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Avalanche True or False #2: Erik Johnson

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On day 2 of our MHH staff Tenerife retreat we toured some volcanoes and Mike gave a fascinating lecture on how half the island could fall into the sea and create a tidal wave that would wipe out the Eastern Seaboard of the US. Funny stuff. Anyway, we returned to the billiard room before dinner once again to discuss Erik Johnson.

Statement #2:

True or False: Erik Johnson will be a finalist for the Norris Trophy some time in the next 5 years.

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False:  This one is really simple to me, but I will expand a bit.  EJ will never put up the offensive numbers to be considered.  In a league that has an offensive and defensive trophy for forwards but without separates trophies for defensemen, the winner usually goes to the offense, because that's easier to see.  Last year's finalists were Karlsson, Subban and Doughty with Karlsson winning having put up 66 points in 82 games.
On the Avs, EJ will probably be on the second PP unit because the first will be Barrie and 4 forwards.  Combine that with the fact that he's better defensively than offensively, and that there are a lot of defensemen around his age that will continue to get the votes, I just don't think it will happen.  He'd need one hell of a lucky year.

Ryan Murphy:


The Norris Trophy is always going to be slightly biased toward offensive defensemen, and Erik Johnson is never going to reach the point totals of, say, Erik Karlson (who I believe will likely win at least two more in this time frame). The Condor is a defense-first top-pairing player with 40-point upside. That's extremely valuable on any team, but ultimately not flashy enough to get recognized for this kind of award. I'd love to see one of the Avalanche's young D play himself into that top pairing and perhaps allow Johnson to be a 50 to 60-point player, but that's very likely an unrealistic expectation.


Johnson is a great defender but he isn't elite. The only way Johnson gets a Norris finalist vote is if he scores like 65 points. And even then he doesn't have the reputation to win the thing even if he clearly is the best defenseman one season. If he does it multiple times we'll talk, but I don't see Johnson having better seasons than guys like Karlsson, Subban, Doughty, Weber, Giordano, Keith, etc more than one lucky time. So no, false.


I won't make any friends for this answer, but if he re-signs with Colorado next summer, then the answer is false. If he signs somewhere else with a team that has a solid defensive nucleus, then I think it's true. Let's assume he stays in the burgundy and blue, because just the thought of EJ playing somewhere else is disturbing and unhealthy. I just don't believe with the lack of defensive talent the Avs have at the moment that Johnson can reach that point. Having Francois as his main mate rather than Big Jan is a step in the right direction, but I'm one of those who's concerned Beauchemin being as old as he is will limit the positive impact he has on the Avalanche. Erik is a really good player, it's just that I'm not sold on the thought of Beauch boosting Johnson up to Norris consideration right away. Especially when Johnson missed the entire second half of last season with a nagging injury.

Also, if traffic cones like Cliche and Leadership continue to see extended action on the ice and Johnson is placed in the unfortunate position of having to bail them out all the time, that will hinder his chances as well. My point on him going somewhere else and having a shot for Norris consideration is just the fact if you give Condor all sorts of talent at every position, it's scary to think what he'd be able to accomplish without having dead weight holding him down. Sadly, he's not in that position in Colorado (for now). Now, the statement was if he'd get there in 5 years. So hopefully in the 5th year, the Avs have the talent at all angles we're hoping they do. I just need to see some less mind-boggling decisions from Sakic to convince myself of that actually happening.



At least not without some help.  I see him as elite, but he doesn't get the publicity necessary to carry him to a nomination on his own merits.  So several things need to possibly happen for this to occur: Injuries to multiple guys that do get more publicity, he gets traded to an Eastern conference team, or the Avs have a strong post-season run for consecutive seasons while EJ's point totals hover in the 40's.


I'll go contrarian and say True. What would need to happen for EJ to be a Norris finalist is pretty close to what needs to happen for the Avs to win a Stanley Cup, and since that's going to happen there's no reason to believe EJ won't get consideration either. It's going to take a few deep playoff runs to get the Avs into the national consciousness followed by a career offensive year where the Avs defense is rated in the top-5 in the league. No problemo.

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What's your take, dear reader? True or False?