Loui Eriksson has usually been the model of consistency on a sometimes quite inconsistent Dallas Stars team over the past several seasons. The fans, coaches and staff knew what you were likely get from the winger in the season. He could be relied on to score about 70 points, playing nearly every game and not committing a lot of penalties. With roster turnover every offseason, Eriksson has shown he can play up or down the lineup and in all situations -- power play, penalty kill, even strength, holding a lead, trailing...a veritable jack-of-all-trades.
This season was not quite what most expected from Eriksson. He finished with the lowest points per game average and the worst plus/minus of his NHL career to date. However, he still tied for the lead with the most goals on the Stars roster at the end of the season (after the trades of Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr) and finished third on the team in points. While his stats at the end of the season may not look all that bad in relation to those around him, the "eyeball" test for most Stars fans during the season had them wondering what was wrong with Mr. Consistency.
It could be argued that Eriksson was one of the biggest victims of the lack of identity of the team this year. For a team that often struggled to find offense, the pressure to score goals would bring his goal scoring droughts into sharp relief. He continued to put up points, however quietly, even while being relied on to "get guys going" on other lines. It's a phenomenon that has been observed over the last few seasons, with Eriksson being the one that gets moved around the top two lines in order to spark the offense for a line that has gone dry. But when your go-to is struggling to find chemistry and score consistently, that experiment draws into stark contrast the continued offensive struggles in the forward corps.
Eriksson isn't usually one to celebrate his goals in dramatic fashion -- he often celebrates his goals as though he expected it to go in and it's just another day at the office in seasons past. There was one celebration this year that seemed to capture Eriksson's season perfectly: a cathartic look-to-the-heavens followed by a look of sheer relief after scoring a goal early in the season versus Anaheim. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...
The chemistry from the free agent signings that the Stars made last summer never quite lived up to the expectations most people had for this season, considering some of the names involved. The chances of this lockout-shortened season being a sign that Eriksson is starting to decline seems pretty distant, and with an actual team identity and system to work in, linemates he has chemistry with and a full season he should round back into normal form.
However, the issues of offense are still prevalent on this roster even with the signed players the team has for next season. In the NHL you have to "give to get" and Eriksson's reasonable cap hit, history of producing, penalty killing ability, and contract term all make him a very attractive trade piece. The question of whether to trade him or not is really whether the Stars feel they can get back to contention before they burn through Eriksson's prime years. If the team feels they are still a few years away, Eriksson makes for intriguing trade bait that could be used to fetch the pieces needed to enhance the organization as a whole. Is he enough to get that elite center the team desperately needs? Or the number one D? The answer probably won't come until general manager Jim Nill decides on a coach and identity for the team moving forward and whether they need Eriksson or what he can bring back in a trade more.