The Los Angeles Kings locked up defenseman Jack Johnson to a long-term contract midway through last season, with news breaking after Johnson’s three assist outing versus Columbus on January 8. The timing was interesting in that it represented a 50/50 break in Johnson’s season – that game against the Blue Jackets was the 41st of 82 games Johnson would play in 2010-11.
How did Johnson perform after the contract extension?
Before I get to Johnson’s performance, I wanted to look at some expectations. The first one comes from Dean Lombardi, and reflects his confidence that Johnson would continue to progress under a new deal:
“That’s where you have to make a reasonable assumption that this player is going to continue to progress. If he does, you’re sitting there with a contract and you can fit in other guys… In Jack’s case, I don’t have any doubt that he’s not going to get complacent on us. That’s always your fear, when you step up for a young player, that he’s going to go, `Well, I’ve got it made,’ and stop trying to be the best he can. I have the utmost confidence, in terms of Jack, that this is not going to happen. If anything, it’s going to make him more confident, and drive harder. That’s the other thing that allows you to step up.”
My take was slightly different; I noted that Johnson’s huge jump in scoring came exclusively on the power play, as his even-strength scoring sat right around his career average numbers. Then I suggested that his massive jump in power play scoring was likely to prove unsustainable.
The extension Johnson signed is for seven years, so judging it now is entirely premature – particularly given that it doesn’t officially start until 2011-12. Still, a look at the splits in Johnson’s numbers is interesting:
- Before the extension: 41GP – 4G – 27A – 31PTS, –5
- After the extension: 41GP – 1G – 10A – 11PTS, –16
Johnson had scored 21 points on the man advantage at the halfway mark of the season. He scored seven points in the latter half of the season – in other words, his power play scoring pace dropped by two-thirds.
I’m not here arguing that Johnson’s contract extension inspired insipid play. What I would say is that it isn’t a surprise that Johnson’s numbers dropped off, given that his career to date (as well as power play scoring levels among defensemen league-wide) indicated that those first-half results were simply too good to be true.