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2020-21 Player Review: Erik Gustafsson joins the Johnny Oduya Wall of Shame

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Like a flaming bag of dog poop passing in the night.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

A while back, I joked on Flyperbole that Flyers fans should erect a wall memorializing all of the awful defenseman the team has employed during the Claude Giroux era. Today, we take a look at an easy inductee for that unfortunate club in Erik Gustafsson, who was so terrible that the Flyers chose to healthy scratch him on occasion for the likes of Nate Prosser.

What exactly happened with Gustafsson this year that warranted frequent utterances of expletives from the mouths of fans? Let’s dive in.


By The Numbers

Image via Evolving-Hockey.com

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots On Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots On Goal Shooting Percentage
24 1 9 10 0 25 4%
Gustafsson’s basic stats prior to being traded to Montreal. All stats via NHL.com

On paper, Gustafsson seems like he fit the profile most gave him coming into the year: a scoring weapon who could provide a boost to the Flyers’ offense. The points-per-game rate seems pretty good to the naked eye, but it doesn’t tell most of the story, particularly when it comes to Goose’s... shortcomings, shall we say, in his own zone. The scoring shouldn’t be ignored per se, but it’s really not important in the scheme of things.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For Percentage SVA Corsi For Percentage Relative SVA xGF Percentage SVA xGF Percentage Relative SVA
Corsi For Percentage SVA Corsi For Percentage Relative SVA xGF Percentage SVA xGF Percentage Relative SVA
48.90% 1.40% 45.67% -0.60%
Gustafsson’s 5v5 stats with score and venue adjustment prior to being traded to Montreal. Stats via NaturalStatTrick.com

By Natural Stat Trick’s expected goals model (a stat which is now largely considered to be more predictive of future results than Corsi), Gustafsson was every bit as bad as the average fan thought he was, rocking a sub-50 xGF% and a negative relative impact. Given this brutal profile and his tendency for notable gaffes, it’s truly a wonder that the Gus Bus ended his time wearing the Orange & Black with a -2 goal differential.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 xGF/60 xGA/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 xGF/60 xGA/60
0.87 0.52 9.58 1.81 2.15
Gustafsson’s 5v5 individual stats prior to being traded to Montreal. Stats via NaturalStatTrick.com

Herein lies the problem with Erik Gustafsson: he simply refuses to play defense. Rather than getting his stick in a passing lane, bodying up an opposing forward, or generally doing anything that would make life harder for the other team, EG56 preferred to gingerly lean on people or psychically willing that everybody around him would give up on playing hockey. Shockingly, this didn’t work very often, as his abysmal xGA/60 highlights.


Three Questions

Did they live up to our expectations?

The answer to this question is fairly dependent on who you ask, but in general we considered Gustafsson to be an NHL player, albeit a deeply flawed one, coming into this season. He instead turned out to be a well below replacement player in his time in Philadelphia, well underperforming his contract. Everybody rejoiced when he was traded at the deadline for some belly button lint and a pack of Smarties, which really says it all.

What do we/can we expect next season?

Hopefully nothing, unless Chuck Fletcher is somehow possessed by Chris Drury or another rival GM via voodoo, mutant superpowers, etc. Erik Gustafsson will likely never don the Orange & Black again.

How would you grade their 2020-21 season?

We would probably give Gustafsson an F or a D- for his efforts. While he was often unwatchable, Goose would give you the occasional power play highlight to momentarily distract you from how painfully terrible he was the rest of the game. Given that Phil Myers had a similar season by advanced metrics and was given a D in a previous article, this seems about right.