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Erik Karlsson (Or Someone Like Him) Is The Key Player The Bruins Are Missing

Last week we were talking (hypothetically) about PK Subban, Boston Bruin. Looking at fan comments, there were many Bruins fans arguing he wasn't worth the possible price. Interestingly, there has been another franchise defenceman getting criticism recently - Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. Which is weird, because players like him are few and far between. More to the point, he (or someone like him) is exactly the player Boston needs

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

If you're a franchise defenseman in Canada, this past week probably hasn't been a good time for you.

Last week it was Montreal, this week it's Ottawa, as Erik Karlsson is the player attracting criticism for his teams woes.

TSN's Craig Button has argued this week that Karlsson is, if not the source of problems completely, at least one of the potential causes.

This, to put it mildly, is rumor-mongering and clickbait of the worst possible kind.

Erik Karlsson is a player the likes of which the NHL has rarely seen - a shining example of the new wave of NHL defencemen who are taking over the league.

For some reason, he's never really been popular in Boston. This is mainly due to the media both local and national still seeming to think that he's an offense-first player. A luxury. One that you should only have on your team if you're prepared to give up a lot of odd-man rushes and defensive errors in the pursuit of those 40/50 points a season.

This, as one can see, is possibly a flawed narrative.

What's even more interesting is that "experts" like Craig Button are blaming Karlsson for the issues the Ottawa Senators are currently facing defensively. This is a prime example of "superstar bias"...the media phenomenon by which any team struggle is instantly a star's fault no matter how they happen to be playing (for a Boston comparable, just look at the comments from the Bruins fanbase, or at least sections of it about Tuukka Rask whenever the Bruins happen to have a bad game.

Karlsson is a lethal weapon on offense, and a minute-munching stud on defense. In short, he's the prototypical example of the "two-way" defenseman template that is so coveted now among NHL teams - a player equally at home on his own blue-line or the opposition's, on the PP or PK, clearing his own net or being a part of rippling the other one.

Even now, it's hard to quantify just how good Karlsson is. But perhaps the best way to try from a Boston perspective is to compare his season now, on a 23rd-place Sens team, with that of Zdeno Chara in the season Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

Nobody would deny that Chara was, without question, the best defenceman on an incredibly good Bruins team. Nobody would deny, either, that Chara has been and is a truly elite player. Nor would they deny that his 2011 season was possibly the best he's ever played in Boston.

Here, via OwnThePuck's excellent Warrior charts, is how Chara in that season, on a Stanley Cup winner, compares to Karlsson in this one.

Yes, in case you're not sure, that chart shows Karlsson, on a 23rd place team, is better, in every possible category, than Zdeno Chara on a Stanley Cup winner.

For a (slightly) fairer comparison, let's look at two players nearer the same age, in the same season. Here is Karlsson compared to Torey Krug, in this season. Krug, like Karlsson, is evolving into the kind of two-way defenseman the NHL wants more of.

Bear in mind, both of these players are players expected to contribute in all situations, at both ends of the ice.

Bearing in mind the relative differences in ice-time, it's actually impressive to see Krug get this close to Karlsson.

But the point here is that the Bruins need a player like Karlsson. A two-way defensive star who can play on both sides to back up Chara and allow Krug to shoulder a little less expectation.

And yet, for some reason, there seems to be a school of thought that still thinks he's not a player worthy of the attention he's getting. Not a key franchise defenseman. He is the defensive Patrice Bergeron...a player paid far below his worth contract wise (he's not even in the top 5 NHL D cap hits, for example).

He is, in short, the most prominent example of exactly the type of player Boston should be looking for this trade deadline, even if he himself may be a little out of reach.