to return to the ice at all. And Loui isn't one of those greats. Toews and Crosby came back from their concussions and still produce, because they are freaks of nature with ridiculous hockey talent. Loui was a really good player when he came over from Dallas, but he was never elite.
So we can want Eriksson to make a larger impact. And one day, he may get back to being a really good hockey player. But we can't expect him to be what he was, twelve months removed from back-to-back headshots. We can watch him skate 17 minutes on the ice, and we can see him make a drop-pass on the backhand to no one. But we can't rush our expectations and ask why he's not doing things he was 2 or 3 years ago, because honestly? The idea of Loui Eriksson getting better isn't the rule, it's the exception.