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Posted at 12:22 PM ET, 11/17/2010

John Erskine and other random thoughts

By Kareem El-Alaily

I’ve been meaning to write about John Erskine’s improved play for two weeks now and lo-and-behold he puts together the game of his life and is now getting love from all over the blogosphere.

My original intent was to write that John Erskine has been a very steady defenseman for the Caps, stepping up his play to fill in more than adequately in the weeks that Tom Poti and/or Mike Green were out of commission. Now I have to remind folks not to get ahead of themselves and pencil Erskine in as the missing piece of the puzzle. John Erskine IS playing above his head and will come back down to earth. His PDO is currently at 1.10 (courtesy of Red Line Station), whereas someone of his talent level should fall around 0.98. He’s generating points at a greater pace than his career average (0.11 pts/game), all while playing more minutes than usual and having roughly 50% more starts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. It’s an impressive streak, but it is just that, a streak.

John Erskine will eventually revert back to his mean performance level. When the inevitable happens, I’m going to continue appreciating him. He’s an under-skilled player who makes up for it by busting his tail fighting for pucks, blocking shots, playing physical, occasionally dropping the mittens, and (with apologies to the avant-garde) clearing the crease and keeping net-crashing forwards honest. That’s what he’s asked to do and that’s what he does. At age 30, he is not going to evolve into anything more than a 6D. But I’m fine with that because he plays with heart and passion, intangibles that a few higher skilled Caps don’t consistently provide. When I hear John Erskine’s name bellowed out on the PA system at the Verizon Center, I think to myself how much I really like the guy’s heart and hustle and hope that every Caps fan similarly appreciates him for those qualities.

Some more random thoughts:

  • Braden Holtby reminds me of Olie Kolzig. Big, mean and territorial. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited over the goalies in the Caps system. Maybe 1994-95 when we had Jim Carey, Olie Kolzig and Byron Dafoe? Of course back then I didn’t realize how talented that trio was. Between Michael Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby I bet they will give the Carey/Kolzig/Dafoe group a run for their money. Hopefully the Caps pick the right two to keep.
  • I’ve previously been hard on the media in this market for treating the Caps with kid gloves. I will admit though that I do enjoy reading Corey Masisak and Alan May, both part of the “mainstream media”. The latter, one of my favorite Caps growing up, has already developed a cult-like following due to some recent published gems. Plus, he brings good analysis and perspective due to his experience in the league.
  • For those of you into advanced stats - from a Caps perspective - I highly recommend two blogs: Red Line Station and Russian Machine Never Breaks. Both sites have very detailed stats for this year’s Caps that dive deep into CORSI, Fenwick, Scoring Chances, PDO and other advanced hockey metrics. These stats clearly take a lot of effort to put together. Two more reasons why the Caps blogosphere is arguably the best in hockey.
  • Thank you Chad Dukes! Can someone convince Dan Snyder to sell the Redskins to a responsible adult, please?
  • Congrats to Steve Kolbe on recently announcing his 1000th game. I’m familiar with Steve’s calls as I travel a lot professionally and end up listening to about 15 games per season on radio. I know Steve has his proponents and detractors but I think he’s improved greatly since his rookie season. I also think the addition of Ken Sabourin a few years ago has made the radio team even better. Count me as a proponent of the duo.

By Kareem El-Alaily  | November 17, 2010; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  | Tags:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  
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