Over the next month, Defending Big D will be counting down the most important "impact" players for the upcoming season for the Dallas Stars. Starting from the player we believe will have the smallest influence on this season to the player with the most, we'll countdown from #23 all the way to the top as we get ready for what we hope will be a very promising season.
When he broke into the league in 2006-07, Loui Eriksson figured to be a nice bit player. Somebody who could chip in the occasional goal while being counted upon to just deliver solid play as a depth guy.
Fast forward to 2011, where Eriksson has an All Star appearance under his belt and figures to be one of the most important players for the Stars as we enter the post-Brad Richards era here in Dallas.
No, Loui's not in any position to become bigger than the game. Nor is anybody else outside of New York capable of doing that apparently, according to some myopic east coast media outlets.
But if the Stars can make it back to the playoffs this season, Loui will be a big reason why.
How big? We'll find out after the jump.
Offensively, no Stars player figures to be more impacted by the absence of Brad Richards than Eriksson. Generally speaking over the last three full seasons, when Eriksson's name appeared on the scoresheet under the goal scorer, assist #1, or assist #2 ledger, Richards' name was listed on the same line.
Which is probably why it's a good thing that Loui's rounded out his offensive game more as his career has progressed. In the last three full seasons, Eriksson's goal scoring has trended downward from a career high of 36 two seasons ago, to 29 goals in 2009-10, and then 27 last season.
All the while, his assist totals have shot up from 63, to 71, to 73 over the last three full seasons.
To be clear, I wouldn't be surprised if Eriksson sees some kind of a drop off in his offensive performance. As we've hammered home, the switch from a Crawford system to a Glen Gulutzan system probably means offensive chances will be fewer and more far between for every forward.
And it might take some time for Eriksson to develop the kind of chemistry with another forward that he enjoyed with Richards. But his progression over his first full season indicates that he could be the kind of player that could play well with anyone in the mold of a Jere Lehtinen, both offensively and defensively.
Yes, defensively. And yes, in the mold of Lehtinen.
Last season, Eriksson led the team in takeaways with 72 and he was third in blocked shots with 46. If the Stars can get back to the competitive ways they were infamous for during Jere's playing days, Loui will be part of the very same Selke Trophy convos that Jere was an automatic entry in for so many years.
And if that damn Datsyuk were to retire, Eriksson just might win one.
But even if he doesn't, Glen Gulutzan will have a well rounded forward in Loui Eriksson that already seems like a natural fit for his system.