Dancing in the Reign: Lombardi criticizes JJ and Michigan hockey program, Johnson shoots back publicly
In a recent interview with Kings GM Dean Lombardi, Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty got some inside thoughts on what Lombardi has seen on Jack Johnson’s three years with the Kings, along with his Collegiate career at Michigan. Many of the responses to Johnson’s play were particularly harsh.
“This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan],” Lombardi said. “Jack just did what he wanted.”
Lombardi harped on how Johnson was coached, or lack there of, while at Michigan. While still praising his incredible skill, Lombardi believed it allowed Johnson to “do what you want” on the ice. Lombardi feels the fact he was raised with such high acclaim and support, and with very little coaching, it has caused a setback in his breakthrough into the NHL.
“It was a big risk for us to trade for him,” said Lombardi. “There was all that hype and stuff because he’s just like a thoroughbred. It’s like looking at a horse and saying wow! But then he gets on the track and he has no clue how to run the race. He might even run in the wrong direction. That was Jack. [He was] really raw.”
I like how Lombardi approached his comments. I thought they were very honest, straight forward answers about a young player who has hit a speed bump in the early stages of his career.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Lombardi admitted. “I’ve had a lot of young defensemen. They’re always hard to break in anyway. He’s been unique because, like I said, he was a thoroughbred who just ran. I think his learning curve is going to continue to go up,” added Lombardi. “It hasn’t spiked. I think every area of his game has improved, but it has to continue.”
However, when asked about Lombardi’s comments, Johnson didn’t take them very lightly, taking direct shots at his General Manager publicly.
“For my general manager to rip me as a person and criticize me as a person and as a player and call me an awful hockey player is irresponsible and unprofessional.”
It’ll sure be interesting to see where things go from here. I expect to hear of some sort of meeting between Lombardi and Johnson sooner than later to patch things up momentarily. However, looking at Johnson’s play this year, does Lombardi have a point? He’s posted a plus/minus of -19 and -18 the past two seasons, and is working with another -18 so far this campaign. And where’s JMFJ? The physical play in his game this season has dwindled quite a bit, not seeing him step up on the top of the circles and blueline nearly as often. Does this all foreshadow to Jack-O enjoying his last month as a King? There have been a few rumors this year, as well as the infamous Pronger for Johnson and a Fifther offseason fabrication. From here on out, Johnson with the Kings will be under the microscope. Whether it blows up or works itself out, expect to see #3 swirling around the message boards as the trade deadline looms.