Erik Johnson Turnover: Should we Crucify Him?


Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson turned over the puck at the Los Angeles Kings blueline. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli took the puck, skated up ice on a breakaway and scored what turned out to be the game winning goal.

Those are the facts. The question is, should we, Avs Nation, crucify Erik Johnson for this gaffe?

Two years ago, maybe even a year ago, Erik Johnson would have faced a lot of heat for this turnover. Fans would have been howling over how awful he is. SB Nation’s Mile High Hockey would have been criticizing him up one side and down the other.

For some inexplicable reason, Johnson didn’t have a lot of positive public relations built up. At one point, the negative press got so bad that I suggested he needed to hire a spin doctor.

Well, I’m not on his payroll (though I’ve done my best to counter all these negative nellies), but I’m delighted to report Johnson has a lot more PR capital these days. Witness the fact that hardly anyone pointed out it was a gaffe from Johnson that led to the game-winning goal. Even Mile High Hockey has left his part in the Avalanche’s loss out of the equation.

Should we be crucifying him for the gaffe, though?

Well, according to head coach Patrick Roy, absolutely not. One reporter did remark during a post game presser that Johnson was “kicking himself” for the play. Roy responded:

"“Yeah, come on. It’s a long year. Those things happen. We had our chances to get back in that game. We need to stick together here.”"

Indeed, if you look at the play, it’s a case of a pass gone awry:

I’m not sure if Johnson meant to pass the puck to Alex Tanguay, who turns away at the last second, or Francois Beauchemin on the far side. Tyler Toffoli and his magic stick — he has a real tendency to score on Colorado — simply intercepted the play.

The reporter remarks about how hard Johnson was being on himself after the game. I don’t know him, but I somehow suspect Johnson’s still doing so. I suspect he’s watched video of the play and is replaying it in his head from both sides.

That’s how athletes get to the elite levels of their game — by learning from their mistakes.

Hockey is a game of mistakes, and Erik Johnson’s last night was by no means the only one. In fact, one of my favorite quotes about hockey comes from legendary goalie Jacques Plante:

"“How would you like it in your job if every time you made a small mistake, a red light went on over your desk and 15,000 people stood up and yelled at you?”"

And that was in the day before Youtube and social media, when your mistake could be viewed in infinity and endlessly criticized.

So, Erik Johnson is still probably kicking himself for that gaffe. That’s ok — it’ll make him a better player in the long run.

We, Avs Nation, should not focus on that single play. It happens. No telling how many times Johnson’s positioning, checking, skating or otherwise elite play has saved games for the Avalanche. In the end, we should judge a player by the balance of those two types of situations.

Erik Johnson has a lot of collateral in that bank.

Erik Johnson’s goal against the (hated) Minnesota Wild on opening night:

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