Photo Credit: Darrel Dyck, The Canadian Press

Why Loui Eriksson Should Probably Stop Complaining About Travis Green

When it was announced that Loui Eriksson would be joining Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom on Sweden’s entry into the 2019 World Hockey Championships, most fans hoped it would mean an opportunity for Eriksson to refresh his game to a degree—and perhaps even to rediscover his offensive spark. There were even those who hoped that the younger Pettersson would find time to “tutor” his veteran teammate over in Slovakia—and that Eriksson could then carry that momentum into the 2019/20 season.

Instead, Eriksson spoke to the press before the tournament even officially began and ignited yet another offseason controversy. Summertime drama is nothing new for fans of the Canucks—and really, this was a more likely outcome than Eriksson resurrecting his career. Still, his comments are surprising for a few reasons—not the least of which is how off-base his criticisms of coach Travis Green seem to be.

Loui’s Comments

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Speaking to Swedish site HockeySverige, Eriksson noted that he and coach Travis Green don’t really get along as well as they could. Based on a translation of the interview, it seems that Eriksson said he and Green “don’t get on 100%,” but that they do “99%”—which doesn’t sound that bad. But then Eriksson specifically cited a lack of ice-time in the 2018/19, as well as a somewhat contradictory claim of both an inconsistent role and a role that was too defensive for his liking.

For the sake of completeness, Eriksson also spoke highly of Vancouver as a city and noted that he has still enjoyed his time as a Canuck. He also mentioned that he has no plans to retire. Still, it seems clear that he has some ongoing issues with the organization—and they seem to be focused primarily on the man behind the bench.

A History Of Travis Green’s Support Of Loui Eriksson

Travis Green’s support of Loui Eriksson is so well-known that it’s become a bit of a meme in the #Canucks community. Green’s talk of the “little things” Eriksson does on the ice has become a term of derision—both for Eriksson himself and the coach who insists on keeping him in the lineup.

Whereas Green hasn’t been shy to shred some of his players—mostly the Nikolay Goldobin-shaped ones—in the media, he’s been very careful to keep any negative comments about Eriksson to himself. This could be a sign of his respect for a veteran player, or it could be his recognition of Eriksson’s presumably shattered confidence.

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In any case, Green has avoided commenting on Eriksson’s many shortcomings—and he’s always been sure to praise Eriksson whenever he manages to have a good game.

Even when Green finally chose to make Eriksson a healthy scratch in March, he handled the situation with kid gloves.

In other words, Eriksson might not have many supporters left in Vancouver—but coach Travis Green is undoubtedly one of them. If Eriksson can’t get along “100%” with Green, how would he handle a more critical coach? What would Eriksson make of a John Tortorella type? It’s tough to imagine a better scenario for Eriksson than to be coached by Green, and that makes it especially bizarre that he chose to throw Green under the bus.

The Reality

The Vancouver Canucks have paid Eriksson $23 million—mostly in signing bonuses—to score 32 goals and 76 points through 196 games. That’s a rate of 0.39 points-per-game. It’s also a rate of $719K per goal.

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Is Eriksson’s deployment or role with the team to blame for his dismal offensive totals? Almost certainly not.

Take a look at Eriksson’s most frequent linemates for 2018/19.

From Dobber’s Frozen Tools

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It’s hard not to notice the prominence of offensive players on the list. Eriksson spent the final chunk of the season spending much of his time with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson—the same Horvat who ranked second on the team in scoring, and the same Pearson who scored at a great-than-30-goal-pace as a Canuck.

Eriksson’s ice-time was that of a middle-six forward, but he also received an average of 1:16 of powerplay time per game—more than names like Antoine Roussel, Troy Stecher, and Jake Virtanen. Five other forwards spent more time on the penalty kill than Eriksson. To be fair, Eriksson’s overall ice-time of 14:04 was a lower average than he’s used to—but that’s clearly a result of his poor play, not a cause.

His Zone-Start Ratio is about the same as Horvat and Roussel’s—both of whom found offensive success in 2018/19—and much better than that of players actually put into a defense-only role, like Jay Beagle, Tyler Motte, and Brandon Sutter. In other words, Eriksson certainly played a more defensive role than some other forwards on the team—but did he really expect to be given offensive opportunities in lieu of the Elias Petterssons and Brock Boesers of the team?

Moving Forward

Of course, it didn’t escape the notice of Canucks pundits that Eriksson’s comments came on the heels of Milan Lucic vaguely discussing the possibility of a trade to Vancouver.

Eriksson’s own comments were similarly cryptic, including a moment in that HockeySverige interview when he noted that, “As it looks now, I will play in Vancouver next season as well, but you never know what can happen. We’ll see what happens after the summer.”

Most would agree that trading Eriksson for Lucic—whose contract is longer than Eriksson’s, is essentially buyout-proof, and includes a No Movement Clause that would require him to be protected in an expansion draft—would be bad asset management. Unless the Oilers were willing to compensate the Canucks rather generously for making the swap, it’s not a move that should be considered seriously.

That being said, it does seem that Eriksson’s comments leave the door open for some sort of exit from the team—whether that be in the form of a trade, a future buyout, or some other method. Most fans who have watched Eriksson play for the last three seasons would not be sad to see him go—but they might be devastated at what the Canucks have to give up to get rid of him.

Until that happens, Eriksson would do well to keep his anti-Green comments to himself—and be glad he has a coach who is willing to support a player that is clearly not living up to their contract.

In February, Green told The Province that “The one thing about Loui is he never complains about anything. You give him a role and he’s happy to do it.”

The irony is palpable.

  • Marvin101

    i disagree 100%. in the new sterile environment where players don’t say anything and management will never disclose an injury other than upper or lower body, it’s refreshing when someone says something. players like jake and goldy aren’t allowed to say boo so it’s nice to hear a few words from a veteran.

    • Dan the Fan

      Nobody is saying he’s “not allowed” to say anything. The point is that he shouldn’t be complaining about defensive roles, Green, or icetime, when he’s been treated very well by Green, and he doesn’t deserve a second more icetime then he gets. Given his play and his performance, he should be thrilled he’s getting 14 minutes a game and 6 million a year. Any complaints are sour grapes from the one of the most overpaid players in the game.

    • I wouldn’t have a problem if Goldobin said something like this publicly, because he has a legitimate reason to. The point of this article is that Eriksson doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

      On that note, I think we all know who would take more heat for complaining to the media between Goldy and Eriksson.

  • Defenceman Factory

    This is “slow news day” stuff. The translations of these articles is always a bit dubious.

    What I take out of this is Loui doesn’t like playing on the 4th line much and would consider waiving his NTC. Good on both counts.

    Eriksson is a decent 4th line player and a good PK guy. His NTC becomes modified after next season and his actual cost drops to $5 mil total for his last 2 years after the 20-21 signing bonus is paid. The only thing that makes sense is to keep him another year at which point he becomes much easier and cheaper to move.

      • North Van Halen

        Ya but after next year it’s only 2 years/$4mil in real money. There are budget teams that may take him to raise their cap floor with a limited payment of real money.

        That’s the dream anyway…

        • TheRealPB

          I think this is exactly right. A team like Ottawa that has a ton of accumulated draft picks and not a lot of actual talent costing money on the roster could use a player like LE to lift them to the cap floor while not actually hitting Melnyk’s pocketbook.

          • Dirty30

            At this point if Ottawa could take Little Things for future consideration JB should just take it and walk from a bad choice in his career.

            If he can pry a pick or prospect for retaining some of Loui’s salary he should consider it a great deal and yell at Weisbrod to “start the car!”

            Whatever Eriksson’s reason was for saying what he said, it was ill-advised and hasn’t helped his situation here in Vancouver at all.

          • tyhee

            Getting to the cap floor is often pointed out as something teams might want but it doesn’t seem to have been a problem the past few seasons. The Sens in particular were about $10 million over the cap floor this past season and their highest paid pending free agents were at $4.3 mm, $2.5 mm and $1.7 mm. Those players will need to be extended or replaced and the Sens shouldn’t need help getting to the floor this coming season.

    • canuckfan

      Have heard so many different translations the ones who attack Louie interpret something that Louie did not say but then they add in their own commentary against him. Then there are translations from those who are Swedish rather than google translate have a tamed down version whiich as some one else said earlier “big flipping deal”.

    • Dan the Fan

      I haven’t seen anyone saying they’d want Lucic over Eriksson, but it would be possible for the Oilers to make it worthwhile if they added a considerable asset. I don’t see it happening though.

      • Cageyvet

        I generally support the direction JB is taking this team, and hope he has learned from his mistakes, but he can’t make another colossal one.

        You are so right about Lucic, short of the 8th overall pick, taking his contract and required protection spot in the expansion draft would have me calling for JB’s head.

        • Dirty30

          If JB could get Ottawa to take Loui for future considerations and then take Lucic and the Oilers 8th overall based on Lucic being willing to waive his protection for the expansion draft (he might not get picked anyway) then you have a good deal because other than an additional year of salary, you walk away with an additional first round pick.

          Then the question becomes do you keep those picks or wave them at NJ and NY and see if Vancouver can manage a higher pick?

  • Punisher

    Perhaps if Eriksson showed any semblance of emotion or effort the perception of him might change.

    When is the last time you saw him drive hard to the net or play with any intensity? He’s been going through the motions for years now.

    Blaming a lack of opportunity is ridiculous.

  • Kootenaydude

    Perhaps this is just opening the door for Eriksson to wave his no trade clause. Canucks pay his $4 million signing bonus this summer. Then he’s only costing $9 million for 3 seasons. With a $6 million cap hit. That’s not so bad. I really hope the Canucks stay away from the Lucic deal. It’s a real stinker!

      • TheRealPB

        If that is the case I probably wouldn’t do it. One parallel would be the Blackhawks getting rid of Bickell’s terrible contract for a 2nd and a 3rd — except in order to get Carolina to agree they had to throw in Teravainen. Clearly that was NOT worth it but Chicago was up against it with their cap problems. We’re not in that state — even though LE’s last season will coincide with the first RFA seasons for Pettersson, Hughes and Demko, with the rise in the salary cap and all the other contracts coming off the books we should still be ok.

  • North Van Halen

    There’s a Podcast on the Province right now where 2 Edmonton columnists discuss the Ericksson/Lucic thing from their perspective.
    Not only do they think it’s a real possibility, they think considering the age difference, Lucic’s face punching abilities, Vancouver’s need for one since Guddy departed and Roussell’s injury and that this is Milan’s hometown it’s a fair swap straight up. They both scoffed at Canuck blogger’s thoughts that Edmonton would have to sweeten the pot.
    If Benning made that swap for toughness he should be fired immediately. Ericksson is decidedly mediocre, he’s not cover your eyes awful like Lucic and an extra year? Dear god, no!
    As for Ericksson whining? Green’s a bit of a dick and he’s gonna irk some guys, Louie’s one. No big deal but Louie should be smart enough to know you can’t make a comment to Swedish media and think it wont get back to the fishbowl of Vancouver. He just gave himself a whole lot more explaining to do at training camp next year.

    • Killer Marmot

      Green doesn’t seem like a dick. He seems pretty straightforward. When players play well and listen to the coaching staff, they get more ice time and more chances to fatten their offensive totals. When they don’t, they don’t.

      Every coach irks some people. He’s got 50 guys on contract, and only a handful will get all the NHL ice time they want.

    • Goon

      The *only* reason I can see making this trade straight-up is if you’re betting on Lucic regaining some of his form.

      I don’t think that’s the worst bet ever to make – Eriksson is well past the point where it’s obviously age-related decline, but Lucic went from a first liner to a fourth-liner at 29-years-old. That kind of precipitous drop without an injury is really unusual and it’s certainly possible he could refind some of his game and be a useful middle-six forward for the remainder of his contract.

      That’s a MAJOR if though, and I wouldn’t risk it personally.

      • North Van Halen

        If Lucic didn’t have the extra year, maybe?! possibly?!
        No! Still wouldn’t do it, Lucic is just too slow now and that ain’t getting better. There’s no way we should even discuss adding another year of $6mil in dead cap space right when we should be a playoff team. For the second time this week, No! No! No!

        • Locust

          Lucic has a back condition that was a real question mark when he was drafted – could he put up with the grind? I think he did really well but I believe it is catching up with him now. One of the slowest forwards in the league and it aint getting any better – nope, it is a pass.

  • Blind Side

    To quote Marshal McLuhan: “We drive into the future looking only at our rear view mirror.”

    This whole Eriksson for Lucic trade proposal is truly a blast from the past. Both players were once pretty good, each in their own way. Both are now far too slow for a league that emphasizes speed.

    Trading for Lucic would be like throwing good money after bad. The Canucks made a terrible decision to bring in Eriksson. Leave at that. Somewhere along the line, get rid of the guy and move on.

    Hopefully, move on to players the team actually needs.

    • I can’t see how Lucic fits in offensively or defensively. Our offense is based on puck possession, not dump-and-chase, and our defence is based on an aggressive forecheck. Even if Lucic was free, I can’t see how he could fit anywhere in the line-up and be effective because he’s so slow.

  • Locust

    1) Loui wasn’t ‘complaining’.
    2) Players need not ‘like’ their coach.
    3) Would prefer other ‘hockey content’ articles as opposed to these contrived ‘Canuck’ pieces.
    4) Lost a handful of win and exotic tickets in the Kentucky Derby by a 65-1 shot winning on an objection.
    5) Getting drunk.

  • Fortitude00

    Terrible piece Loui wasn’t complaining, he is just saying he isn’t getting 100% of the ice time he wants. That is what you want a player who wants to play more in key situations.

    Of course Green is careful what he said otherwise he would be stuck with a player for 4 more years that he has to play. Green also knows that Loui will probably outlast him in Vancouver if he doesn’t produce a playoff season this coming year.

    • Well, Green could have been deploying Eriksson better. Eriksson admitted he doesn’t have a great shot and he usually scores garbage goals. Green could have utilized Eriksson better as a net front presence on the power play but that went to Horvat and Baertschi more often than not. Same with Gagner, one of the criticisms was that Gagner wasn’t deployed in the same manner as when he was in Columbus and you wonder why he struggled on the power play? Even though I think Newell Brown is the real culprit for the poor deployment, Green is the coach and should have seen it and overruled him.

      • Kootenaydude

        I have to agree with you on this one 1915. A good coach gets the most out of the players he is given. Working with the players strengths. Using them in situations where they will be most successful. Look at the revolving door of players going thru Green. He had an entire year to make the powerplay better and it still stinks!

      • Sandpaper

        If Green uses all the players differently, as you suggest, when talking deploy, then Goldobin, Jake Erickson Granlund would be the top 2 lines on the wing and Pearson would be on the 4th line.
        This was an experimental season, to see what may fit with who.

    • Sandpaper

      It is amazing how many on here, thought this was a good signing, although they were concerned about the term.
      Very few of us, myself included(under a different username), got lambasted for suggesting it was a horrible signing, period.