CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2013-14 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in alphabetical order. Today: John Erskine
Position: Left defense
Age: 33 [turns 34 June 26]
Ht/Wt: 6-4, 220
Penalty minutes: 56
Average Ice Time: 15:35
Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 2-year, $3.925 million contract [$1.9625 million cap hit in 2014-15]
Strengths: When he’s healthy Erskine can provide a hard-edged, physical presence on the back end that makes forwards think twice about crossing the blue line and getting in front of the net.
Weaknesses: Erskine hasn’t been healthy for the past three seasons. Last summer he underwent reconstructive knee surgery and was asked to play before he regained the leg strength needed to explode to loose pucks. Already limited in that area, Erskine lacked the foot speed to close in on forwards and became a defensive liability.
Memorable Moment: On March 5, Erskine was involved in a mini-brawl that left him outmanned 3-to-1 against the Flyers. While Caps rookie Tom Wilson was tangling with Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, Erskine found himself surrounded by forwards Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Vinny Lecavalier. When he got to his feet, Erskine began throwing punches at Lecavalier. Near the end of the fight Simmonds grabbed Erskine by the front of his jersey, allowing Lecavalier to connect with an overhand right to Erskine’s head. Erskine suffered a concussion in the fight and did not play again until March 29, playing in only two more games.
Quotable: “I would say, personally, that the knee surgery in the summer probably set him back where he couldn’t train. He needs to take some time to get healthy and get stronger.” – former Capitals coach Adam Oates
2014-15 Expectations: The Caps might have been overzealous last season in signing Erskine to a two-year contract extension. Because the deal was made after the lockout Erskine does not qualify for a buyout. If Erskine cannot pass a physical at the start of training camp the Capitals could place him on long-term injury reserve, removing his $1.9 million cap hit.