Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson sat down with radio host Bob McElligott to talk about the team's success on defense last year, the roster adjustments made this summer and more.
McElligott: You guys really got solidified on defense this past year with Zach Werenski coming in here and playing like he did, Seth Jones starting to move into another phase of his career, you and David Savard so solid. How fun is it for you to be a part of that group overall?
Johnson: Whenever you have a solid D-core going and everyone stays pretty healthy, it's pretty fun. I just finished my 10th year, and this was the first year I think I've had a D-partner from pretty much the start of the season, the same partner to the last game of the playoffs. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that, and it's pretty rare. But it's so nice to go in every day and know who you're playing with, know who your partner is, and we got to the point where we would go out every night, and we just knew everything was going to go right for us. It's a great feeling to have that kind of chemistry, and I know the forwards love that feeling, if they can keep a certain line together for a long time. It's almost a sense of security knowing who you're going to play with, but it gives you a lot of confidence throughout the year. We had a lot of fun as a D-core with it. I think we had more fun this year, even on the bench, than we've ever had.
Video: NYI@CBJ: Johnson scores as Savard gets 100th point
McElligott: The thing I like about you and David is you're so similar in the fact that you're big guys, you can both move the puck, and you can both really pop somebody if you need to, when they come into the wrong spot around you. Like you said, there's a comfort there. It's like it's always seemed to work for the two of you.
Johnson: Yeah and for whatever reason... I can't put my finger on it. I've always said good players are easy to play with, and I think he's a great player. He's easy for me to read off of, and I've got a tremendous amount of trust with him out there as well. I know when the pucks on his side he's not getting beat out of the corner, and no forward is coming out on him. It's just me knowing that everything is taken care of over there, so I can worry about my job over here; that's also a nice feeling. He's big, he's strong, he can skate, there's pretty much nothing he can't do. He can kill penalties, he can play on the power play, he's a pretty complete player.
McElligott: With Artemi Panarin coming in and, from a fan standpoint, it's very easy to go, 'This guy moves and this guy comes in, that'll make you better. Maybe they should trade this guy and get this guy.' But for you guys, this is your family. These are members of your family that are moving out and moving on. How tough is that, and, I'm talking about personally as a player, when pretty much everybody is tight and everybody is a friend in there?
Johnson: The Brandon Saad trade was tough for me personally because he was probably the guy I was closest to on the team. Seeing him go was tough, but that's part of the business. I've had tons of guys that I've gotten close to year-in and year-out they're gone the next year. That's professional sports. At the same time, you've got to give up something good to get something good. I think Panarin is a heck of a player and it will be a lot nicer playing with him than against him.
McElligott: I was going to ask you about that, if you'd rather watch him going in front of you than having to be the guy defending him.
Johnson: Yeah, exactly. I'm excited to be able to play with a player of his caliber and an exciting player. It's exciting to get to know another teammate. Teammates, unfortunately, in pro sports come and go. Great guys come and go. I'll miss Brandon Saad as a friend and as his teammate, but the organization is trying to make moves to tweak the team, and I want to win. So if it helps the team, and I'm sure he's a great guy like every guy that has walked in the room, I'm all for it. As long as we keep moving in the right direction.
McElligott: Are you, in any way, more excited this year based on the success you had last year? When you have good success, does that make you chomp at the bit any more?
Johnson: Yeah, I think you get greedy the more you play. Success is a relative term too, because we had a great regular season, no question, but we still lost in game five of the first round, so it's not enough. I want to win. I just finished my 10th year, and my 11th year I want to win. I hope every guy is taking the summer seriously, training and getting ready because whether you finished first in the regular season or snuck into the playoffs, if you lose in game five of the first round that's just not enough. So I'm definitely chomping at the bit, excited for next season because I'm excited every year. I go in to every season wanting to win the Stanley Cup. The goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and if you lose, you're disappointed.
This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.