I still have vague memories of Erik Johnson’s Career with the St. Louis Blues. He was supposed to be a superstar; a franchise defenseman. What happened? Who got the better side of the trade?
Photo: Getty Images
I remember watching the draft and how excited fans were when the Blues picked Johnson, a top pick in his respective draft. Johnson was supposed to be like Pronger or Mcinnis. My strongest memory though, came the year following Johnson’s rookie season. That year he jumped out of a golf cart and tore two ligaments in his right knee, including his ACL, putting him on IR that season.
I remember general frustration—shared with my family of Blues fans--was evident when the subject came up. It wasn’t as justified as it could have been, but with other players that had been drafted after him putting up such strong numbers during his year off, it was hard not to be. Jonathan Toews (drafted 3rd overall) put up almost a point per game in regular and postseason play combined. Toews was quickly becoming a franchise player while FS-Midwest would occasionally zoom in on Johnson during the games as he watched in the press box. Johnson put up solid numbers as a Blue, but they weren’t franchise player numbers.
That is why I'd like to highlight the Blues’ deal with the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Johnson’s services and more.
February 19th, 2011: About 5 years ago the Blues sent Jay McClement, Erik Johnson, and a conditional first round pick (Duncan Siemens) to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and a conditional second round pick (Ty Rattie).
Erik Johnson since 2011 trade:
First Season for Avs: .45 points per game (Partial Season...22 games)
Second Season for Avs: .36 points per game in 73 games
Third Season for Avs: .13 points per game in 31 games (lockout)
Fourth Season for Avs: .48 points per game in 80 games
Fifth Season for Avs: .49 points per game in 47 games (injury-knee Jan 26th) [ALLSTAR]
This season with Avs (his sixth): .38 points per game in 37 games
Kevin Shattenkirk since 2011 trade:
First Season with Blues: .65 points per game (Partial season...26 games)
Second Season with Blues: .53 points per game in 81 games
Third Season with Blues: .48 points per game in 48 games (lockout)
Fourth Season with Blues: .55 points per game in 81 games
Fifth Season with Blues: .79 points per game in 56 games (injury-abdominal Feb 2nd) [ALL STAR]
This Season with Blues (sixth): .79 points per game in 29 games (injury- lower body Oct 14)
I know what you’re thinking; Getting points isn't the most important part of being a defender. You’re right. At the same time, it would be difficult to argue that Shattenkirk has not been the better defenseman in the past 6 years, and is only getting better. Doug Armstrong bailed on Johnson at just the right time.
Johnson’s career +/- is -26, while Shattenkirk’s is +31; that’s a hell of a lot better than -26.
(For those unfamiliar to the concept of +/-, when a player is on the ice when a goal is scored by his team, he gets a +1. When a player is on the ice when a goal is scored against his team, he gets a -1)
Shattenkirk was invited to the skills competition of the all star game in 2011 as one of the top 12 rookies and received his first all star appearance in 2015. Johnson was also selected last season.
The final point I would like to address is ice time. Johnson is the clear #1 defenseman in Colorado while Shattenkirk gets much less ice time than a #1 due to Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester also being strong defensemen and prying away ice time. Johnson gets about 2.5 minutes more than Shattenkirk each game.
In conclusion, Shattenkirk has become the better defenseman of the two and provides a strong offensive punch from the blueline. Johnson is a strong defenseman but never has quite lived up to his franchise defenseman level of expectations.
What else did we get?
If you take the trade defenseman for defenseman, the Blues clearly won. But that isn’t the only thing the Blues scored with. The addition of Rattie and Stewart helped the Blues much more than McClement and Siemens helped the Avs.
Rattie vs. Siemens
Ty Rattie has top 6 forward potential and has shown in the AHL he has what it takes. His performance in the NHL last season might seem a tad underwhelming but at only 22, he is still very young. In 131 games in the AHL, Rattie has produced 90 points in 131 games.
Duncan Siemens is a 22 year old defenseman in the AHL. He has played in 103 games in the AHL, tallying 10 points and over 100 penalty minutes. He clearly has talent (he was drafted 11th overall), but a serious discipline issue could delay his rise to being NHL ready.
Rattie is the clear choice here in my opinion, but it can be difficult to compare forwards with defensemen.
Stewart vs McClement
Love him or hate him. Chris Stewart played for the Blues and was not actually all that bad. In 2011, Stewart put up 23 points in just 26 games. Disappointingly, this did not continue. While he didn’t produce on an elite level like he had been previously, Stewart put up solid numbers as a Blue. He put up about .55 points per game in his 211 regular season games in the Blue Note.
Here are some highlights from his 2013 season:
McClement put up 21 points in 104 games for the Avalanche. Those stats give him .2 points per game. (McClement was primarily a penalty killer rather than a scorer)
Even though McClement’s penalty killing skills add to his value I still firmly believe that Stewart’s .55 points per game > McClement’s .2 points per game. Case closed.
Overall, the Blues seemingly reaped the benefits of this trade. My only caution is to say the Blues won it by a long-shot because Shattenkirk and Johnson have plenty of years to go, as well as the fact that Rattie and Siemens have not fully yet entered the league.