Courtesy of Hertz

Drive to the Net: How Johnson drags down ☕️

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Jack Johnson. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

In February, I wrote this piece that showed how much of an anchor Jack Johnson was on the Penguins' blue line at the time.

Now, we have a little more context.

Micah Blake McCurdy, a mathematician who specializes in creating visualizations of different statistics in hockey, recently developed a helpful tool. The graphics show the heat maps of the shots for or against while a player (or combination of players) was on the ice, and determines the threat level of the player (or combination of players) relative to the rest of the league.

As a baseline, this visualization is for the Penguins' offense, which has a threat level of plus-5 percent in five-on-five play:

This next visualization depicts the unblocked shot attempts of other teams' offenses against the Penguins, which make for a combined threat level of plus-2 percent:

This visualization, for instance, shows the isolated impact of Johnson on the Penguins' offense:

The offense dries up. The threat level is a minus-5.

This visualization depicts the isolated impact of Johnson defensively:

The threat level of opposing teams' offenses becomes a plus-9.

Two of the forwards Johnson shared the ice with the most often were Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel (first and fourth, respectively) a pairing that has been called a liability defensively. The threat level of opposing teams' offenses becomes a plus-6, an increase from the team average of plus-2:

When we narrow the minutes down to time that Malkin and Kessel were on the ice with Johnson, the results are staggering. The threat of other teams' offenses spikes to a massive plus-26:

That's a difference of plus-20 compared to the threat level against Malkin and Kessel overall, and a difference of plus-24 compared to the Penguins' baseline.

Now, when we take a look at Malkin and Kessel's minutes together when Johnson was not on the ice, the results are surprising. The threat level of opposing teams' offenses becomes a minus-7, meaning the pairing actually fared well defensively:

The sample size of minutes where Malkin and Kessel were on the ice without Johnson but with Marcus Pettersson is much smaller, but the results are dramatic. The threat of other teams' offenses plummets to a minus-31:

This doesn't mean that Kessel wasn't a problem. He was just one of a few major issues the Penguins needed to address this offseason. Trading Johnson should be the next order of business. Doing so would not only allow the Penguins' defense to get younger and faster, but provide enough cap space to re-sign restricted free agent Pettersson.

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