Jim Johnson

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Edmonton Oilers ’15-16 Outlook

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With Connor McDavid in the fold there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Edmonton, and rightfully so. The 18-year-old is the best player to come out of the NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby did in 2005.

McDavid finished last season with 44 goals and 120 points while appearing 47 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He added 21 goals and 49 points in 20 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center won both the OHL and CHL player of the year.

Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll bumps in the road for his star forward as he adjusts to the NHL game.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

Front office shakeup

Former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson is now in charge, and has left his mark on the organization in the few months since taking over as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

Chiarelli along with head coach Todd McLellan represent a new era in Edmonton. Nicholson has since re-assigned Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

Joining McLellan behind the bench are three new assistant coaches in Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers.

As Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said in April, “They’re not the same old Oilers, and that’s a start.”

What to expect

Despite addressing issues in goal (Cam Talbot) and making additions to the blue line (Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba and Andrej Sekera), the Edmonton Oilers chances of ending their nine-year playoff drought are slim at best.

Given the Oilers play in the Pacific Division with the likes of the Anaheim Ducks, L.A. Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, making the playoffs is this season is unrealistic.

The Oilers have not reached the 30 win mark in a season since 2011-12 (32) and should see an improvement on their 24-44-14 record from last season.

Related: Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Oilers fill out coaching staff, hire Woodcroft and Johnson

Ottawa Senators v San Jose Sharks
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The Edmonton Oilers have filled out Todd McLellan’s coaching staff. The club announced the hiring of Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson on Thursday.

Both Woodcroft and Johnston were assistants with McLellan in San Jose.

Prior to his stint with the Sharks, Woodcroft was an assistant in Detroit for three seasons and was a part of the Red Wings’ coaching staff for the club’s Stanley Cup win in 2008.

In addition to his time in San Jose, Johnson also spent time as an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. The 52-year-old served as the interim head coach of the Arizona Coyotes during the 1999-00 season.

Related: Oil change continued: Edmonton fires top scouts

Sharks add Jim Johnson as another assistant

Jim Johnson Caps
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Going into this off-season, the San Jose Sharks wanted to get some NHL experience behind bench boss Todd McLellan. They’ve passed those tests with flying colors as they added veteran coach (and Hall of Famer) Larry Robinson as an “associate” coach and long-time NHL blueliner (and seasoned assistant) Jim Johnson to the mix as an assistant. Johnson is the most recent addition, as the Sharks named him to the staff tonight.

(Jay Woodcroft is an assistant as well.)

Johnson most recently served on Dale Hunter’s coaching staff with the Washington Capitals. Here’s a write-up on his coaching career via the Sharks:

A 14-year NHL defenseman, Johnson, 49, most recently was an assistant coach on Dale Hunter’s staff with the Washington Capitals. He has also served as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 and interim head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1999-2000.

Prior to arriving in Washington in 2011, Johnson was coaching for Switzerland’s HC Lugano. While working with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, he also served as the head coach for the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals during the 2009-10 season and as development coach for the Lightning in 2008-09.

Johnson also spent three seasons (2000-02) as an assistant coach with the U.S. National Junior Team.

Some quite reasonably believe that the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window is closing rapidly, but adding some top-notch help for McLellan could help the team get the most out of a still-talented roster. Johnson should be a good addition in that regard.

More coaching change in Washington? McPhee says assistants unlikely to return

George McPhee
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Washington Capitals GM George McPhee met with the media today to discuss the future of his club — a future that could be without the services of Dean Evason and Jim Johnson.

McPhee said “probably not” when asked if Caps’ assistant coaches would return for the 2012-13 season. Evason is the longest-tenured coach on Washington’s staff (since 2005) while Johnson joined last year after Dale Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach.

While Johnson’s departure wouldn’t be that shocking — he was tied to the Hunter regime, and the Hunter regime is over — seeing Evason go would be a surprise.

He’d been rumored as a candidate for the head coaching gig and has proven to be a versatile assistant, having coached under three different bench bosses (Glen Hanlon, Boudreau, Hunter) since joining Washington’s staff.

Speaking of Washington’s head coaching gig, McPhee said he had no timetable for a hire and stressed he didn’t need anyone in place by the draft or July 1 free agency period. He noted that New Jersey waited until July 19 last year before hiring Peter Deboer, which worked out well for the Devils.

Oh look, the Caps hired another coach

Jim Johnson Caps
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Lost in the shuffle of “Boudreau out, Hunter in” was another significant change behind the Washington Capitals bench — assistant/defense coach Bob Woods was turfed in favor of ex-NHL defenseman Jim Johnson.

Johnson and Hunter played in Washington together from 1993-96 before joining the coaching ranks. Hunter went the OHL route while Johnson worked as an assistant with the U.S. national development team before becoming the head coach with AHL Norfolk.

“Dale and I, we speak the same language,” Johnson told CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley following his first practice with the Caps. “I showed him some ideas of what I was doing when I took over in Norfolk and how I went in there to turn that team around in a very short period of time.

“We have a lot of the same philosophies and ideas and obviously, I’ve got a lot of admiration for Dale.”

Johnson will take over Woods’ role of handling Washington’s defensive pairings, which should be interesting to watch. With Mike Green and Tom Poti hurt, the Caps have been rolling Dmitry Orlov-Roman Hamrlik, Dennis Wideman-John Erskine and John Carlson-Karl Alzner. (Of note, Johnson’s son Derik played with Carlson on the U.S. national team.)

But based on Johnson’s philosophical approach to defensive play, one wonders if a change is on the horizon.

“I think if you can play a speed game, you can have success. But you’ve got to have some structure within that speed game,” Johnson said. “I think in order to create offense at this level you’ve got to get the defense up in the play. You don’t need them leading the rush.”

Video: Here’s Johnson speaking with Caps365 about his coaching style and defensive ideas.