ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 5: Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot on goal against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on April 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
We all know EJ is still a really young player - he just finished up his 22-year-old season. Defensemen usually don't hit their stride until 25 or 26, so the fact he's a #1 defensemen in the NHL right now says something about his caliber of play. However, he's constantly being compared negatively to more experienced defensemen in the NHL. So let's compare apples with apples here for a moment. Here are some stats from elite defensemen - including the past 7 winners of the Norris Trophy - through their 22-year-old seasons.
|Norris||Player||Exp.||GP||G||A||Pts||PPG||+/-||PIM||S%||TOI||Team Win %|
|*||Average of Norris Winners||3||188||21||69||91||0.458||-16||190||5.67||-||42.6|
|Drew Doughty (Age 21)||3||239||33||93||126||0.527||+16||178||8.11||24:49||51.2|
EJ might be making some bonehead moves this year when it comes to turnovers, but he is not a bad defensemen. He actually compares pretty closely to many of the Norris winners at the same age and has put up extremely respectable numbers despite playing for non-playoff teams. And even though he hasn't scored a goal this year, he still has 7 assists, which puts him at .538PPG. His plus/minus is lackluster, but that's because he's averaging 23:31 a game (the most of anyone on the team) and all of his points have come on powerplays. If you were to include power play points, his +/- would jump up to a +1. He hasn't taken a single penalty (stupid or otherwise) so far this year, and his difference between takeaways and giveaways is only a -2 even though he does lead the team in turnovers (12). He's hitting (14, 9th on the team), shooting (29 SOG, 6th on the team and ahead of Duchene and Jones), blocking shots (20, 2nd on the team), and is playing huge minutes on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He's even tied for 4th in the league for powerplay points.
Yes, he is generating too many turnovers. Yes, none of his shots have fallen so far this year. But he's a young player and he's doing pretty darn well in every other aspect of his game. He knows he needs to be better, and this season so far has just been a small sample size. His seasonal averages over the past 3 years show that his play as of late is just a bit of a cold snap. Even the best players have their ups and downs, especially when they're young (just take a look at Matt Duchene). Even though EJ is in a "down" right now, we are extremely lucky to have him on this team. If he keeps progressing as he has been, he's going to be a dominate defensemen in the league within a few years. Also, don't forget that he lost an entire season due to injury and took about half of the next to return to his standard level of play. So please, have patience and temper your expectations.