With the NHL season getting under way this evening, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that last year’s leading rookie scorer, Kent Johnson, would be a healthy scratch to start the year. What should our level of concern be?
After finishing 5th on the team with 40 points (16 goals) last year, forward Kent Johnson doesn’t find himself in the opening night lineup to start this season. It’s a very surprising way to kick off the season for a team whose better days probably still lay in the future – a future that features Johnson as part of its competitive core.
New head coach Pascal Vincent made the decision because he felt that Kent wasn’t playing up to a pace suited for the NHL. If you watched during the preseason, this isn’t really all that surprising. In fact, we had several people ask us our thoughts via social media… because, well, Kent just wasn’t standing out like everyone expected.
We thought he would be fine, and he will be. It’s worth noting that Johnson is still just 20 years old, and for that reason, we expect him to go through some growing pains. In today’s NHL, one of the few sources of power for NHL head coaches is ice time. So when you have a player who isn’t meeting standards, one of your only real options is to limit that player’s ice time. Which is exactly what has Vincent decided to do tonight. Hopefully Kent takes it to heart, and turns his play around swiftly.
While I get that a lot of fans bought tickets to see Johnson play (at least in part); I actually respect the decision Vincent made here. Look, he’s a first time head coach in the NHL. He wants to make his mark in a role that is fully dictated by results. If he lets the standard of play lapse, the team will be terrible again, and it will probably cost him his job; which is exactly what none of us want to see.
Accountability is a word that gets thrown around pretty recklessly, but I think we can all agree that it’s one of the most important things that last year’s Blue Jacket team lacked. Brad Larsen is a great human being; but to observers around the team and in the outside world, the standard just wasn’t there. The bar was too low.
Vincent begins his career behind the Blue Jacket bench, by raising the bar several notches, making an example out of one of the team’s most notable players. We’ll have to wait and see how Johnson (and the team) responds, but if nothing else, it’s at least a step in some direction. it’s a harsh lesson for the 20 year old rising star, but one that is made out of necessity.
Am I concerned? Not really. If this stretches on for any considerable period of time, however…