Columbus trades Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick in either 2012 or 2013.
The response from much of the mainstream media to this trade has me utterly confused. Mostly by the fact that there are people who not only believe that Jack Johnson and his mammoth contract that carries a cap hit of $4.36 million every year until 2018 actually provides positive value to an NHL team but that Johnson is a "very good defenseman," as former GM Craig Button described him on the NHL Network, reminding us all why that "former" tag will forever apply.
This is a player whose own GM once described as "at times...playing forward at Michigan...he turns pro and for the first time, we're telling him 'whoa, just make the first pass and learn to play in your own end.' How about making a read in your own end about the right guy to pick up? He was awful."
He's still awful. Here's a look at Jack Johnson's numbers since breaking into the NHL, both underlying and goal-based. The rankings provided for each season are Jack Johnson's place in that category league-wide among defensemen who appeared in at least 40 games each of those years.
|Season||Corsi Rel||5v5 GA/60||5v5 P/60|
|2007-08||201st among 202||195th among 202||136th among 202|
|2008-09||183rd among 200||195th among 200||185th among 200|
|2009-10||143rd among 202||198th among 202||57th among 202|
|2010-11||167th among 198||151st among 198||161st among 198|
|2011-12||141st among 155||57th among 155||112th among 155|
All numbers courtesy of the indispensable behindthenet.ca. Corsi Rel is the difference between a player's Corsi rating when he's on the ice and his team's Corsi rating when he's off. 5v5 GA/60 is the number of goals that have been scored with a player on the ice 5v5 for every 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time that player receives. 5v5 P/60 is the number of points a player has scored per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time.
Johnson's relative Corsi numbers are just staggeringly terrible. Few players in the NHL over the past four years have done more to actively hurt their team's chances of winning at even strength than Johnson and that manifests itself in the goals against totals. While the volume of goals a player is on the ice for over small sample sizes should always be taken with a grain of salt due to the factors driving those results that lie outside that player's control, Johnson's ineptitude is undeniable seeing as it's persisted over his entire career to this point. The only reason he's flirting with respectability in that category this season is because Jonathan Quick has been unbelievable.
The negative impact of Johnson's on-ice presence was looked into in great detail this past offseason by our friends at The Battle of California who found that the Kings, at even strength, outscored the opposition by 19 goals without Johnson on the ice and were themselves outscored by 17 when Johnson was playing.
The Kings are better without Jack Johnson. Or at least, every single defenseman on the team (except Drewiske) plays better without Jack Johnson. This despite the fact that Jack didn't play the toughest minutes on the team (those go to Mitchell and Doughty). The evidence is circumstantial but poor people have been put to death with less. To put it in another way, Jack had both the highest GA/60 among Kings defensemen and the lowest GF/60. He scored less points at a per minutes basis than any other defenseman on the team, including Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi. There's a lot of different ways you can show it, but Jack Johnson is just... bad. Bad bad bad.
Rudy's point about Johnson not even drawing the toughest competition among Kings blueliners is key. We might be able to excuse Johnson's catastrophic impact whenever he jumps over the boards if it was happening against Daniel Sedin or Corey Perry or Pavel Datsyuk or Jarome Iginla. But it's not. The only season Johnson was cast against the toughs was, amazingly, his rookie year, a decision that is at once inexplicable and serves to explain why the Kings were able to select Drew Doughty 2nd overall in 2008 and Marc Crawford currently works at TSN.
Fresh in the minds of a lot of Sharks fans might be the most recent meaningful games the Sharks have played against Johnson's Kings, last spring's Western Conference Quarterfinals series that saw San Jose defeat Los Angeles four games to two. The phenomenal Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue tracked scoring chances for the duration of that series and both the data he collected as well as Zona's own opinion of Johnson's play in that series are extremely damning:
The black hole that is Jack Johnson helped to kill the Kings via "spaghettification." I poked fun at Johnson throughout the series, but the underlying numbers reveal just how weak he was. He has an awful habit of getting caught in no-man's land on a consistent basis -- if Johnson lived on the Korean Peninsula, he would wander into the DMZ three or four times per day. It's not that he makes mistakes in his own zone, it's that he surprises everyone when he shows up in the right place. The Sharks took advantage of Johnson's play and buried him at even strength. The scoring chances do not paint a pretty picture.
But, hey, he's an offensive defenseman, right? It doesn't matter if he bleeds shots and goals against as long as he makes up for it with his fantastic offensive instincts. To those who espouse that viewpoint, I would again direct you to the chart above. Johnson's 5v5 production offensively has been pathetic since he broke into the league. This season alone, he's been outscored at even strength (after normalizing for ice time) by the likes of Hal Gill, Sheldon Brookbank and Adam McQuaid. Last year, notable Bobby Orr clones like Mike Weaver, Jeff Woywitka and Ryan O'Byrne outscored JMFJ at evens.
Frankly, the only part of the game at which Johnson doesn't hurt his team is the power play. And that just isn't a skillset that's worth anywhere near what the American defenseman will earn over the next 6 years, as Marc-Andre Bergeron and Chris Campoli will gladly tell you. The Kings are a better team after this deal for ditching Johnson alone. He will likely be replaced on the Los Angeles blueline by rookie Slava Voynov who already looks to be a more competent defenseman but, seriously, a Niclas Wallin/Alexei Semenov lovechild would likely provide the Kings with more capable defense.
But of course the deal wasn't just about dumping one of the most execrable regular defensemen in the NHL on a clueless general manager in Scott Howson, it was also about adding a premier two-way forward in Jeff Carter whose talents the gang at Broad Street Hockey have written about in far greater detail than I could ever endeavor to. The aforementioned Rudy Kelly described Carter as "basically Patrick Marleau: scores a lot, awkward, underappreciated." It's an apt comparison and, overall, this is a deal that should boost the Kings to the level most preseason prognosticators were expecting them to be at the start of the year and should make the Pacific Division race a competitive one down the stretch.