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Jack Johnson Suspended 3 Games by NHL

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Jack Johnson has been suspended 3 games by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his hit to the head of Jiri Tlusty. But maybe this is not such a bad thing in the long run.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead and watch the video. We'll wait.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety held a phone hearing with Jack Johnson earlier in the afternoon for his hit on Jiri Tlusty, and it's not surprising that the decision was released almost immediately. It's a clear cut case of a hit that easily could have been a legal check, but instead was made into a dangerous and rather stupid play.

The three game suspension makes sense. Unlike former Blue Jacket John Moore, who was just suspended six games for a similar hit, Johnson had never been suspended during his NHL career. This should be a pretty strong "wake up call" to a player who has the experience to know better, and the ability to play to a higher standard.

(It also probably isn't a terribly bad idea to keep Johnson at home for Friday's rematch between the two teams down in Raleigh, either.)

But the problem here goes beyond a moment of frustration leading to a bad decision.

The larger issue here is that since the start of this season, Johnson has been consistently making bad decisions. I'm not sure if this is a product of the injuries around the locker room putting pressure on Johnson, a product of overthinking the game as he tries to "live up" to his performance in the second half of last season, or just a player who is pissed off about his team being in a nosedive, and starts looking for the "quick fixes" instead of underlying problems.

Regardless, despite Head Coach Todd Richards leaning on Johnson more and more as the young season has gone on (in 12 games he's already averaging just shy of twenty four minutes of ice time per game), we've seen him fail to manage the play in his own zone, frequently get burned by faster or more agile opponents, and making a lot of risky plays  and suicide passes with the puck when he does have the opportunity to try and drive possession.

In other words, he's playing exactly like the guy that his career advanced stats say he is, rather than the positive force he has, periodically, shown glimpses of.

Watching him last season, particularly after the Olympic team said "no thanks", Johnson found that switch inside that somehow made him a smarter, faster, and perhaps even more confident player, and he married it to a healthy level of aggression. It's a potent cocktail, and it's something that would be a big help for this team as they try to right the ship. But it's clear that's something he doesn't have right now, and it's lead to an outburst of aggression that was anything but healthy.

This suspension means Johnson will basically stand idle until Wednesday morning, missing tomorrow's rematch, a home contest against the Lightning, and Tuesday's road trip to DC. Perhaps it'll be an opportunity for a few guys to step up on the ice, but more importantly I sincerely hope that Johnson will take this as an opportunity to look at himself as he sits off the ice. Not just to look for that switch inside of himself again, but to really look at the factors and decisions which culminated in last night's events, and to make an effort to do something positive about them.

If he doesn't learn - worse, if he continues to regress - this may have been his first NHL suspension, but it could easily end up not being the last..