There is something to be said about going back to what is familiar to you. That is what the Colorado Avalanche decided when they made a minor move with an eye on the playoff run to come, acquiring veteran defenseman and former Av Jack Johnson.
Johnson was part of the team last season, finally winning his first Stanley Cup championship after almost two decades in the NHL. It is a chance for both Johnson and the Avalanche to repeat, though the adversity facing the Avalanche has been far greater this season.
What did the Avs give up?
Johnson goes to Denver while 27-year-old defenseman Andreas Englund heads back to Chicago. Englund is a former second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators back in 2014 and has good size at 6’3” 190lbs (very similar to Johnson, actually).
He is one of those defensemen that won’t stand out to most casuals but will do a lot of the little things right. Given his size, he likes to throw his body around and makes simple, smart play. In 36 games with the Avs this year, he picked up 3 assists while averaging around 11 minutes of ice time per night.
He is what he is and his somewhat limited NHL experience – just 69 total games – is not something that a contending team like the Avalanche can really benefit from unless the talent jumps off the charts (think Bowen Byram’s situation).
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 26, 2023
Who is Jack Johnson?
Jack Johnson is a veteran defenseman currently in his 17th season in the NHL. The former 3rd overall pick in the 2005 draft, Johnson never quite turned out to be the franchise defenseman he was envisioned to be but has become a solid journeyman throughout the years.
Johnson was actually part of the team that won the Stanley Cup in Denver just a year ago. He averaged just under 17 minutes per night, posting a goal and eight assists through 74 games. He played in another 13 games in the playoffs, posting 39 hits and 6 blocks while averaging just over 11 minutes per playoff game.
Johnson, when drafted, was thought to be a defenseman that could do it all. Good size, good skating ability, and offensive ability abound, Johnson showed glimpse of being worthy of the third overall pick. Though he had seasons of 38, 40, and 42 points, Johnson never really quite put it all together.
Still, he wound up being a solid bottom-pairing veteran defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins. He again took up that role for the Avs on a one-year basis and it resulted in his first championship, the franchise’s first since 2001.
If it feels like kind of a sideways move, it is – sort of. In terms of play on the ice, you’re sacrificing a little bit of physicality in Englund for a smoother skater in Johnson. In terms of their overall impact on the Avalanche, again, the on-ice impact shouldn’t be drastic.
There is one reason why a team like the Avalanche acquires a player like Johnson and that is veteran leadership. Johnson has been around nearly two decades. He won a Cup with the team last year and is familiar with the dressing room.
It isn’t one of the moves that stands out when you look at stats but it is the kind of move that can gel a locker room. Johnson has generally been a well-liked teammate during his various tenures and teammates spoke highly of him during his time in Colorado last year.
Jack isn’t going to be put in a lot of situations where he can hurt the team. As a bottom-pairing defenseman, he can lend a veteran hand to what is a mostly young defensive core. Bowen Byram and Cale Makar, the young horses, are going to do the heavy lifting. Having Johnson there to be the veteran presence is all he’ll need to do.
Jack Johnson was traded back to the Avalanche by the Blackhawks for defenseman Andreas Englund.https://t.co/KS9uSd8H7k
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) February 27, 2023
What does it mean for the Avalanche?
This is one of those deals that will fly way under the radar, especially with the blockbuster trades that have already happened. The teams that wind up winning typically don’t make the earth-shattering moves, choosing to augment the current core with the right pieces and a little veteran touch.
That is what the Avs have done here. They needed a little more of a veteran presence on the back end and are more than familiar with what Johnson can do. He is sound and can serve anywhere from 10-15 minutes per night if need be.
He is the unassuming veteran that just about any contender could use and the Avalanche knew what they were getting in him. Though the Avs aren’t dominating as they did a year ago, they are largely the same team that bulldozed their way to the Cup. With Johnson back in the fold, things could start looking real familiar again soon.
The Stanley Cup champion is back! The Colorado Avalanche have acquired defenseman Jack Johnson from the Chicago Blackhawks. Jack Johnson is, as always since ~2017, one of the worst defensemen in the league. pic.twitter.com/Gtemeervgx
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) February 26, 2023