Could Jack Johnson Be A Fit For The Oilers?

TSN Insider Darren Dreger, asked to name a wild-card who could be dealt at the trade deadline earlier tonight:

“I’m going with Jack Johnson. You want a wild card name, there’s a wild card name for you, from the Los Angeles Kings. Dean Lombardi’s going to love me for that. The only way Johnson is in play though, obviously is if they get that top-six guy, somebody that’s going to push them over the edge.”

Could the Oilers put together a package for Johnson?

Leaving aside for a moment whether or not acquiring Johnson would be a good idea for the Oilers, the answer would seem to be ‘no.’ Dreger talks about the Kings’ need to get a top-six guy, “somebody that’s going to push them over the edge.” That eliminates a package – which the Oilers could put together – and shifts the focus to a single player. The Oilers aren’t trading one of the ‘big three.’ Given how Ryan Smyth left the Kings this past summer, neither side is likely to welcome a reunion. Sam Gagner isn’t a fit either – the Kings have Kopitar/Richards/Stoll up the middle, and it’s hard to imagine anyone getting ecstatic about converting him to the wing.

That leaves Ales Hemsky. Hemsky’s not a long-term pickup for whoever acquires him, in all likelihood – he has an expiring contract and the team acquiring him has no guarantee they’ll be able to keep him. While he’s not nearly as bad as some make him out to be, and he will have value (particularly given that there are not a lot of top-six forwards on the market this year but many teams want one), he is not having a particularly good season by his standards. The Kings got burned last year by the Oilers when they picked up Dustin Penner for futures, and it’s doubtful they have any interest in repeating the experience.

That’s not to say a trade is entirely impossible. Without knowing what Lombardi would demand for Johnson, that’s not something I can say. However, Dreger’s comment seemed to indicate that such a trade was a longshot, and I’d say that’s even more true when it comes to the Oilers.

This is probably a good thing, despite the Oilers’ need for a young defenseman.

I’ve talked about Jack Johnson at some length before. Last year, the Kings rewarded him with a massive contract extension halfway through a one of a kind offensive season. At the time, I argued strongly that Johnson was getting a ton of breaks that would not continue. As it turned out, I was right – his scoring dropped off immediately and drastically.

His defensive play is bad. There are all kinds of fancy stats I could drag out to show this, but I want to focus on plus/minus. Plus/minus is a difficult statistic to use – over the short-term, so many things impact it that it can be wildly unreliable. Over the long-term however, these things tend to balance out, and a strong pattern says a lot about the player. There is such a strong pattern in Johnson’s case. Johnson started his Kings career in 2006-07, going minus-5 over five games. Here are his plus/minus numbers by year since then, along with his rank among Kings’ defensemen:

  • 2007-08: Minus-19, dead last
  • 2008-09: Minus-18, dead last
  • 2009-10: Minus-11, dead last
  • 2010-11: Minus-21, dead last
  • 2011-12: Minus-10, dead last
  • Total, 2007-present: Minus-83, dead last (next closest: Rob Blake at minus-19)

2010-11, the year Johnson got his massive contract extension, really stands out: the next worst Kings defenseman was minor-league call-up Jake Muzzin, who went minus-2 over 11 games. Davis Drewiske, with a minus-1 over 38 games, was the only other minus on the team’s blue line. Add in the fact that according to, Johnson has never ranked as one of the team’s top-two defensemen in difficulty of opposition, and there’s a word for that trend: damning.

It’s just as well that an Oilers/Kings trade involving Johnson is unlikely.

  • Toro

    Hmm don’t like the plus/minus but at his age he would fit in with the rebuild, and I have a feeling with Lombardi apologizing earlier this year for his comments in the summer that he has interest in Hemsky, maybe Hemsky plus 2013 1st gets it done? maybe throw in Peckham? But I’m with Wanyes Bastard child on this one id rather keep Hemsky

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    I completely agree with your comments on plus/minus rating. Unreliable in the short-term, or even over one entire season, but if you are continuously ‘more minus’ than the rest of your team, there is a bigger issue.

    The really great d-men are always a plus because they force the other team to turnover the puck and they help their own team retain possession by making great passes and not making errors. Lidstrom has only had one season out of 21 where he was a minus (-2 last year)!

    A better example of this is taking a look at Horcoff and Hemsky (who have played a lot together) over the past five seasons in which the Oilers have been a really bad hockey team. Horcoff is -61 vs Hemsky who is a -19 over the same period. Hemsky was actually a plus player in 3 of the last 5 seasons which is unbelievable for how bad this team has been.

    Nobody can actually say Hemsky is a better defensive player than Horcoff (although Horcoff is overrated in this area). But the team possesses the puck a whole lot more when Hemsky is on the ice, and therefore will give up considerably less scoring chances.

    • Bucknuck

      Comparing plus/minus of Horcoff and Hemsky is pretty misleading when you consider that Horcoff plays on the PK for many minutes of the night and Hemsky doesn’t. Forwards who play on the PK a lot often have their plus minus beat up a lot.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Always felt like Johnson was all hype, Drew Doughty is the real deal. He helped Johnson look better on the PP. Being dead last EVERY year in +/-…. well theres really no argument there.

    Plus he’s under the age of 35, has no significant injury history and not a 3rd pairing defenseman soooooo why would Tambellini want him?

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    On his draft pedigree alone I bet the Oilers management team would love to acquire Jack Johnson. He’s Cam Barker with better career numbers!

    Regardless, with everything that happened between the GM’s in the Smyth trade, I don’t think Lombardi will ever deal with Tambo again.

  • A-Mc

    I don’t like judging a player entirely on stats, but if i were to use stats alone, i could pickup Johnson on a short term deal. The issue with that is that he comes with a brutal long term contract that i just can’t stomach Tambo taking on.

    Anything over 4 years does not make any sense to me, and Johnson is contracted until 2018 for christ sakes; for this reason alone i would pass on him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    That’s too much money for a 3,4 guy like that. Like his physical side of the game but there’s little chance he moves without some sorta re-entries kinda deal.

    • I’m curious about why anybody would want to move the only Center under 25 on the team not named RNH with an NHL career for a 2nd pairing Dman with no offense? We have that guy already.

      Is he better than Gilbert? No

      Is he a significant improvement over Smid even? A little more offense but not more so than Gilbert can be counted on.

      So he’s Tom Gilbert with less offensive ability.

      Why would I trade a 22 year old Center with 5 years experience that can seemingly play any position on my top 2 lines for a less offensive Tom Gilbert?

      Bad trade.

  • justDOit

    Willis just tweeted:

    @JonathanWillis – Average experience of top-4 D in Stanley Cup Finals since 2007-08: 8.3 years.

    Point is, that while I completely agree JJ is not worth it, we need to find someone in his age group. Somehow, someway…..

    The people hoping that we fill out #1 stud d man in this years draft are delusional, unless you plan on waiting 8.3 years (and can convince Hall to sit around and suck for three quarters of a decade while we wait)

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Show me an example of this development curve being a reality. Unless you think Ryan Murray is the best d-man in 30 years?

      Further to Willis’ first tweet:

      Median experience of a number one defenseman on a Stanley Cup finalist, since 2006-07: 12.5 seasons.”

      Average experience of a number one defenseman on a Stanley Cup finalist team, since 2006-07: 12 seasons.”

      So stud d-men take 12+ years. I guess Ryan Murray will buck the trend.

    • Here’s the list of #1 defensemen on Stanley Cup Finalists since the NHL lockout:

      Chris Pronger, Bret Hedican, Wade Redden, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar, Chris Pronger, Duncan Keith, Kevin Bieksa, Zdeno Chara.

      Here’s the years of NHL experience accumulated by those defensemen by the time they played in that role:

      13, 14, 11, 15, 14, 17, 18, 15, 17, 5, 6, 14

      If you’re betting on Ryan Murray being the Oilers’ number one defenseman in a year where the Oilers contend, the number you’re looking for is not ‘2’.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        You should write a complete article on this (if you haven’t already?) Many people seem to look at this years draft as the “final piece” for the Oilers, to get that #1 d man and win the cup in 2-3 years.

        I’d like to see a good analysis of SC winning d groups and where both their #1-#2 d men are in their development as well as the group in general.

        It would also be interesting to see how many of these d were actually drafted by the team they get to the dance with. My gut feeling (with zero research done) is that outside of Detroit very few d, especially #1s are even on the team that drafted them when they win.

  • @ Infinibuild:

    It’s all data assembled for a series I’m planning to run. “Rebuild” tends to mean the same thing as “total immunity to criticism” in certain circles, and I dislike that. However, if we’re going to evaluate Tambellini’s rebuild “strategy” then it seems logical to start with the most glaring weakness – the Oilers ‘D’, and compare where it is versus where it should be to contend and how long it typically takes to get from where it is now to where it should be.

    I’ve spent a few hours going through data today and yesterday, and the results are pretty clear. I’ll be going through them in the near future.

  • @ Bucknuck:

    Actually, PK time isn’t included in plus/minus.

    Horcoff/Hemsky isn’t as clear-cut as a straight plus/minus comparison because of situational differences – Horcoff has been given extra D-zone shifts as a pure faceoff man for years (though not much under Renney) – but Horcoff’s time on the PK shouldn’t have any bearing.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        If this isn’t proof the Oilers have definate desires for another lotto selection, then what is?

        If they could play Horcoff 30 mins a night, the Oilers would have last place sewn up by now.

        • Bucknuck

          I’ll play along.

          IF that was the goal (and I don’t think it is), then they probably thought playing Khabibulin for half the games would sew it up. It must have been frustrating when Khabby started playing like it was 2004 when the season started.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Teams are going to have those peaks and valleys during the long season. Edmonton had their peak right out of the gate this yr. With the coach dictating the icetime given, it looks like a pretty black and white issue to me.

            Starting to look like Renney won’t be back next season. Tambellini looks like he’s dumping alot of blame on Tom Renneys doorstep the last week.

          • Bucknuck

            I think you have that right. Saying that the team is better than it’s record is a finger point at the coach if I have ever seen one.

            That statement pissed me off a wee bit. I like what Renney has done. I enjoy watching the team play. Their systems are exciting to watch, even if the result is often poor. The reason the team fell apart was that they are a bunch of glass men that get hurt every year, and there isn’t enough depth to compensate.

    • Stocc

      I can agree that it could be a “little” misleading, but the difference is -42 extra over 5 seasons, which seems like a lot considering how much they have played together.

      The difference would probably be when Hemsky has been injured. Hemsky has actually been a plus player in each of the last 3 seasons which is pretty remarkable on a team that finished dead last in two of those seasons. My point was that when a player, like Hemsky, can play downhill so much, then his plus/minus is going to be a lot better despite his defensive issues.

      Anyways, liked the Hemsky-Horcoff-Paajarvi trio last game…and hope to see that turn into the Hemsky-RNH-Paajarvi trio soon. Of course Tambo is hell-bent on running Hemksy out of town, so I guess that won’t last long.

      Has Tambellini been able to acquire a single top six forward since he started here other than the through the draft? I don’t really like the idea of shipping Hemsky off for what is most likely going to be a minimal return. He has had his issues this season, but we are going to have to fill out that top 6 eventually.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Well we can speculate on the Defence but Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert and Smid with Murray, imo is a very good top 4 d-core. You can have Petry/Sutton/Potter for 5/6/7 guys. One could argue save Chara that our D-core compared to Boston’s isn’t that bad.

    I’ve always believed that a Defence by committee structure is as adequate or efficient than having 1 7M defenceman and some #4s to fill out 2/3/4/ or you could have 3-4 number 2/3s and some 4/5s to fill out your 5/6/7 spots.

  • Bucknuck

    Johnson is a bad apple and I wouldn’t go near him. He already negotiated his way out of Carolina if memory serves me right and moving from sunny LA to Edmonton probably wouldn’t make him too happy. Stay far, far away.

  • Bucknuck

    Nice article, Jack Johnson always been overated in my books, but I did not realize by how much. Wish we could get Voynov, but LA would want Hemsky, another body and a pick, and hope Lambo is off his rocker.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Was I reading wrong or did Hemmer seem to really be saying in his interview that pay me big coin and I will stay for the Coin! He seems to me to be very ready for a change.

    I also thought a lot of Smyth’s comments reminded me of what he was saying just weeks before he last left us.

    When I balance those comments against those of Sutton and how he really wanted to be here I find Smyth’s most puzzling.