Last December, I wrote a post comparing the Minnesota Wild to the NFL’s Tim Tebow, who was at that point a quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Not to toot my own horn (*braaaaaaaaap*), but I wrote that “over time, when the luck balances out and when the Wild, Tebow or any other underdog regresses to the mean, we need to be able to point out why”.
What followed was a list of reasons why the Minnesota Wild and Tim Tebow may not be as good as the commentators suggested. That was on December 12, when the Wild had 43 points and were tops in the Western Conference at 20-7-3. Both the Wild and the Broncos were on 7-game win streaks, the Broncos coinciding with when they switched quarterbacks. Still, it didn’t make any sense. Neither the Wild, nor Tebow, were really good, yet they were getting credit for all these wins they may not have deserved. Thankfully, logic prevailed, and the Broncos went on a three-game losing streak while a combination of regression and injuries brought this Western-leading team back to normality, they lost 8 straight games and won just 15 of their final 52.
I bring this up for two reasons. Well, three. Beyond tooting my own horn (*braaaaaaaaap*) there’s also a lesson to be learned to predict sports based on logic and not by the emotions resulting from small sample sizes. The third is that there’s talk of Tim Tebow going to Canada to play in the Canadian Football League, which is odd for a quarterback who can’t pass, since the CFL is a passing league.
Tebow can’t throw and is a quarterback. In modern sports, it’s almost unconscionable that somebody could play a position without being able to perform the basic, athletic movement that requires him or her to be successful. Being an NFL quarterback is tough enough, but it’s almost as if Tebow decided to play the solo to Fade to Black without being able to play guitar.
In discussion Tim Tebow, my father and I ran through a list of names of players who could be considered the ‘Tim Tebow’ of hockey. The basic criteria is “high draft pick” “even though nobody thought he would be real good” “loved by a certain segment of the sports media” “disliked by most other fans” “can’t play his position” “still gets discussed a lot”. Unfortunately, “polarizing religious personality” doesn’t seem to apply to too many NHLers, so I had to write it off. My conclusion:
The stats crowd likes to gang up on Jack Johnson, but there’s good reason for this. I don’t particularly think of plus/minus as a real tell-all stat, but Johnson was the league’s worst between Bettman’s second and third lockout (should we be attributing roman numerals to these things?).
Johnson was a former third overall pick, who has been just terrible since coming into the NHL in 2007 with Los Angeles. In one of the funniest interviews ever, Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi has admitted that Johnson “was awful as a hockey player” in his college days. This was before Lombardi traded away a good young defenceman named Tim Gleason for him:
“As an athlete, you’re going, wow! Look at the way he skates, shoots, he can pass. But he had no idea where he was going.”
“At times, he was playing forward at Michigan,” Lombardi elaborated. “You had no idea what position he was playing. But he had always been the star and he always got his numbers. Then he turns pro and for the first time, we’re telling him ‘whoa, just make the first pass and learn to play in your own end.’ How about making a read in your own end about the right guy to pick up? He was awful.”
Johnson is a possession blackhole. Never in his time in the NHL has he recorded a positive Corsi number, this is despite being pretty heralded in college as perhaps a future offensive star. He still could be, having scored 12 goals last season and getting 40 points the year before, and any good offensive year will put him in Norris contention. Still, defencemen in the NHL ought to be able to play a tinge of defence. That’s what makes Lombardi’s comments about him as a college defenceman so entertaining. He was named the CCHA Offensive Defenseman of the Year after scoring 16 goals as a sophomore, apparently pretty good for a defenceman.
Still, it’s like people knew he couldn’t play defence. His possession numbers are brutal. He has the distinction of being traded pretty much straight up for two excellent players, Gleason and Jeff Carter. He is practically a rover trying to adjust to a new position, with a system and a structure and everything.
Other than being a pretty poor player, he does not seem self-aware, genuinely bitter that he may not be as overpaid under a new CBA system as the old one. I may get some comments other than people writing ‘what’s the point of this post’, and others pointing to his few games in Columbus as a plus-five indicative that he’s turned it all around, ignoring the previous years of his life when he was a bad defenceman. Maybe he’ll get it together. I don’t think so. He’s the NHL’s Tim Tebow, whether that distinction means anything.