Friday, November 14, 2008

Giving Erskine His Props

John Erskine is the Caps' best defensive defenseman and is only very slightly worse than Nicklas Lidstrom as a defensive defenseman.

Mirtle reports. You decide (and if you want more ammo, head over to TRS).


juan said...

Now recalculate those stats to include goals against while a player is in the box.

MacVechkin, fka JR said...

Remember everyone, it's not a lie if you believe it. ;-)

HotDog88GT said...

Too much hate for the Erskine here - all of it misplaced.


1) Erskine is who he is, at best a 3rd pairing, or 5th-6th defensemen. The curious thing though is:
a) why the Caps would find the need to resign him so early this season,
b) for nearly double his current salary
c) For 2 more seasons
2) Its not like he would be on the radar of 29 other teams at that salary. So why seemingly over pay and for multiple seasons as well?

Zulu said...


Erskine as taken a lot less stupid penalties this year, the same can't be said for Mo or Jurcina.

@Faux Rumors,

The obvious point that you’re missing is that he is better than you think.

Hotdog88gt is absolutely right, there is so much hate for someone who is actually brings a lot to the team that we all root for.

To me it is inconceivable to continually bad mouth someone who is helping your team, am I right?

The signing may seem strange so early in the year, but I think it’s because Brashear might have said something to GMGM saying he is planning on retiring. Donald hasn’t fought very much since injuring his hand, and we all know how brads fights.

Ogre said...

I'm buying an Erskine jersey. He is better defensive than - Green, Jurcina, Morrisonn, Schultz. THAT much better? No. He skates slower than the rest, but he's a better positional d-man who has no qualms pushing people out of the way.

I don't think he deserved as much as he got, but I don't think we should keep Morrison or Jurcina over him.

captnclark said...

Honestly, Im a Erskine fan/apologist and Im with you ogre - next chance I get Im buying an Erskine jersey. Closest thing we've had to Tinordi since Witt.

Now, having said that - how the hell is he on that list over Tom Poti? My only guess is because of Tom's injury.

DMG said...

I don't think the Capitals fan base, as a whole, has an unreasonably negative impression of Erskine. He does things well: he's tough as nails, blocks shots, plays smart, and doesn't try to do more than he's capable of.

But he also took more than twice as many minor penalties as anyone else on the team, the majority hooking, holding or puck over the glass. Plus his agility is so bad that he can't keep up with forwards buzzing around the net, something he tries to make up for by shoving guys after the whistle.

I love his attitude and I think he has value as a seventh defenseman (when everyone is healthy) and a fill-in. But I agree with Faux: if Erskine were to hit the free agent market I have a hard time believing that any other team would pay him near what the Capitals did.

JP said...

A couple of things to note:

1) Erskine's quality of competition is the second-worst of anyone on Mirtle's list.

2) Erskine's quality of competition is second-worst among all Caps' D.

What does that tell me? Pick your spots with Erskine and he's alright out there. I'm growing to accept him as a sparingly-used 3rd pairing defenseman more each day, but would have serious issues with him getting much more playing time, despite what he has done with the time he has had.

One final note - ranking the Caps D's in terms of GFON/60 minus GAON/60 gives us the following order:


Only Juice and Mo are negatives here.

Ryan said...

to kinda latch on to JP there, I CERTAINLY wouldn't want him out there against a team's top line in any respect, so i would think his numbers would be more weighted because of that

The only palpable reason I can make for them extending him is the "move to wing and replace Brashear" theory that someone else advocated, which makes a ton of sense with Alzner, Carlson, Godfrey etc in the pipeline (which is why I think Mo's and Juice's days are both numbered)

Point is, if I can CONSTANTLY see the guy getting beat off the dribble easily from my couch in Ellicott City, he's freakin' terrible

breed16 said...

The issue, as always, is not the black/white question of "is Erskine good or bad?" It's a question of value, and there is zero chance Erskine is worth seven figures. None. His production is easily replaceable on the cheap.

What does he bring to the table then? The only thing he does that our other defensemen don't is play with a "mean streak." McPhee must see him as a deterrent-type force, a guy who makes opposing forwards keep their head on a swivel or think twice before gliding through the zone. It's a concept I'm lukewarm about generally, and cold specifically on Erskine being that guy. Is Kovalchuk really worried about John Erskine when he crosses the blue line? Doubt it.

JP said...

To breed's point, I hope Kovalchuk is never really worried about John Erskine when he crosses the blue line because, ideally, Erskine is on the bench when Kovalchuk is on the ice.

And that goes back to the point about his extremely low quality of competition - he isn't being put out there against opponents' top guns.

And that, in turn, goes to breed's point about Erskine as "a deterrent-type force" - are we supposed to be impressed with a guy who scares third- and fourth-liners?

And that, in turn, goes to the underlying point about his value, monetarily - it seems somewhat high for a guy you can't play against talented opponents.

DMG said...

The only palpable reason I can make for them extending him is the "move to wing and replace Brashear" theory that someone else advocated, which makes a ton of sense with Alzner, Carlson, Godfrey etc in the pipeline (which is why I think Mo's and Juice's days are both numbered)


captnclark said...


Even I think its silly to argue that Erskine is one of the best dmen one the team and I really dont think anyone implied that.

I like the point that I believe TRS was trying to make: simply that Erskine is not as bad as everyone who gripes about him seems to think.

Debcapsfan said...

FYI- not related....they just reported on Ottawa Sports Talk Radio they fired Melrose in Tampa.

Lisa said...

Erskine isn't scaring anyone except for me every time he's on the ice. No hate in that statement, only trepidation.

Why sign him now and for that much? Maybe the team didn't want to be subjected to the vagaries of the UFA market and a serviceable defenseman in hand is worth a bit more than the market would bear. It's not hard to find teams overpaying in the summer and scrambling around in the fall for warm bodies to plug holes.

It's debatable whether Erskine is more than a warm body but since he's signed for two more years, I'll be happy if he inspires more fear in our opponents and less in me.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you guys ever check hockey, but I was surprised to see that ovechkin, despite his lack of scoring was in the top five in overall contribution. The method seems pretty reasonable and the end of the year numbers always seem to end up with the correct proportion of surprises and conventional wisdom to make the results seem entirely plausible.

Anyway, if you like numbers, you should check it out:

I am in no way connected to the site, by the way.


wittcap79 said...

The new Ovie "Russian Machine" graphic is pretty creepy and really sucks. There was a unanimous "no" vote on that one...get rid of it.

this space for rent said...

Yeah, that animation was disturbing. Funny, but disturbing.

At least they dumped the The-O The-O crap.

Caps Nut said...

We're pretty sure that it was Erskine Bowles taking his sweet time getting to the bench leading to Patrik Elias' breakaway goal tonight.

Hades, he was so slow getting off the ice that he hadn't even sat down by the time Elias scored.

Ogre said...

The thing is, using an example from the Pens game, Erskine was against Crosby's line at least once or twice. On those occasions, I saw Crosby try his usual shit of leaning into a defenseman trying to get into the slot to make a shot or pass, and Erskine was SOUND positionally, and muscled him off the puck. He also clears the net area of people more often that any other d-man we have.

Is he better than Poti? No. Does he deserve top 4 minutes? No. But I think Erskine is a SHITTON better than anyone gives him credit, and I bet we'd see a similar bump that Jurcina got from Feds if Erskine has him.

My girlfriend also thinks he is hotter than any other Caps d-man.

Hazardous said...

JP: going by your own stat he's better than Jurcina, but you continually ask how he could be considered better than Jurcina? You're obviously a stats guy, so what makes it so hard to believe that he's better than that goddamn bum? I just don't get it.

I don't think anyone's saying (I'm certainly not) that Erskine is a GREAT player. He's good enough for the third pairing. That's it. I have absolutely no problem saying that, I know what I see when I watch these games.

Ogre said...

I still maintain if he plays wing AND fills in as our seventh d-man next year, that signing won't look so bad. Hopefully the Cap continues to go up. Then, it won't look like a "Bad signing". If Brash is retiring, why not put him out there on LW in games we need an enforcer, and play some defense when we don't.

Erskine's issues come from when he's out of position, because, admittedly, he is not the fastest guy out there, and he takes a penalty because of clutch-grab obstruction rules of bullshit. Green's out of position all day - but Green scores and contributes on offense. Jurcina and Morrisonn have been out of position 90% of the time.

However, wouldn't you rather see him take the penalty if he gets beat, rather than letting his man skate in and score? I can't think of a situation where I'd rather that happen.

I remember when Laughlin used to talk about what would make a penalty "Good" or "Bad.

I was talking to a friend today, and we kind of related him to Joe Reekie - who was sound defensively, great 5-6 man on the pairings, but couldn't skate all that fast to cover speedsters.

If I get a Caps jersey for those 8 crazy nights, it's going to be an Erskine one. Wait, my parents celebrate Christmas? This is a pickle.

jason said...

Nice Reekie comparison. I definitely see a resemblance. Erskine is alright, it's just the price that bothers me.

JP said...

@ Hazardous: I think you misrepresent my thoughts on Erskine. In fact, the other day I called out Juice and complimented Erskine's play.

What, if anything, I've said is that we know what Erskine is and can be, while I'm still not 100% sure what Jurcina's ceiling is. I am, however, becoming more and more sure every day, and not loving the results.

Zulu said...

@caps nut

I am almost sure it was not Erskine. Considering that it was Poti and Sloan that got the minus it must have been them going to the bench or them coming off the bench. In the latter case the culprits would be Green and Shultz.

First Line -> Second Line -> Third Line

DMG said...

JP: going by your own stat he's better than Jurcina, but you continually ask how he could be considered better than Jurcina? You're obviously a stats guy, so what makes it so hard to believe that he's better than that goddamn bum? I just don't get it.

I don't think anyone who would consider themselves a "stat guy" would claim that any one statistic is the true metric of a player's ability and while Erskine have been better in this one statistic through a handful of games, Jurcina has had a better +/- than Erskine each of the last two years and took fewer than half an many penalties per game last season.

I agree with JP - my hope for Jurcina developing into a solid NHL defenseman is waning, but to say that it's inconsistent to look at 15 games where Erskine has outperformed Jurcina and still think Jurcina is the better player is somewhat analogous to saying that it doesn't make sense to think that Ovechkin is better than Semin because Semin has more points so far this year.

Ted said...

There are really only a few key numbers to look at for rating a defenseman:

1. Are they out there with one minute to go and need to protect a lead? SHULTZ and POTI

2. Are they are out there with one minute to go and need a goal? GREEN and POTI

3. Total Ice Time

4. Match-ups with the leading offensive lines from the other team.

Everything else is geek.

Erskine meets none of these four conditions, except possibly Number 1.