From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, John Erskine.
Contract Status: $537,000 cap hit in 2008-09; UFA after 2008-09
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 28
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 5+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 51 games played, 2 goals, 7 assists, +1, 96 PIMs
Key Stat: Despite playing 25 fewer games than his closest competition in this category, Erskine had 24% more minor penalties than anyone on the team.
Surprising(ly depressing) Stat: Erskine had as many goals on the campaign as Tom Poti (who played in 20 more games).
The Good: Erskine set a career high in points and assists this season and tied his career best in goals and plus/minus, all of which foreshadowed the offensive explosion we witnessed in the playoffs (two assists and a plus-one rating in seven games). When it mattered most - in March and April - Erskine had a plus-five rating in ten games and didn't have a single game in which he was minus. Big John was also second among the team's blueliners in blocked shots per minute of ice time (Milan Jurcina was first, but Quintin Laing, of course, kicked both of their asses in that stat).
The Bad: Erskine had the most penalties taken per sixty minutes of ice time of any defenseman in the NHL who played at least 20 games, the most penalties taken per sixty of any Cap, and the most minor penalties of anyone who played 51 or fewer games (the next closest was Andy Wozniewski who had ten fewer minors in three fewer games). And while he may be "a willing pugilist," his fight totals have dropped from 13 in 2005-06 to five last season and four this season. Despite the high blocked shot totals, opponents averaged more shots on goal per sixty minutes (and the Caps averaged fewer shots for) when Ersky was on the ice than any other Cap rearguard.
The Vote: Rate Erskine on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Questions: What role do you see Erskine playing on the 2008-09
Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?
If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.
* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.