Colorado Avalanche: Can Erik Johnson Still Contribute?

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson looks slated to rejoin the team in the upcoming season, begging the question of how much he can contribute.

The Colorado Avalanche are deep into their offseason, so there’s not a lot of news coming through. However, one bit of news has crept through thanks to a player’s Instagram account.

Avs fans are a-twittering — and Facebooking — about how veteran defenseman Erik Johnson has posted on his Instagram that counting down the days “until puck drop.”


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A post shared by Erik Johnson (@6erikjohnson6)

He’s tagged himself at Family Sports Center, the Avalanche’s practice facility, so the implication is that he plans to be suited up on opening night.

Johnson had been out of the lineup since January 30, when he left the game with an “upper-body injury” that was eventually acknowledged as a concussion. He was put on long-term injured reserve as his symptoms persisted.

Many Avs fans were relieved to have his cap hit off the books. That sentiment can be understandable since the hit is $6 million. However, some fans take the situation so far as to say the 33-year-old defenseman is essentially washed up.

Well, to answer the question in the title — yes. Yes, the veteran d-man can still contribute to the team. Yes, he’s on the “wrong” side of 30, but that’s not a big hindrance for a man as dedicated to fitness as Johnson.

Recently, Nathan MacKinnon made waves in the fandom when former teammate Nikita Zadorov essentially called him a health nut. My response was, “Who didn’t know that?” Supposedly he goes around “inspiring” — or harranguing, depending on who’s telling the story — teammates into eating healthy and working harder in practice.

You know who’s probably never been on the receiving end of one of those lectures? Erik Johnson. He’s renowned for being dedicated to healthy eating, a regiment of vitamins, and overall fitness — well beyond normal athletes and even beyond professionals. In other words, his age means little when he’s in the best shape possible.

What’s more, he’s a gifted defenseman. Does he make the occasional mistake? Every single player who’s ever laced up the skates has made mistakes, and Johnson is no different. However, he sees the ice so well. He’s a big, super-fast skater and gets aggressive on the puck. He has good instincts for both defense and offense.

Simply put, the Avalanche are a better team when Johnson is on the ice.

The d-corps is also a different team when Johnson is on the bench or in practice. He’s the most senior member on the team — both in terms of time with the team and age. He’s a true veteran who inspires and leads the young defensive corps. I’ve often called him the captain of the blueline because of his leadership skills.

The Colorado Avalanche miss Erik Johnson when he’s not in the lineup. They’ll be a better team if/when he can suit up for the upcoming season.