Frozen Royalty: Dean Lombardi: Jack Johnson Is Learning His Craft…Belatedly
Part 4 of Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty’sinterview with Dean Lombardi. We’ve switched now from Frolov to Jack Johnson. Excellent insight here!
LOS ANGELES — This season, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson has wowed fans with end-to-end rushes, nifty shootout goals and better offensive play. But on defense, even though he has improved since his rookie season, he has blown coverages in the defensive zone and has gotten caught up ice on several occasions, giving up outnumbered attacks.
In other words, the 23-year-old native of Indianapolis, Indiana has been both breathtaking and aggravating to watch, all at the same time.
Now in his third full season in the National Hockey League, Johnson has shown the offensive skill and athletic ability that made him a first round pick (third overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. But his decisions in the defensive zone often leave people shaking their heads after he makes a bad read or blows a coverage.
During a recent interview, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi explained that Johnson is learning his craft…belatedly.
“This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan],” Lombardi said. “Jack just did what he wanted.”
“Michigan is the worst.” Lombardi added. “For hockey people, if you’ve got a choice between a kid—all things being equal—one’s going to Michigan and one’s going to Boston University, you all want your player [going to Boston University]. Michigan’s players—[head coach] Red [Berenson] doesn’t coach. It’s ‘do what you want.’ He gets the best players in the country.”
During his two seasons at the University of Michigan, Johnson played as a rover, rather than as a defenseman, even though that was his official position.
“Jack was a thoroughbred out there,” Lombardi explained. “But he was all over the place. He was awful as a hockey player. As an athlete, you’re going, wow! Look at the way he skates, shoots, he can pass. But he had no idea where he was going.”
“At times, he was playing forward at Michigan,” Lombardi elaborated. “You had no idea what position he was playing. But he had always been the star and he always got his numbers. Then he turns pro and for the first time, we’re telling him ‘whoa, just make the first pass and learn to play in your own end.’ How about making a read in your own end about the right guy to pick up? He was awful.”
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