EJ’s Words of Wisdom About Adversity


“You maybe make the simple play. It’s not pretty, it’s not fancy, but it might be more effective.” – Erik Johnson

The cornerstone defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche, Erik Johnson, is often overlooked for his leadership potential. When Jarome Iginla accepted the ‘A’ for assistant captain, most people either accepted it or questioned why star center Matt Duchene didn’t receive the honor. Make no mistake, Duchene is highly deserving of the honor, and we all know Iginla’s capabilities in leadership.

However, Johnson is one of the players head coach Patrick Roy tags for leadership as well. In fact, he wore the ‘A’ in St. Louis before being traded, and wore the ‘A’ briefly for the Avs. Denver Post writer Adrian Dater even once posed Johnson would take on the captaincy after Jan Hejda.

Well, that’s neither here nor there. When Roy stated at the beginning of the season “We’ve got leadership here — great leadership,” Johnson was clearly one of the players to whom he was referring.

With the Avalanche facing a disappointing 1-4-2 start to their season, and the defensive corps bearing the brunt of the blame, Johnson remained typically unflappable. In an interview with radio personality Marc Moser, Johnson remarked, “A couple of the [Florida Panthers’] goals were just turnovers, and they end up in the back of our net –bang, bang.”

He pointed out that the Avs had played most of the games with the lead, but couldn’t maintain it. (Duchene once remarked that the team had to put the “boot on the throat” of opponents. EJ was less… grisly.) Johnson explained what the players had to do:

"“When you have the lead, you’ve got to make sure you’re putting the puck in the right area. You’re assuming the worst can happen. I think when you have that type of mindset, you’re going to prevent the worst case scenario.”"

Indeed, Johnson commented last year that, as a player, “You’ve got to make every shift your best.” Nathan MacKinnon concurred, stating, “We want to play a team game, but for that to be possible, every individual has to play his best.”

While it would be false to say Johnson welcomes the adversity of the team’s record thus far, he is proving to be philosophical about it:

"“We know that we were pretty adversity-free last year as far as dealing with a slump where we didn’t play very well. Frankly, I think we got away with some wins last year that we probably shouldn’t have won. Maybe this year it’s just going a little bit differently like that.”"

While Johnson agrees with fellow defenseman Tyson Barrie’s assertion that “Losing is not acceptable,” he does believe the Avalanche can use the experience as a learning tool. In fact, he related a story that assistant cap Iginla related about the Bruins:

"“Iggy was talking about yesterday how in Boston they didn’t see any adversity last year. Then they saw some in the playoffs, and they got bounced.”"

We all remember that stretch from last year in which the seemingly unstoppable Boston Bruins went 12 straight without a loss — including the only shutout the Avs suffered last season.

Johnson is positive the Avs can turn the situation into a positive result. Indeed, he’s looking to start with the visiting Vancouver Canucks:

"“We’re at home, we’ve got the altitude, back-to-back [schedule for Vancouver]. They’re starting their backup [goalie, Eddie Lack], so we’ve got to be sure we get on him early. Put a lot of pucks on him.”"

Johnson, like the rest of the players, has not been satisfied with how the Avalanche have started recent games, and that has to change against the Canucks, “The start’s critical for us just because we haven’t been very good, I don’t think, lately.”

If Johnson has his way, Avs fans may see some different style hockey against Vancouver — not pretty, not fancy. Just simple. And that’s ok, because pretty and fancy hasn’t been winning hockey games for the Avalanche.