Is Loui Eriksson a Victim of the Bruins System
As the Bruins head into their third week of NHL play, there continues to be no sign of significant offensive contribution from offseason acquisition Loui Eriksson (who has just one goal on the season); nor, hotshot goal scoring Jarome Iginla. For many fans, the presence of these men simply serves as a reminder that they are without staple fan favorites like Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, and Nathan Horton.
Though Jarome Iginla remains scoreless in the regular season, he did scored multiple goals in the preseason, currently leads the team in shots taken, and has been a notable physical presence in the Bruins first four games. For Iginla, it seems more likely a matter of when, as opposed to if.
Consequently, much of the recent focus has been on Eriksson’s, alleged, inability to conform to the Bruins style of play. In quotes and sound bytes, Eriksson himself has discussed the difficulties relating to the adjustment. Where Eriksson does add overlooked intangibles like leadership, maturity, and defensive awareness, he will no doubt be judged by the total number of goals he provides as a Bruin forward.
But, is this fair? Is poor craftsmanship the product of the tool or the craftsman? Should a perennial 70-point winger like Eriksson, be faulted for not reprogramming years of play in just a few months? Rather than absolute conformance, should the Bruins be looking to build lines that compliment the play of their talent?
If the Bruins are anything, they are methodically defensive-minded. In 2012-13, they had the third fewest goals allowed per game (2.21) of any team in the league. Their ability to disable an offense was on prime display during the 2013 Eastern Conference playoffs where they bested the Rangers and Penguins in 8 of 9 contests.
The Bruins however, despite significant effort, have not been a team with a tremendous amount of continued or excessive success in goal scoring. In 2012-13, they were ranked 13th with 2.65 goals per game, despite posting 32.4 shots per game; second only to the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins ranked 24th in the NHL while scoring on only 8.18 percent of their shots. And, at 14.8 percent, their efficiency on the power play was sadly ranked 26th.
This season the Bruins have only capitalized on 2 of 10 power play opportunities. And, though they are averaging 34 shots per game, they are only averaging 2.5 goals per game.
Ultimately, this comes down to a matter of quality opportunities created. And, as strong and methodical as the Bruins seem on defense, one could say that they are quite the opposite on offense.
This notion begins to take form in cases like Jaromir Jagr. Make no mistake; though Jagr is not the Jagr of the 1990s, he is still a 60-point wing. He saw a significant drop in production after being traded from Dallas to Boston. Through 5 games with the New Jersey Devils, he now has as many goals as he tallied in over 20 games with the Bruins.
It also speaks to players like Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel. Seguin, who has yet to break the 70-point mark in his career, will most like achieving this mark in excess, now that he is playing with Dallas. Kessel, once a 60-point forward for Boston, is now achieving 90 points with regularity.
This is not unlike the situation in Washington where Dale Hunter, as coach, made adjustments to Alexander Ovechkin’s role in that team’s system. Though many changes to the team were beneficial, it made absolutely no sense to take a player of Ovechkin’s caliber, and limit his offensive approach.
The same holds true in Boston. As a team, the ability to shutdown opponents is strong. And, as a team, the mindset of winning is there. The focus must then become the efficiency in which the team can more consistently put the puck in the net. This, without question, begins with how effectively the Bruins are utilizing the talent they have on the ice. Rather than forcing complete conformance, their system should be augmented using with the skills of the talent they have. Players like Eriksson, should be encouraged to play their games within the team’s system.
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