Colorado Avalanche: Is The 2013-14 Season Make Or Break For Erik Johnson?

By Randy Holt
Erik Johnson
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche have done virtually nothing to improve a blue line that was among the game’s worst in 2013 this summer. They made it clear early on that they were going to stay out of the free agent market, and will instead bank on improved health and youngsters taking a step forward in order to be better on defense in 2013-14.

Which means that they’ll be rolling into the new season with Erik Johnson as their no. 1 defenseman once again. Johnson’s 2013 season was a miserable one, and he’s already pretty much been labeled a bust to this point in his career. Does that mean the 2013-14 season is a make-or-break season for him? Don’t fire up the trade rumors quite yet.

Yes, Johnson did have a rough 2013 season. That’s actually probably putting it lightly. He was bad. He was limited to just 31 games and posted only four points. He had zero points on the power play. But there are a few things to keep in mind here that might indicate Johnson wasn’t nearly as bad as we all thought in 2013.

Johnson started just 51 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s an eight percent decrease from the previous season. Which helps to give at least somewhat of an indication for his decline in points. His ice time overall was down a bit, especially on the power play. Some of that was definitely related to his health, but it helps to show why his production was down in 2013.

Despite the poor point totals, Johnson’s Corsi per 60 minutes was actually decent, at plus-10. He was at plus-86 for the year, which was down quite a bit, but still a reasonable figure. So while there was a visible decline in his performance overall, he wasn’t as bad as the typical numbers might indicate.

Which means that this isn’t any sort of make-or-break season for Erik Johnson. Under contract for three more years, his $3.75 million contract could actually be seen as a bargain, given what other defensemen of his caliber make. His rebound is important for the Avalanche, though, if they want to progress in 2013-14.

And that’s what should happen. He’ll head into the new season healthy, which is a good start. Depending on how he’s utilized by Patrick Roy, he should see his typical minutes resume next year, and the points should come with him. He should re-establish himself as a no. 1 defenseman in 2013-14.

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