Thread: Player Discussion: Erik Gustafsson (2012-13 season and beyond)
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03-07-2014, 11:49 AM
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Meltzer on Or...I mean Gustafsson
Numerous people have asked me variations on the following question that a reader PMed me this morning: "What does Craig Berube have against Erik Gustafsson? He is always the first to pay for a mistake by being a healthy scratch for games on end. Why is he always the one who sits? Why not Grossmann or Schenn or even Coburn?"

The answer to the first question is that Berube doesn't have anything "against" Gustafsson. Unfortunately, Gustafsson is in the same conundrum as many other undersized NHL defensemen who aren't All-Star caliber players ala Kimmo Timonen for much of Kimmo's career.

Gustafsson is a good puck mover, skater and passer but not off the charts. He can put up some points even at the NHL level but is not a top-end offensive defenseman. He is not bad in own end of the ice from a coverage standpoint but gets outmuscled easily at times because he gives away size.

The main knock I've heard on Gustafsson is that he's not aggressive enough in using the things he does well to offset his lack of size. As a result, he ends up in the same situation as Philip Larsen (who has been unable to claim a full-time NHL role in either Dallas or Edmonton) and many others of similar profiles.

Personally, I think Gustafsson has played pretty well this season when given the opportunity to play. I do agree with those who say he's strung together several good games and then sat again as soon as he's had a bad game whereas the team has been more patient with more experienced veterans during struggling phases.

However, those players have more proven track records and experience usually wins out in the NHL when it comes to defensemen's spots in the lineup. That's not just in Philly. That has been with most teams over the years, and most especially true where an undersized young defenseman who is more puck mover than offensive D at the NHL level (AHL and collegiate hockey roles don't figure into this) is concerned.

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