The Colorado Avalanche have a premier two-way defenseman in Erik Johnson. He is a player who plays all three zones well. He punishes in both the offensive and defensive zones, and he can shut down the neutral zone. He punishes there, too — just look at how he hits.
Erik Johnson is a #1 defenseman in every sense of the term.
Every Sunday during the off season we’re going to take a look at different Colorado Avalanche players and the contributions they made to the team. This week let’s look at the Avalanche’s cornerstone on defense, Erik Johnson.
Erik Johnson’s Corsi over 3 years, from Puckalytics.com
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has a positive impact, according to Corsi stats.
Photo credit: Puckalytics
Erik Johnson Statistics
The first thing we have to consider when looking at Erik Johnson’s statistics is that he only played 47 games during the 2014-15 season. More significantly, he only played the first half of the season. Knee surgery took him out just when the Colorado Avalanche were finally getting into their stride.
In short, he accumulated his statistics during a time when the majority of the team were laying big stink bombs. If it were possible for a single player to actually pull a team out of the doldrums, he would have done so.
So, in his 47 games, Erik Johnson accumulated 12 goals and 11 assists and earned a +2 ratio. He also earned 33 penalty minutes — most of them against the Minnesota Wild. (No joke — 21 of those minutes were against the Wild.)
Erik Johnson introduces Wild forwardErik Haula
to the NHL:
In a season when the team struggled with getting shots on goal, Johnson recorded 115, or 2.4 shots on goal per game. His shooting percentage was 10.4% — not Alex Tanguay level, but pretty respectable for a defenseman.
Now, Johnson could use to work a bit on his turnovers — he went -12 in those 47 games. However, while playing the big minutes (team leading 24.4 minutes average) against the big lines, Johnson blocked 107 shots, or 5.6 per 60. He also used his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to lay 93 hits, or 4.9 per minute.
Erik Johnson’s statistics from Sporting Charts:
Colorado Avalanche #1 defenseman Erik Johnson’s statistics from the 2014-15 season.
Erik Johnson Role
As stated above, Erik Johnson sees the big minutes against the big lines. He plays on both the power play and the penalty kill. He is the Colorado Avalanche’s cornerstone on defense.
Indeed, during the 2013-14 “Why Not Us?” season, head coach Patrick Roy called Johnson the Avalanche’s defenseman. In January, with the All Star Weekend approaching, coach Roy amended that to “best player overall” on the team. In fact, Johnson was the only Avalanche player invited to the All Star festivities.
Johnson doesn’t wear a letter. but he’s definitely a leader on the team. No question, despite the presence of veteran Brad Stuart, Johnson is the leader of the blueliners. I daresay he’s a leader overall — if captain Gabriel Landeskog isn’t overly critical in the locker room, I suspect Johnson isn’t shy about stating a biting criticism or two. He’s also a leader with the media and the fans.
Here’s an example of Erik Johnson handling his former team and current Colorado Avalanche rivals, the St. Louis Blues:
Erik Johnson’s Future
At the time of writing, Erik Johnson has one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Colorado Avalanche are not going to let that happen. Colorado GM Joe Sakic said the team’s priority was to “Get EJ done,” or get his contract extended before the start of the season.
The Colorado Avalanche have done a lot to build the blueline around former first-overall draft pick Erik Johnson. Last season, they signed Brad Stuart in an effort to provide him with a worthy partner on the top pairing. Stuart couldn’t keep up, and Johnson returned to being partnered with Jan Hejda.
This season, Avalanche execs tried a little harder. As Joe Sakic put it, they looked around the NHL for players who could play top minutes with Johnson. They settled on former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin. They backed that with behemoth youngster Nikita Zadorov. Between the two, Johnson should have a reliable defensive partner.
The Colorado Avalanche’s #1 defenseman deserves as much, eh?
More About Erik Johnson:
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