Nobody really knew what to expect from Erik Karlsson this season. The pessimist was fearing that the devastating Achilles tendon injury suffered on Valentine’s Day 2013 would carry over and affect his speed and mobility into the 2013-14 season. The optimist saw the great strides Karlsson made and the determination he showed to get back for the post-season and hoped that would carry over and he would get back to Norris Trophy form.
Well, the answer was somewhere in the middle. With the puck and in the offensive zone, Erik Karlsson was back to being EK65. In the defensive zone, when he didn’t have the puck it was often a comedy of errors as he didn’t seem to have the same active stick and proper positioning, and he turned the puck over more than he did in his Norris year.
- Led the Senators in scoring for the first time in his career
- led all NHL defensemen in scoring, by 13 points
- scored 20 goals for the first time
- played all 82 games
- Only Ryan Suter played more total minutes than Karlsson this season
- Was the top defenseman at the 2014 Winter Olympics
- Finished with a -15 rating that likely cost him a Norris Trophy, or at least a nomination
- Totaled 115 giveaways, 15 more than any other player in the league
- Had to “settle” for the Silver Medal at the Olympics
Erik Karlsson is entering the third year of his 7 year, $45.5M contract. He gets a raise in actual dollars this year to $6.5M, which makes him the club’s highest paid player for the first time.
Karlsson had answered a lot of questions about his defensive zone play two seasons ago and was on his way to repeating as Norris Trophy winner before the Achilles injury. Whether he can recapture that ability to be at least adequate in his own end and not a liability will go a long way to determining his standing among the league’s elite blueliners. The offense will always be there, but he needs to compete harder in his own end without the puck to get his hardware back.
GRADE: B+ : If Spezza is traded, Erik Karlsson’s defensive liabilities and superman expectations will become a focal point for the fan base.