by PuckStopsHere on 07/09/11 at 04:23 PM ET
I want to look at one more case study from my worst 20 adjusted +/- ratings for 2010/11. I want to look at Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings. He is the sixth worst this season with a -22.2 rating. This is a consistent ranking for him as in 2009/10 he was also sixth worst in the league this time with a -18.2 rating. In fact in Johnson’s NHL career he has never had a season where he wasn’t well into the minus ratings. Since some of his seasons do not have enough games to properly adjust his +/-, I will present his career stats with his raw +/- ratings.
We see that Jack Johnson’s points total is consistently improving as he progresses into his career but his +/- is not improving. It consistently remains bad. Why is this and what does it mean?
Johnson was a top prospect. He was chosen third overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005. Before he played an NHL game he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He remained thought of as a top prospect and played for the United States in the 2010 Olympics. He was the 23rd highest scoring defenceman in the NHL and highest scoring defenceman on his Los Angeles team. He shows potential to continue to improve these offensive numbers into the future. What he doesn’t show is strong defensive play. Johnson makes poor decisions and often gets caught pinching offensively. He gives up far more goals/ scoring chances/ shots against than he produces. In short the caricature of an offense only really bad defence that is often given to Mike Green is actually true of Jack Johnson.
Johnson is a very effective player on the power play. He scored 28 of his 42 points this season on the power play. This left him only 13 even strength points and one shorthanded one. In fact Johnson led the Kings in power play time and was very valuable in doing so in 2010/11. He also led the team in even strength playing time and had far less value here. In fact he was a liability. The Kings cannot have a top team with a player like Johnson getting that much playing time. Fortunately, Drew Doughty is available and should be able to be the Kings dominant player in terms of ice time. Last year often Doughty and Johnson played as linemates and Doughty carried Johnson, while Johnson pulled Doughty back from being a serious Norris Trophy candidate. Doughty would be better used with a more competent partner.
Jack Johnson should not be used as a team’s number one defenceman. He is a very effective power play point man and is useful in offensive situations, but should not have nearly as much responsibility as the Kings give him. Johnson continually shows weakness and bad decisions in his defensive play and yet he keeps being seen as a star who was a top prospect. He signed a seven year contract last year with an over $4 million salary cap hit last season. This looks like a mistake. Los Angeles has made a commitment to a player who is an even strength liability and holds their team back.
Jack Johnson is an example of a player who has been picked to be a star since his junior days. He is offensively talented, but that doesn’t make up for the liabilities in his defensive game. These liabilities do not seem to be improving and they consistently show up in his +/- ratings. Because he has strengths and has been highly regarded by scouts his whole career, Johnson keeps getting chances he doesn’t deserve (2010 Olympics, leading the Kings in even strength ice time). I think Los Angeles looks like a team capable of making a step forward to becoming a serious Stanley Cup contender in the near future, but they will not do so unless Johnson’s role with the team is reduced.
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