Kings Player Grades, Crowned Royal Style: Jack Johnson
In this series, we will post a new grade semi-daily for each player that suited up for the Kings in 2010-2011. Since no one here is a credited teacher or NHL scout, we will rate players in the way we are most qualified: by comparing them to the alcoholic beverage that best represents their play on the ice.
Your Los Angeles Kings: leading cause of alcoholism among Southern California hockey fans since 1967.
Jack Johnson – Tuaca
There aren’t many more polarizing drink options than Tuaca. It looks, and to an extent, smells like whiskey, but taste it with that expectation and you are in for a sad surprise. It is certainly unusual, as they say.
Jack Johnson is the most polarizing player among Kings fans. There is no question he exhibits superior talent: his athletic ability is supplemented by very soft hands for a defenseman, and his offensive instincts are an incredible asset; his commitment to defense and occasional poor decisions often outweigh his talents.
Despite these criticisms, Lombardi signed Johnson to a seven year contract extension with a cap hit of $4.3 million. In accordance with the rules of following Jack Johnson, the reviews were, you guessed it, mixed. Some praised it as a steal; others a Sather-esque move. With Johnson’s numbers, age, durability and talent, the number is not far off from what was expected by most.
Lombardi has been known to be conniving however, especially after signing Johnson to his previous two-year $2.85MM (in total) deal. This affordable contract was followed with speculation about Johnson being traded after the two had a bit of a public rift. Things seem to be smoothed over now.
Even after signing his new seven year contract, Johnson’s career with the Kings seems anything but certain.
Last season, he got off to a great start, posting 4 goals and 29 assists in the 50 games before the all-star break; in the remaining 32 he only notched 9 points, accompanied with a -15 rating. He again finished the season last on the team in plus/minus for the third year in a row. This statistic is not always the best measure of a player’s worth, but if there is any sort of separation in the trend from a player’s linemates/teammates, it definitely says something.
A more in depth analysis is provided by Edmonton Oilers blog Copper and Blue, by comparing each player’s scoring chances for and against. Much like plus/minus, the theory is that if a player is on the ice for more scoring chances for his team than against, he is an effective player. This can be considered more telling than plus/minus, however, because 1) not every goal is a considered a scoring chance, thereby indicating that it may not have been the defense’s fault; 2) a player can horribly botch a defensive assignment and get bailed out by his goaltender, thereby not getting the minus but still screwing the pooch.
If this theory sounds good to you, prepare to be disgusted. This is a chart from the San Jose Sharks playoff series, listing the Kings players in order of scoring chances for versus chances against, expressed as a ratio per 15 minutes of even strength play:
OK, Johnson wasn’t the worst on the team according to the chart, but Parse only played in two games, and Scuderi was bound to be right above or below Johnson, as this is only measuring even strength play, and the two are an even strength pair.
The only thing worse than that is this:
Kings w/ Johnson: 14 / 35 – 28.6%
Kings w/o Johnson: 36 / 45 – 44.4%
That is a measure of scoring chances for and against, with 100% being perfect and 0% being useless. When Johnson was on the ice, the Kings had 14 even strength scoring chances for and 35 against; when he was off the ice, the Kings had 36 scoring chances for and 45 against. Compare that to:
Kings w/ Doughty: 27 / 26 – 50.9%
Kings w/o Doughty: 23 / 54 – 29.9%
and that is just f***ing staggering.
Does this suggest that the Kings were better off with Johnson on the bench than on the ice? ___.
Am I suggesting that the Kings’ future might be better off without Jack Johnson? Taking into account the the statistics posted here, the prospects that are coming up through the system as addressed in the Muzzin post, and the return that the Penguins got for Alex Goligoski, it would be hard to argue that it’s not.