I Want Elmer Söderblom To Succeed Because He Is So Big
11:13 AM EST on December 22, 2022
Here is an important image that every hockey fan should hold space for in their heads.
Elmer is on the left. His last name is Söderblom. He's 21 years old, listed at 6-foot-8, 246 pounds, and is currently on the fringes of the Detroit Red Wings' NHL roster. Whenever I see him, I become this analysis of the Pennsylvania Senate campaign:
Elmer is so big! Ever since he was drafted in the sixth round in 2019, becoming just the second Elmer in NHL history, bigness has been his defining trait. He's proven himself to be a fine stickhandler and playmaker at the earlier levels, but this praise always comes with the tag "for a guy his size." It's not just that he has the flexibility and the quickness to maneuver the puck through his legs and up over the goalie, but that he can do it with such massive limbs.
Even this video from the NHL itself, about a goal Elmer scored back in preseason, can't help but lead with his height. He's a promising forward, sure, but he's also a guy who will draw your eyes to him even if he wasn't doing anything of note. He's so big!
Despite that size advantage, Söderblom has not seamlessly adjusted to the NHL after coming over from the Swedish League. He started well, scoring the Red Wings' very first goal of the year in a 3-0 opening-night home win over the Canadiens, but he settled in as a quiet depth presence in the following weeks. At his best he could get physical and attract attention from the defense, but he didn't quite possess the confidence or smoothness that can slow down a game and prevent the other team from taking advantage of you. Söderblom got injured blocking a shot in mid-November, ended up briefly in Grand Rapids after he got healthy, but then returned to a reeling, shorthanded Wings roster not long after. He was still big.
Elmer scored a pretty nice goal in his first game back against the Wild, got an assist in a weird loss to Ottawa, was healthy scratched in the next game, and then put on the home jersey for a key tilt on Wednesday vs. the Lightning, with Detroit trying to stop a six-game losing skid. They pulled it off! In an exciting, tense, often mean-spirited affair, the Wings rode a couple of empty netters to a 7-4 triumph. They have Lightning back-up netminder Brian Elliott to thank for a few of those goals. The most prominent of his mistakes gave Söderblom his fourth of the season, as an ugly giveaway handed him an easy tap-in. How did they miss him getting that close to the net? He's so big!
There's a dream scenario where Elmer becomes something like Tomas Holmström with finesse—an heir to the Wings' dynasty's beloved Swedish obstructionist who blocked many a goalie's view in those days. But the consistency and the assuredness aren't there yet, and Söderblom's first year remains much more about learning how to fit his unconventional frame into the NHL than contributing in a major way. Still, I'm rooting for him more than I am any borderline pro I can remember. Partially that's because there just isn't a whole lot going on for the Wings at this moment, but also, why wouldn't I? Anyone who sees Söderblom, hockey-knower or not, can easily see that he's unique, and so any actual skills he has get multiplied by how cool it is to see a guy his size pull them off. Most players on a middling team are ultimately replaceable, but I'm not sure he is. Detroit has a big guy named Elmer. Your team can't say the same.