The Los Angeles Kings have signed Jack Johnson to a 7 year contract extension which will pay him $3.5 million the first 3 seasons and $5 million the final four seasons with a cap hit that works out to a cap hit of $4.36M per season. So the question is, is it a good deal for the Kings? I am not sure it is.
First, let me start off by saying that I really don’t watch the Kings that much so I haven’t seen Jack Johnson play all that much. My comments here are based purely on a statistical analysis. For some of you that makes these opinions objective, for others it probably means you think I am out to lunch, how can you fairly evaluate someone without having watched him a lot. So be it.
So, lets start off with the good. Over the past couple of seasons he has significantly improved his offensive output, especially on the PP. In 2007-08 he had 3g, 11pts in 74 games. In 2008-09 he had 6g, 11pts in just 41 games. Last season was a bit of a breakout year for him as he posted 8g, 36pts in 80 games and this season he has taken that up another level with 4g, 31pts in just 41 games. That said, the majority of his point production increase this season has been on the power play where he has 3g and 21 points or 68% of his points vs 36% one year ago. Of course, his PP ice time has risen from 2:48 a game to 4:02 a game so that was a factor. His PP performance so far seems to be coming at the expense of Drew Doughty who has seen his PP points drop significantly this season from last. He had 23 even strength points last season and is on pace for 20 this season so even strength there is no real improvement.
Now for the bad, or should I say ugly. It can be shown that statistically he has been and still is one of the worst defensive defensemen in the NHL. Of the 110 NHL defensemen who have had 200+ minutes in 5v5 game tied situations, Johnson ranks 109th in my HARD+ rating system with a 0.588 score (a 1.00 score would be an average defenseman) which evaluates a players defensive performance while taking into consideration the quality of both his teammates and the opposition he plays against. This isn’t anything new. Of the 92 defensemen who played 400+ 5v5 game tied minutes last season Jack Johnson finished dead last in my HARD+ rating. If you are one of those people who prefer to use fenwick/corsi, Jack Johnson finished 86th of 92 in my FenHARD+ rating last season.
If you don’t fully understand my HARD+ rating systems that’s OK, you can take a look here to see all Kings defensemen sorted by FenF% (Fenwick For / (Fenwick For + Fenwick Against) and you will see that last season he was dead last among Kings defensemen with 50+ minutes 5v5 game tied. To to be fair, he is a bit better so far this season in FenF% but that isn’t the case in GF% (goals for / (goals for + goals against)). It seems the coaches are questioning his defensive responsibility as well as his short handed ice time has been cut from 1:35 a game last year to 1:07 a game this year.
No matter how you look at the numbers, Jack Johnson has probably been somewhere between bad and dreadful defensively thus far in his career and while he looks to be developing into a good, or maybe very good, offensive defenseman, particularly on the PP, one has to wonder if making a 7 year big $$ commitment to him was a wise decision. It probably isn’t unusual for defensemen to improve their defensive skills as they age but Johnson has a long way to go to even become an average defensive defenseman. It was a risky signing in my opinion that the Kings may regret down the road. It’s a lot to pay for a PP specialist, especially when you already have Doughty, a much better player in all aspects of the game including probably the PP, already on your roster.