#1: Cornerstone of the Avalanche Defense
Apr 28, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forwardZach Parise
(11) scores a goal in front of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) and goalieSemyon Varlamov
(1) during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Truthfully, the previous five reasons are not factors Erik Johnson is likely to consider, especially if Minnesota offers him his own Mexican island to come play for the Wild. However, this last reason is one I hope the player really is considering strongly — he is the undisputed #1 defenseman on the team.
Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy went out this off-season with the sole intent of finding a defensive partner worthy of pairing with Erik Johnson. They did not say they were looking for a “top pairing” defenseman because the blueline needed shoring up. No, they said over and over again they were looking for a partner for EJ on the top pairing. They wanted a defenseman capable of playing on the top line with EJ.
Last season Johnson saw his minutes and his role with the team increase. He led all players in ice time. He played on both the power play and the penalty kill. He definitely took on more of a leadership role, both on the ice and off — coach Roy praised his leadership.
Erik Johnson is not going to have that role in Minnesota. He will always be #2 to the Wild’s cornerstone on defense, Ryan Suter. Suter is locked in a very lucrative contract until the year 2025. I am not making that up — he signed a 13-year contract worth $98 million that isn’t up for 10 more years. That’s too long for EJ to wait to take on the #1 role — especially since he already has it here.
Hopefully none of this is even an issue. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said “getting EJ done” was a priority. Johnson seems to have made his hockey home here, playing in a beautiful state for a Hall of Famer coach — with the best fans in hockey, if I say so myself.
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