2010 - 2011 Player Evaluations: Ryan Johnson
It should say a lot about the Hawks season that Ryan Johnson was signed off the street part-way through the season to a minor-league tryout deal after his feet fell off last season, and was then asked to contribute key minutes down the stretch and into the playoffs. While Johnson did all he could, what he could do was severely limited, and that he was asked to do more was management's fault, not his. Anyone picking up on a theme here?
#17 / Center / Chicago Blackhawks
Jun 14, 1976
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Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (2010-2011 Cap Hit: $500,000)
Positives: When Johnson joined the team in mid-December, things were pretty well in disarray throughout the roster, and the Hawks, outside of Jonathan Toews, were abhorrent on draws. Johnson added a bit of speed that the bottom six was sorely lacking, as well as being aces on draws. Johnson was excellent at the dot, winning 63.1 of his faceoffs taken, which would have led the league were he able to keep that pace up for an entire season. And when everyone was healthy and Q allowed them to stay together for more than a shift and a half, Johnson formed a very nice bum-slaying unit with Tomas Kopecky and Viktor Stalberg, which on paper should have in no way worked, but did in spite of itself. Johnson was also a solid penalty killer, second among Hawk forwards who played more than a minute a game shorthanded behind Jake Dowell with only 5.04 goals allowed per 60 minutes of penalty time killed.
Negatives: There was clearly a reason Johnson was signed off the street. A career fourth-liner, Johnson was, is, and always will be highly limited in his offensive abilities, with countless plays dying on or near the tape of his stick blade. And though he was swift enough in his skating, he was rivaling Kopecky for most unprovoked spills taken by the end of the season. Full-speed turns seemed especially difficult for Johnson, but after having surgery on both feet last off season, it kinda makes sense. And when not with Kopecky and Stalberg, Johnson was saddled with the likes of John Scott or Marcus Kruger, severely mitigating the miniscule offensive production Johnson was capable of.
Defining Moment: Late in the season, Johnson lost a chunk of his ear to noted dickhole Todd Bertuzzi and his flying elbow. Skating with his head down to draw that major penalty and Bertuzzi's resultant ejection was about as great an offensive contribution as Johnson was capable of making.
Outlook: Though RJ was a decent find, the Hawks should count themselves as lucky he was as productive at the dot and as healthy as he was this season. He'll be 35 before the start of this coming season, and there are younger, healthier, more offensively capable options out there, or even in-house. Bringing him back wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but if he's dressing regularly and relied upon as much as he was this year, then the Hawks are once again going to be behind it. Having a decent draw man further up in the depth chart would be helpful.
Final Grade: C+. Again, though the Hawks got more out of him than they had any right to, Johnson's game is extremely limited, and getting as much time as he did in the situations he did this year will expose those limits. And while some will want to trot out the faceoff and PK numbers in his defense lobbying for a higher mark, they should ask themselves which of those draws was an important win, or when the PK ever got a stop it needed thanks to Johnson?