After their 112-point season back in 2013-14, many expected the Avalanche to be a good team for a long time. They boasted quite the exciting young core with players like Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson.
Unfortunately for the Avs, things haven’t gone as well as they would’ve hoped since that incredible season. They missed the playoffs last year and once their 2015-16 season ends on Saturday night, they’ll be on the outside looking in again.
One of the core members of the team, Erik Johnson, knows that a lot of pressure is placed on his shoulders. Not only is he the number one defenseman on the team, but his new seven-year, $42 million deal kicks in starting next season.
The 28-year-old had 11 goals, 26 points and a minus-19 rating while averaging 23:31 of ice time per game in 2015-16.
“I don’t rate myself on goals, assists or points and all that stuff,” Johnson said, per the Denver Post. “You look at the bulk of work that the team does and that’s how you grade yourself. At the end of the day, we didn’t get in the playoffs and a lot of that falls on my shoulders, so it definitely means I have to be better.”
After Matt Duchene celebrated a goal in a blowout loss last Sunday, head coach Patrick Roy called the core’s leadership into question.
“We have some good leadership, but not enough from our core,” Roy said at the time. “Our core hasn’t proved that they have the leadership to bring this team to another level. Eventually we have to admit it. I love these guys. I think Landy is pretty much alone in that. I think [Erik Johnson] is trying. We need more from these guys.”
Predictably, Johnson agrees that this team’s talented core needs to do more if the Avs are ever going to play deeper into April, May or June.
“Every night we have a great game plan and we try to execute it,” he said. “We adjust to each team on any given night. It’s definitely not a system issue with what the coaches put out there. It’s definitely on us players, on the core of the team, that we didn’t make the playoffs, and we have to look in the mirror and realize we have to be better.”