After a disastrous first season with the Vancouver Canucks, Loui Eriksson has rediscovered his old form. Though many weren’t expecting this, a closer look shows that Eriksson’s bounce-back season isn’t all that surprising.
Looking to recover from a horrendous 2015-16 season that saw the Vancouver Canucks finish 28th in the NHL, general manager Jim Benning handed Loui Eriksson a six-year contract worth $36 million.
The idea was for Eriksson to slot on a line with the Sedin twins, and give this offence-starved team a consistent 20-30 goal man. Before he signed that contract, Eriksson had six 20-goal seasons under his belt and established himself as one of the game’s best two-way players.
But injuries, a poor fit under head coach Willie Desjardins and constant line-juggling contributed to an awful year for Eriksson. He finished with just 11 goals and 24 points — the lowest totals since his rookie season. May we also remind you how his Canucks debut went:
But Eriksson has bounced back with a vengeance this season. He’s up to five goals and 11 points in just 15 games, and has provided strong play in his own zone — especially on the penalty kill. In short, Eriksson is finally playing like his old self in Vancouver.
If you took a closer look at the stats, you should have known that Eriksson was going to be quite a bit better in 2017-18. This summer, I detailed why a bounce-back season was in store for Eriksson. Here’s what I said:
"Eriksson has a career shooting percentage of 14.2. His shooting percentage in 2016-17? 8.3. There’s simply no way it’s going to be that bad again for the six-time 20-goal scorer. Eriksson owns a career Corsi For percentage (at even strength) of 54.0. It was a mere 50.5 last season, so there’s more evidence he’s due to rebound. Heck, his Fenwick For Percentage at even strength was 48.5 percent in 2016-17 — well below his career percentage of 53.4."
Funny thing is, Eriksson actually owns just a 49.4 Corsi For Percentage, and a 48.4 Fenwick Percentage.
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But his shooting percentage is up to 16.3 — well above the 13.5 percent of his career. A bit of luck has been involved, but Eriksson was due for some of it after being very unfortunate last season.
I also noted that a new head coach, different system and linemates would help Eriksson — and they have. The Sedin twins have played mostly with Jake Virtanen, while Eriksson has moved up-and-down the lineup. H
Under new head coach Travis Green, Eriksson has been given different assignments and linemates, and it’s worked out near-perfectly. He is a versatile forward who can play anywhere, and Green has noticed this. Be in the top-six or on the checking line, Eriksson is getting his job done most nights.
Eriksson is currently on pace to score 23 goals and 51 points (while finishing with an excellent plus-23 rating), according to ESPN.com. That would really justify the $6 million per season that Mr. Benning handed out to him nearly 18 months ago.
The Canucks haven’t gotten a whole lot of offence outside the top ‘Killer B’s Line’, but Eriksson has been one of the more reliable secondary scorers on this team. Without his contributions, the Canucks would not be hanging around in the playoff race much right now.
A new coach and a brand new year have been great to Eriksson so far. Benning was scolded for handing out that contract just last year. But the way things are going now, he looks like a genius for paying up for Eriksson.
*All stats courtesy of Hockey Reference unless otherwise noted*