The Pittsburgh Penguins have more talent than most of their opponents, but a lack of defensive-minded players on the blue line is one weakness that must be fixed before the team begins another Stanley Cup run in April.
The Penguins are seeking to bolster their defense, preferably with a player under contract who could serve as either a long-term partner for Kris Letang or possible insurance if Letang is traded before his contract expires in July 2014...Jack Johnson, 26, could potentially fit that description. He was the third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and is a longtime friend of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Johnson was acquired by the Blue Jackets last season.
The Penguins need a shut-down defenseman who can prevent opposing team's top lines and most dangerous goal scorers from dominating games.
Johnson is not that type of player, and likely never will be. He has just one takeaway and 26 hits this season, and he won't impact games physically in the defensive zone.
From an offensive standpoint, the Blue Jackets star is a fantastic player. He has a powerful shot from the point, he moves the puck well, his playmaking skills are impressive and he can be relied upon to score anywhere from 35-50 points in a normal 82-game season.
At the moment, the Penguins rank second in goals scored, and they have the third-best power-play. With that said, adding someone with Johnson's offensive skill set doesn't make any sense.
Pittsburgh ranks 20th in goals against and has the 18th-ranked penalty kill. This team has allowed three goals or more in 14 of its 23 games this season, and none of the Penguins defensemen are ranked in the top 20 in hits or takeaways. Brooks Orpik is the only Penguins blueliner who ranks in the top 20 in blocked shots.
Acquiring Johnson would give the Penguins more of what they already have (offensive firepower on the blue line), which won't make them better than the Boston Bruins or the Chicago Blackhawks, who are arguably the two favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season.
Pittsburgh didn't have a defenseman who could slow down Claude Giroux and the high-powered Philadelphia Flyers offense in the playoffs last season, which made the team's decision to use both of its first-round picks in the 2012 NHL draft on offensive defensemen (Derrick Pouliot No. 8 overall, Olli Maata 22nd) a bit surprising.
If you look at the rosters of the recent Stanley Cup champions, many of these teams had a No. 1, shut-down defenseman who could prevent elite forwards from performing at a high level.
Duncan Keith (Blackhawks, 2010), Zdeno Chara (Bruins, 2011) and Willie Mitchell (Kings, 2012) played huge roles in their teams' championship runs with their impressive play in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Pittsburgh needs one of these defensive-minded defenseman to return to the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins have way too many offensive defenseman, so acquiring Johnson would be a waste of valuable trade chips such as prospects and draft picks. Orpik is the team's only player who could be considered a shut-down defenseman, but at 32 years old, he's past the prime of his career.
Instead of Johnson, Pittsburgh should target Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, who was a member of the Penguins' championship team in 2009 and also won the Stanley Cup last season with LA.
He's in the final year of his contract, and the Kings may be tempted to move him instead of taking the risk that he could leave the team as a UFA in the summer. Scuderi is the type of shut-down blueliner that would make the Penguins a much tougher squad to play against.
Another veteran such as Douglas Murray of the San Jose Sharks would also be a good fit on the Penguins blue line because of his defensive ability and physical play.
We saw in the playoffs last year that physical, defensive hockey is what's needed to win the Stanley Cup in today's game. The Penguins don't play this kind of style, and Johnson will not make them a stronger defensive team. Trading for him would be a terrible move.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!