Yesterday, Erik Karlsson had an open workout, and the media swooned over the whole thing. It was actually kind of incredible to see how much coverage the whole thing got. TSN put up the whole 13-minute interview after the workout, coupled with an Ian Mendes article about how Karlsson's goal is to be in the best shape of his life. Known Karlsson detractor Dave Poulin pointed out how Karlsson is showing his leadership traits by finally committing to more than just personal success. Known EK critic Pierre McGuire said he loved seeing Karlsson's commitment.
The truth is, Karlsson has been in incredible shape for a long time. Last summer, he took some time off to travel maybe partly for personal reasons, but also for fitness reasons. Leading into summer 2015, he said he was still feeling effects of the sliced Achilles heel he'd suffered two seasons earlier. This likely still affected his offseason conditioning plan. Karlsson also said that he felt like his body was about to break down last year (he was nursing an undisclosed injury through the playoffs), and so taking some of the summer off was necessary to stay in top game shape. This most recent season, he did things that hadn't been done by a defenceman in decades. I have a hard time believing that he could've done much better than a point per game over a whole season if he'd conditioned a little harder over the summer. The guy played the most minutes, both in total and per game, of any player last season. Tell me that he wasn't in good enough shape.
Last summer, one quote started a lot of criticism: "I do all my conditioning on the ice. I don't do any conditioning during the summer." And in a league where many media members seem to already be biased against Karlsson, this sparked a lot of questions about his commitment to winning. One quote, without context, and people wondered about his ability to be captain. All the more reason to doubt his ability to be a defenceman like good Canadian boy Drew Doughty.
Now Karlsson is very aware of what goes on in the media. I'm sure he knows when it's best to ignore, but sometimes as captain he has to make a statement. And thus, he holds an open workout in early June. As WTYKY's Luke Peristy put it:
On some serious, non-homer shit, I think Erik Karlsson might be the most media savvy player in hockey.— Luke Peristy (@LukePeristy) June 7, 2016
From his now-defunct tumblr page to opening up an early-June workout to the media, the guy knows how to organically get a message out.— Luke Peristy (@LukePeristy) June 7, 2016
And suddenly, Karlsson haters like Poulin and McGuire are suddenly saying how great he is. Don't be surprised if Karlsson's "riskiness" is talked about less next year, regardless of whether or not it's reflected on the ice. I'm sure there will be other storylines for next season; McGuire already brought up concerns about Bobby Ryan's conditioning in his interview. The Senators already have some positive offseason storylines, what with a new GM, a pair of new coaches, and the return of Kurt Kleinendorst to Binghamton. Karlsson did his best to add another positive storyline, and the media lapped it up. A couple days later, it still impresses me.
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