It’s just me, but I think it is time to pump the brakes a bit on the “give KJ more minutes” locomotive—even if Johnson has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise depressing season.
FIRST, it is the coaches job to put players in a position where they can succeed, given their skillset. That is true whether your name is Jenner. Gaudreau, Laine …or Johnson. For example, you won’t see Voracek playing on the PK or a defensive zone face off late in a tie game any more than you will see Gudbranson playing on a key PP. I think that is exactly what is going on here.
SECOND, deciding who goes on the ice for any given shift is a multi-factor decision, taking into account who the opposing team is putting on the ice, the game situation, whether play is in the defensive zone or offensive zone, just to name a few. Given the injuries and the slow start to the season for the CBJ, there just may not have been as many game situations that play to KJ’s strengths. For example, last night against the NYI, the CBJ were protecting a lead for much of the 3rd period and when the NYI got the lead, Martin and Clutterbrock spent a lot of time on the ice and were head hunting, which doesn’t play to KJ’s strengths.
THIRD, Here are some of the average TOI stats from TSN, updated through yesterday’s games:
Robinson is playing more minutes largely because he is getting over two minutes a game on the PK. Still, KJ is getting only about one shift per game less than the other CBJ young guns, all of whom have at least a season of NHL experience. That just doesn’t seem like a big difference and that margin will decrease over the season IMO. The 4th liners (Oliver, Foudy, Gaunce, Meyer and Fix-Wolensky) are averaging two to three minutes less than the young players the CBJ are building around which also strikes me as about right. The only players averaging 3 to 5 more minutes a night than the young guns are those with a bigger and more developed skill set like Gaudreau, Laine, Jenner, Nyquist and to a lesser extent Voracek.
I’m in the minority, but that’s ok—it’s not the first time. I am comfortable right now with the amount KJ and the other young players are getting, and I expect it will increase over the season.