McGreevy: Jack Johnson a light at the end of Blue Jackets’ tunnel

When Jack Johnson flew into Columbus on February 24, he was immediately escorted to Nationwide Arena where he watched his new team fall to the Colorado Avalanche 5-0. The abysmal performance from the Blue Jackets exemplified their need for his services.

Johnson welcomed his new role with open arms and unlike some players, he did not take long to adjust. Through 14 games with Columbus he has registered three goals and six assists, and the near-immediate sense of comfort Johnson felt was perhaps a byproduct of playing close to his roots.

Born in Indiana and a former student of the University of Michigan, Johnson considers himself to be a Midwest kid.

Since moving across two time zones, the defenseman has continued to play with the same offensive awareness and prowess that defined him with the Wolverines and Kings respectively.  As a result, Johnson has offered hope to the Blue Jackets’ shrinking fan base.

Finding time on Columbus’ top defensive pairing as well as its special teams units, Johnson wasted no time earning the respect of those who fill the seats. In only his third game with the club, the defenseman dropped the gloves to mark his fifth career NHL bout – surely he could have avoided confrontation, but Johnson was making his presence known; an easy task given his size.

With a 6’1’’, 231-pound frame, the Blue Jackets’ largest defenseman adds weight to the team’s slim back line. Due to injuries, he is the team’s heaviest blue liner by 12 pounds.

Aside from raw size, Johnson’s skill with the puck on his stick is another asset Columbus has welcomed. Particularly his booming slap shot from the point has aided the power play and stimulated the Blue Jackets’ often monotonous play at even strength.

Jack Johnson (BridgetDS/Flickr)

Although Columbus has been eliminated from the playoff race and is currently 30th in the NHL, Johnson’s production is not irrelevant. Not only do his numbers give hope to the organization for next year, but they also play an important role during the league-wide playoff push.

This year, the Blue Jackets will play the role of the “spoiler” during the final weeks of the regular season. Since Columbus has no chance of playing in late April, any points the team earns are points taken from teams battling for a playoff bid.

Colorado and Phoenix both remain on the Blue Jackets schedule and are potential victims to be spoiled as they sit around the postseason cutoff.

Johnson, who averages 23:14 of ice time per game, will cause matchup problems for both of the aforementioned teams. The Avalanche and Coyotes might view Columbus as an easy opponent, but with Johnson on the ice, the odds are certainly more against them.

– Matthew McGreevy, Contributing Writer

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