About 18 months ago The Golden God took the stage at SBP to rapturous applause and told us that with their first pick of the 2008 draft the Ottawa Senators were pleased to select dman Erik Karlsson from Frolunda. Most of us reacted along the lines of "who the frig is Erik Karlsson?" Pierre told us not to worry and that he was really good. So we stopped worrying.
Everything seemed so positive, nice kid (emphasis on kid and that's important), level headed but with a nice air of confidence/arrogance about him. You got the impression nothing much would phase him. We all knew he would be playing in Sweden for another year and out of sight and out of print he just seemed to get better and better in our heads.
Actually he was properly forgotten by most of the hockey media who kept on soiling their underwear (front and back) with thoughts of Luke Schenn who apparently is Bobby Orr, Superman and Jesus all rolled into one. Soon we found out that TSN stood for The Schenn Network (copywrite Russell I think) who believe that he is the future of hockey and that his crap doesn't stink. He also wins every fight, mainly because we never see the ones he loses - his winning tactic seems to be pulling his opponent onto the ice and then giving the refs the bambi eyes treatment so they step in and stop it before any actual fighting takes place.
The world juniors roll around and some of us got our first proper look at him and Jesus he was good. He was easily the best dman on Sweden's team and easily outstripped Hedman who was still thought of by some as a possible No1 pick in the upcoming draft. Young Erik was voted dman of the tournament and this got us REALLY excited.
Suddenly he goes from being our top defensive prospect to being, helped by a relatively static Ottawa Senators 08/09 blueline, our saviour. Don't worry that Chris Phillips is having a bad year, next year we'll have Karlsson; don't worry that Jason Smith hasn't got any knees, watch out for Erik; don't worry that Brendan Bell is one of our top 6 dmen, Karlsson will make him redundant - and while we are at let's take all of our other defensive prospects and younger dmen like Campoli, Picard and Lee and make them all immediate tradebait because next year all our worries will be gone because we'll have Erik Karlsson playing for us.
Reading through various sens related blogs and forums (including this one) there was hardly a desenting voice, Karlsson was going to be great. Right from the get-go. No doubts, no worries, no problem. Actually more like no chance.
Karlsson is 19 and I don't know what you guys were like at 19 but I know that I wasn't one of the best in the world at what I do, I also know that I wasn't regularly in direct competition at my place of work against a whole bunch of people more experienced than I and better than I. I also know that at 19 people generally were prepared to cut me a little slack. Karlsson has not had that luxury. I'm not saying that he's one of the best in the world but he could be. I'm not saying that he's the best puck moving dman in Ottawa, but he probably will be one day and that day might come around pretty soon.
Karlsson has now played 6 NHL games and is on pace for between 25-30 assists this year which would have put him 2nd on the list for the sens last year. But this doesn't seem good enough. There have already been articles in the Citizen and Sun saying he isn't good enough. His GM and Coach have already come out publicly and said he needs to improve which is something we can all see. The forums are quick to judge and apparently Karlsson sucks or he should be in Bingo or he's done or he's not anywhere near as good as we thought he was. How can we honestly judge him so quickly. Hopefully he doesn't go anywhere, he stays in Ottawa and gets to play alongside a dman that is more imposing and more physical than Chris Campoli. We all know how good Meszaros looked alongside Chara, well I reckon Karlsson will look even better alongside a dman that can do some of the dirty work for him.
With the puck everything looks great, he can pass we can all see that. Along the boards and against the forecheck he's less impressive, did anybody honestly expect anything else from him. My neighbour's dog weighs more than Karlsson for God's sake - so does my neighbour's wife but that's less amusing for my neighbour.
Let Karlsson settle and he'll end up being what we want him to be. Get on his back from the get go and he'll be bouncing around between here and Bingo and that won't do him a lot of good. Karlsson picked up an assist in last weeks demolition of Tampa - by the way did anybody notice how great Hedman looked in that game - i'll answer for you, no you didn't, all you noticed was when A-Train creamed him against the boards. You know why nobody noticed Hedman's greatness last week? It was because Hedman looked ordinary last week. Luke Schenn has looked less than ordinary all year and both of these players were picked far higher than our boy Erik. Karlsson can't fail - some of Alfie's Golden Godness will rub off on him but it's going to take some time and as fans of the Ottawa Senators we should give him that.
I'm writing this before the montreal game and regardless of whether Karlsson scores his first goal or gets a couple of assist or has a bit of a nightmare our expectations of him shouldn't change too much. We should give him that as well.