Jack Johnson interview


I had Jack Johnson on the phone for a few minutes and got to ask a few questions about the upcoming season. The main reason for the call was a little Hockey News feature about players who did something interesting during the summer. In Johnson’s case, that meant resuming his education at the University of Michigan. Johnson took an upper-level writing class, an American literature class, an American culture class and a psychology class and got an A in each class. Johnson said he intends to take classes every summer until he gets his degree (academically, he’s halfway through his junior year right now) and said he might look into taking some online courses during the season.

Here’s what Johnson had to say about some topics relevant to the upcoming season…


Question: Have you had a chance to talk to Terry Murray yet?

JOHNSON: He actually called me last week and kind of said hi and gave his thoughts on what he expects in the upcoming year. It was good to talk to him and touch base. I’ve never met him or anything, but I do remember… I grew up as a Red Wings fan and I do remember him from when he was coaching with the Flyers and they played the Red Wings (in the Stanley Cup Finals). That’s my main recollection of him.


Question: I’m guessing that the foot is healed and ready to go at this point, right?

JOHNSON: The foot is totally healed. I was good about four weeks after it happened, but I stayed off it for about four weeks after that just to be safe. I’ve been training all summer. It’s been a long summer and I’m going to be real happy to get back on the ice.


Question: Can you talk about the huge turnover on defense and how things are going to be different for you guys this season?

JOHNSON: It’s definitely sad to see Rob go. He’s been a big help to me and a big part of team for years. Now it’s kind of our time to move up in the ranks and become the players we all want to be. We still have some (veteran) guys. Tommy (Preissing) been around for a while. Matt Greene has been around, and a couple others. It’s not like we’ve got guys who have never played before. I would definitely be excited to watch us. We will definitely be an exciting team to watch, win or lose. It will be an exciting hockey team and guys are excited to be on this team.


Question: Lombardi has talked a lot about younger players taking ownership of the team. Is that a challenge you’re ready to accept?

JOHNSON: I could definitely see myself in a role like that. I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to lead the defensive core. Age is just a number, really. The challenge here, trying to help lead a NHL team, is something I look forward too. With all of our captains gone, it’s time to turn it over to the young guys, with the full youth movement. We have so many great young guys. We have Brown and Kopi and O’Sullivan, and guys coming up who have had some time, like Boyle and Purcell. The young guys are going to be a big part of the team now.


Question: How much more comfortable do you think you will feel, having played a full NHL season?

JOHNSON: I’m definitely going to feel more comfortable, from the first day, and I think it’s going to carry over to the ice. I’m going to be more comfortable with the players on the ice and the coaching staff. Nelly (Nelson Emerson) and Jamie (Kompon) will be back and even the medical guys, I will know them. I’ve never been a real rah-rah guy or talker in locker room, but I’m just going to feel more comfortable all around.


Question: As a player, what qualities do you think are most important in a team leader?

JOHNSON: The biggest things about being a leader is your performance on the ice. You don’t necessarily have to be the leading scorer; just a guy who’s going to be there, night in and night out. You just show up every night and work your hardest. Be the first guy in corners, doing whatever it takes to win. It doesn’t always have to be the best players. Fortunately for us, the guys who do that are our best players. It could be a guy who stands up and talks a lot or who sits there and leads by example. Leaders can come in lot of different forms.

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  • cristobal

    Sounds like a good kid. I like the fact he’s focused on educating himself, too. A couple of questions I’d love to be able to ask:
    – Did he really connect with the elbow to Steve Downie in the WJC’s.
    – What would he do professionally if not playing hockey? or what does he plan to do after hockey?
    – Does he read “inside the Kings?”

  • anthony

    Rich, your pursuit to keep us fans informed is greatly appreciated. You’re awesome.

    Is anybody else, other than myself, excited to see JJ play with no holds barred. It was too bad to see MC keep JJ on a short leash last season.
    I’m wondering if Terry Murray will cut the rope and let JJ play his own style.

    I believe that JJ will thrive as a leader on this team. The role fits him well.

    And JJ – don’t be too disappointed to see Blake go. He wasn’t in it for the team or to help the youngsters develope. He just took the money and ran. And did nothing in the process.
    His departure is blessing.

  • JDM

    Thanks for the interview Rich. Good to know TM is true to his word of calling the players these few weeks.

    Quotes like “Age is just a number” tells me that Johnson does pay attention to fan feelings and perhaps read this or another blog or check it out. That a few other comments sounded directly aimed at naysayers, so he clearly knows what the naysayers be sayin’.

    Great kid, and his pursuit of an education shows he’s more interested in being a complete package of a person than ‘just’ a hockey player. I think that will make him a better, more consistent, longer enduring hockey player with that kind of attitude.

    Definately excited to see him play this season!

  • Some fan

    Pretty sure he didn’t learn to “be the first guy in corners” from Blake.

  • cristobal

    its not who goes into the corner first, its who comes out with the puck.

  • typicaljs

    I know im gonna take heat for defending blake even for the only positive thing he did for the kings. but JMFJ would stand up and say it to so I’m not worried. Sure blake took the money, but he also helped JMFJ out during his rookie season. You can NOT put a price tag on a 20 yr old kid being able to room with his boyhood idol growing up playing hockey for the first 18 years of my life. Sorry, blake could ahve made the cap max and I would still make this argument.

    And cristobal yes it is about who hustles to get to that corner first, if you lollygag your ass to that corner and luckily the defense drops the puck right in front of you and you end up with it, is that alright with you ? If so you should be sad blakes gone. gone from the ice at least.

  • BallPointHammer

    I understand the thought process of making the next captain either Brown or one of the veterans (Handzus, Stoll, ???). I’ll support any of them.

    I think Johnson should be captain within two years at the most. I realize he is very young right now. But his game is coming along nicely and his words and actions show maturity and desire. I think he commands respect and a little bit of fear. He has the type of charisma (intense, focused, determined) necessary to be the face of the team with the rest of the league, fans and media. And, I know it might sound silly, he has that ‘big brother’ attitude.

  • losesomemore

    Thanks Rich and JMFJ. Nice read, good thoughts. Looking forward to the upcoming season to watch all the young, and semi-young, talent.

  • Some fan

    Gleason is better than Johnson.

  • Anonymous

    The blake haters might give some credit to the people who played with Blake. Straight A Johnson might know a bit better than you how Blake performed on the ice.

    The Blake “took the money” comment is not correct. See the Hammond columns. Blake offered to play for the Kings for $4 million a year, then HAD to take $5million to play for another team when the Kings MADE NO OFFER. Once the teams fill up, he loses all the contracts.

    Blake offered to take a million dollar pay cut from his market value to play for the Kings. That is NOT “taking the money and run[ning].” That is the opposite.

    Now maybe some feel Blake was overpaid, or over valued, and maybe they are right or wrong, but that is a different point than bashing Blake for leaving. He was forced into it and tried to stay.

  • Canadian Hockey Fanatic

    Drew Doughty is a far better player already than JJ will ever be. You can’t teach hockey sense & Doughty has that in spades over JJ. Sorry Yankees.

    JJ for captain in 2 years? Heh. That was funny.

  • cristobal

    typicaljs – sorry, but i disagree about the corner thing. Lidstrom doesn’t charge into the corner to get to the puck first, he just knows how to handle every situation and he’s going to win the majority of the time wether he’s 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in.

    Also, i cant find blake’s contract numbers from last year, but i’m almost 100% certain he’s not making any more than he was here. This is why he went there: “San Jose is something I’ve always admired,” said Blake, a seven-time All-Star. “They have a ton of potential, and they’re always right there every year. The excitement is in moving up the road a little and playing for a championship again.”

    Why stay here when it just makes him look bad? He’s a great player and keep in mind that Larry Murphy was given up on by toronto before being picked up by detroit, playing 4 + more seasons and winning 2 more stanley cups.

  • JDM

    cristo – Blake made $6 mill a year last 2 seasons here. I think he signed for $5 in SJ.

    I love Blake as a player and a guy, and I’ll always have an immense amount of respect for him. However, as much as JJ’s word may seem to indicate otherwise, I think now, especially after having lived and played with him for a full year, that Blake’s departure will be a good thing. Not because of his play, I think he makes any defense better overall, but because of his intangible as an almost ‘untouchable’ icon, if you get my meaning.

    When JJ says:
    “I could definitely see myself in a role like that. I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to lead the defensive core.”

    I’m excited to hear him say this, because I think he means that and he wouldn’t be able to really take ownership in the shadow of Blake if he was still with the team. As we saw last season, though he has a lot to learn still, Johnson is an incredible capable, aware and confident defenseman, and I believe a challenge like this will only speed up his progress.

  • Quisp

    Cristobal –

    (Other than in a situation when a player dumps the puck in in order to intentionally take a run at the defenseman going for the puck) the idea that a defenseman — or any player — would in any way benefit from NOT getting to the puck first is just plain loopy. Lidstrom, since you mentioned him, gets no positional advantage from being second to the puck. There’s just no point. Every time your opponent has the puck in your zone is a potential scoring chance. When you have the puck, they can’t score. Period.

    Rob Blake is not Larry Murphy and San Jose isn’t Detroit. I’m not the only one who thinks San Jose has utterly mortgaged their future for basically one more shot at winning the cup. Blake will not be playing when he’s 40. Forget it. He doesn’t have four more years in him.

    But, hey, we’ll soon see.

  • cristobal

    quisp – getting to the puck first is not a bad thing. i said originally that – its not who gets into the corner first, its who comes out with the puck. i may be loopy, but there are infinite instances when a player that is first into the corner does not win the puck. you’ve been watching the kings long enough to know that. come on.

    nobody wanted Larry Murphy when Detroit brought him on board, nobody. he was laughed out of Toronto. I know you don’t like blake, and i’m cool with that, but he’s a friggin great player. just because this team has its head up its own behind does not change that. and, san jose didn’t mortgage anything. They’re paying him less than the Kings did (thanks JDM) and he was a free agent. Trading Bernier was bad, but what does that have to do with Blake?

    If you don’t like blake for leaving the first time, fine, but don’t even begin to try and convince me that this defense is better than last year’s. there is not one guy here besides Johnson that can claim to have any ability with the puck on his stick. NONE. and don’t go crowning Doughty, because its been at least 20 years since an 18 year old defenseman made an impact in this league.

  • Quisp

    Cristobal –

    It’s not that I don’t like Blake because he left (either time). I don’t think he handled those situations well, but that’s not why I don’t like him. I don’t like him because I don’t think he’s a “friggin’ great player.”

    I didn’t say anything about trading Bernier.

    Re “but don’t even try to begin to convince me…”: I already said what I think about this. There’s really no point in trying to convince you; we’ll see soon enough. I’m pretty sure the Kings defense will be better this year than last year, by every conceivable yardstick. By that I mean, goals against, team +/- and wins.

    As far as that goes, saying “no one besides Johnson has any talent with the puck on his stick” is like saying (to start another argument, I guess) “no one besides Neidermeyer…” Johnson is a very highly skilled in that regard. And Doughty is at least that skilled. Martinez and Harrold also, have “talent with the puck on their sticks.” And, as I have said a million times, I expect another Schneiderish acquisition.

    But, like I said, we’ll soon see. I make no claim to being always right on these matters. Quite the opposite. But you act like the claim itself (that the Kings d will be improved this year) is risible on its face, when it’s not. Counter-intuitive maybe, but it’s not nonsense.

  • JDM

    I think if talking about our defense on paper, than Cristobal is right. On paper we are MUCH worse than last year.

    However I think the aspect we are neglecting here is the difference in coaching styles between Crawford and Murray. Obviously we have to wait and see with Murray, but from what he’s said its clear he will institute a much more defensively minded system. If that happens, I truly believe our defense this year, albeit less talented on paper, will have much more success than our D last year did with the likes of Visnovsky, Stuart, Modry and Blake.

    Average defensemen with the right coach and system in place most of the time will outplay more talented defensemen who don’t play a sound system and/or don’t respect/won’t play for their coach, which I felt was the case many many nights with Crawford… and that’s giving Crawford the benefit of the doubt that he had ANY defensive system besides playing Lubo on the wrong side of the ice and telling Johnson not to play as good as he can play.

  • cristobal

    quisp – i mentioned bernier because you said they mortgaged the future. now looking at my post, its obvious it doesn’t make sense in the context. sorry. i just don’t know how blake has anything to do with mortgaging the future.

    quisp, i’m cool with you thinking blake’s not a great player. but i think its irrational to say that martinez and harrold are good with the puck while discounting the quality of a stanley cup and norris trophy winner. the only reason those guys are even considered for nhl duty this year is the lack of nhl quality defensemen in LA. if the defense is better at working as a unit, then i’ll eat my words with pleasure. i just don’t see any ability to gain puck control in the defensive end, move forward, and break out of our end. It will be like having a defense full of aaron millers.

  • Fielding H. Yost’s ghost

    Skate Jack, skate.

    Hit Jack, hit.

    Kill Jack, kill. KILL JACK, KILL!

    Go Kings

  • cristobal

    JDM – good points taken about Crawford vs. Murray.
    The ability to move and make decisions by the defense is where my concern lies. i don’t doubt that greene, gauthier and preissing will work hard, its their ability to gain effective control and move the puck to the forwards that i don’t see. Doughty is decent size, so hopefully he can keep his wits out there and do what he’s touted for.

  • JDM

    Hopefully the forwards helping out more on backchecking will make the outlet pass less difficult. Remember though, last season even with Blake and Vis, we often had trouble making 2 crisp passes out of the zone. That really is more about position than it is talent. I think Gauthier, Preissing and Greene should be fully capable of playing smart positional hockey under a good system and good teachers like Murray, and let’s not forget Mark Hardy, he’s mister defensive coverage.

    That along with increased help of forward backchecking, Frolov and Kopitar being slapped on the wrist whenever they sneak out of our zone with control of the puck, these issues on a whole can be much better than last year. If these players gel right, then we’re in good shape, maybe not to win a ton of games, but atleast not to get embarrassed and spanked like we were last season.

  • cristobal

    what do you think of Jeff O’neill? he’s ufa.

  • JDM

    Re: Jef O’neill

    Too many forwards. He’d be great in Manchester though to help bring up Dravecky, Cliche,Lewis, Simmonds and Moller. He had a great game in his day.

  • Quisp

    Martinez and Harrold are good with the puck. Blake was, over the course of his career, good with the puck. But we’re talking about this year vs. last year. Blake was not good with the puck last year. He didn’t win the Norris Trophy last year. He might have a good season this year. But that’s immaterial. We’re comparing what we have now to what happened last year, and what Blake did last year isn’t going to change. The bar is set very low. I think our current group will do better.

    Anyway, I didn’t say that Martinez and Harrold were Norris Trophy candidates. I offered them up, with Doughty, as three players who are good with the puck. They’re not proven at the NHL level; which, if that’s your point, I won’t argue with you.

    You say that “the only reason those guys are even considered for nhl duty this year is the lack of nhl quality defensemen in LA.” But that’s not the only reason. They’re being considered for NHL duty because they’re prospects and they’re ready to be considered. There’s more room and more opportunity because the Kings are rebuilding. But that’s a good thing.

  • cristobal

    O’Sullivan – Stoll – O’neill, not a bad second line to Frolov – Kopitar – Brown

    I think he’d step right in.

  • Paincorp

    Vitaly Visnevsky just got placed on waivers by the Devils.

    Talk about some instant grit…shouldn’t we consider picking this guy up? He gave us all sorts of fits when he was with the Ducks! I don’t know what his contract is, but with the Devils picking up 1/2, wouldn’t this be a bargain???

  • Anonymous

    should have asked him what having a medicore goalie who you cant count on day in and day out does to a team, especially the defensemen.

  • Blake & Such

    The Kings did not offer Blake enough money. But in my opinion $4 or $5 million is too much. Let’s not forget how many great years Blake had with the Kings, oh wait? How many were there? NHL is no longer about heart it is about money and business.

    Blake will get injured (cause he is old) and be out for the season.

  • Blake & Such

    The Kings did not offer Blake enough money. But in my opinion $4 or $5 million is too much. Let’s not forget how many great years Blake had with the Kings, oh wait? How many were there? NHL is no longer about heart it is about money and business.

    Blake will get injured (cause he is old) and be out for the season.

  • Blake & Such

    The Kings did not offer Blake enough money. But in my opinion $4 or $5 million is too much. Let’s not forget how many great years Blake had with the Kings, oh wait? How many were there? NHL is no longer about heart it is about money and business.

    Blake will get injured (cause he is old) and be out for the season.

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