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.