Midway Report Card: Erik Johnson
Yesterday we looked at the early report card for Alex Pietrangelo and today we shift our attention to another defenseman – Erik Johnson. The expectations placed on Johnson throughout his young career have been immense, but that is to be expected whenever you are the first overall pick in the draft (2006). Things got off to a rocky start thanks to a golf cart, but entered this year ready to participate in his first back-to-back seasons. How has the growing defender faired?
To be blunt, this season to date has been one step forward, two back for Erik Johnson.
Let’s start with the positives first.
Johnson has skated in all but one game for the Blues through 41 games and has shown no lingering effects from any of his previous injuries. Last year found many of us cringing each time he took a spill, but this year brings a new air of confidence in his ability to remain healthy.
He has shown a great ability to join the attack and knows when to pinch in. Sometimes he strays a bit too far forward, leaving the defense exposed, but points should be given for his nose for offense.
The youngster (we can still call him that, right?) has been keeping himself out of trouble, reducing the rate of penalties he was receiving compared to last season. Proof: 79 PIMs in 79 games last year compared to just 23 PIMs in 40 games this year.
Now … the bad.
Johnson’s offensive production has taken a step backward, despite his jumping up in numerous offensive plays to help out. Things are just not clicking with his offensive game as they were last season. While most expected his offensive game to expand this season, it unfortunately has gone the other direction.
Through 40 games, Johnson has three goals and 10 assists for a total of 13 points on the season. He is off the pace he established last season when he averaged roughly 0.5 points-per-game. Even more discouraging is the fact he was expected to improve on last year’s numbers, which will not happen at the current rate.
Johnson was also expected to be a force on the power-play unit, and while the team’s man advantage struggles are a group effort, it is telling that the “first-year” Alex Pietrangelo has just as many points on special teams as Johnson does (5).
Then there are the miscues. Unfortunately, Johnson has made his fair share of poor decisions on defense. Blind passes to the other team, risky passes that get intercepted near his own blueline, and so on. Giveaways are unforgivable and more often than not lead to a scoring opportunity for the opposition.
Midway Grade: B- to C+
Comment: Johnson has been sort of a letdown this season as expectations were hefty following 2009-10. His lack of production on the offense and defensive miscues are worrisome, and prevent this grade from going any higher. Thankfully, Johnson has plenty of games left to improve on this grade, but the first half of 2010-11 was extremely underwhelming.