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2016-2017 Blue Jackets Player Reviews: Jack Johnson

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Games Played: 82
Goals: 5
Assists: 18
Points: 23
Time on ice: 21:49
Penalty Minutes: 32
Corsi For (even strength): 48.7%

I’m not sure if there’s a figure as divisive in the Blue Jackets’ locker room as Jack Johnson.

Praised by some for his grit, physicality, and enthusiasm at being in Columbus and playing as a Blue Jacket, he’s also been a lightning rod for criticism because of his contract, his poor advanced stats, questionable decisions on the ice, and a tendency to act more like a fourth forward than a proper first or second line defenseman.

But something interesting happened this year: he got better. More than that - he became reliable. Quite a change from a man who started his Blue Jackets career as (barely) “controlled chaos”. A player who had entire articles dedicated to the fact that he was “the most overrated defenseman in the NHL.”

Maybe it’s because the team had Seth Jones and Zach Werenski in the first pairing slot for much of the season, letting him play with a little less pressure.

Maybe it’s because of John Tortorella’s coaching and systems helping him change his game.

Maybe the mentoring role for the team’s young d-corps has made him refine his game and given him insight into some of the finer points he’d previously missed.

Maybe not having to play under the weight of his well documented financial struggles has helped him focus on his game.

Maybe married life simply agrees with him.

For whatever reason, Jack Johnson had one of the best seasons of his CBJ tenure, and the team was better for it. No, he wasn’t scoring 40 points this season, but the team had Werenski and Jones for that. Instead, he just moved around in the lineup wherever the coaching staff needed him, slotting into different roles as appropriate...and just kept going. A quiet, steady presence who made the players around him better.

He’s arguably been overpaid for that role, but if he can continue this kind of steady performance, I think you’ll see fans in Columbus hoping to see him signed to a (reasonable!) new deal once his current contract comes to an end after next season.

Who would ever have expected that?