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Last July 4th, Peter Chiarelli made headlines when he traded the 2010 2nd overall pick in Tyler Seguin to Dallas. While the Bruins got back a plethora of players, Loui Eriksson was by far the biggest name on the list. Prior to the lockout-shortened season, Eriksson was a big contributor in Dallas’ high-flying offense, racking up 70+ points in three consecutive seasons. Expecting the same production once he entered into Claude Julien’s system would have been unrealistic, but if someone were to tell you he’d be relegated to the 3rd line come the end of the season, you’d have to admit it would be a major disappointment.
Let's start by looking at Eriksson's most notable highlight from this season...
There are two main reasons why Loui fell flat in 2013-14. First off, he made more highlight reels getting decked by opposing players than creating his own plays. Eriksson was injured early and often, missing stretches of time at the end of October and again nearly all throughout December. When he eventually came back from each injury, he didn’t seem right, leading to only 20 points in his 37 games played prior to the Olympic break.
His replacement, Reilly Smith, came out of training camp playing with his hair on fire, and only got better once he skated alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. By the time Eriksson rejoined the team against San Jose, Reilly Smith had already racked up 32 points on the year, including 14 in December when the PBR line was a well-oiled machine.
Despite tallying just 3 points with 11 shots on goal in 6 games during the Sochi Olympics, Eriksson "found his game" playing alongside his fellow Swedes. Loui came back to action with the rest of the Bruins at the end of February, and in the first week of March went on a five-game points streak. He had 17 points in his final 24 games, his points-per-game average jumping from a pre-Sochi .504 to .708. And there were flashes where he was able to showcase his talent—like the 4-point outburst against Philadelphia, when he made a guest appearance on the top line—but in the end these moments were too few and far between. Eriksson tallied some respectable assist numbers, but didn’t put the puck in the net nearly as much as we all expected, or at least hoped.
The silver lining is that Eriksson actually had some great possession numbers, and his lines always seemed to have scoring chances. Among starters, Loui was 4th on the Bruins in terms of CF% rel 5v5, the best skater not on the PBR line. And on the power play, he was the best possession player on the team. His starts came primarily in the offensive zone, but playing part of the season on the 2nd line meant he played against tougher competition than his fellow third-liners in Kelly, Soderberg and (sometimes) Paille.
The tandem of Eriksson and fellow Swede Carl "Play Like Carl" Soderberg seemed to flourish at the end of the season and into the Playoffs. The two combined for 11 points (3G, 8A) during the postseason, which isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but it is three more goals than David Krejci scored. In terms of possession, Eriksson was equally consistent through the postseason, finishing 4th on the team in CF% rel for players who appeared in all 12 games behind Bergeron, Reilly Smith and Soderberg. And since we're playing a numbers game... Loui did have more goals and overall points this playoffs than Tyler Seguin, and had more goals than Seguin did last postseason on nearly a third of the shots, in half the amount of games played.
What we learned against Montreal is you can’t have your 3rd line be more productive in the series than your 1st line and expect to win. But when engines are firing on all cylinders, Loui Eriksson alongside Carl Soderberg and a mystery plug-and-play right wing should be able to outplay most opposing third lines and defensive pairings next season.
When you get paid like a very good second-line forward, but barely finish the year with as many goals as Shawn Thornton’s career-high, there’s no more deserving word than "disappointment." But I expect a bounce-back season next year, provided he keeps healthy and stays on the ice. He may not be a 70+ point forward on the Bruins, but his talent is good for more than 37 points in a season with a handful of goals. Keep your head up out there, Loui. You’re making Chiarelli look bad.