What is Wrong with Marcus Johansson?

Marcus Johansson-2

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

For the Capitals, there’s a lot to keep track of right now. We’ve noticed Alex Ovechkin’s scoring slump, a whole lotta penalties, and some bad breaks for the goalies. One thing we haven’t noticed is Marcus Johansson, and that’s a big problem too.

In 2011-2012, Johansson scored 14 goals and 32 assists, shooting a pretty boss 15.6%. That was enough to make him the team’s third best scorer behind the Alexes, a crucial piece of a lean team.

Not so much this year. Through seven games, Johansson’s stat line looks like this: 0, 0, 0%.

Photo by Rock the Red Blue and Gold

Photo by Rock the Red Blue and Gold

“He’s a young kid, he’s still learning the game,” coach Adam Oates said to the Washington Post. “He’s a natural center; we’ve got him on wing.”

Matt Hendricks agrees, telling the Washington Times that when Johansson “is playing his best hockey he’s playing the game fast. . . winning battles to pucks, and when he does he seems to catch those defenders in bad positions and he can skate right around them, right by them and get those wrap-around goals that we’ve seen him score and set up great plays that way.”

And for all that, he’s still without a point.

But so what? Lots of players are pointless so early in the season, but Johansson’s boxcar stats hint at real trouble below. Let’s take a look at  how Johansson is playing using #fancystats and try not to get pulled into the vacuum of suck.

While Marcus is on the ice, the Caps are shooting 0.00%. Every shot fails. Though with so few games played, it’s kind of okay (if a bit surprising). What’s not okay is the paucity of shots the Caps fire while Johansson is playing. He’s last place among Caps forwards with a -20.07 Corsi rating.

Whenever Marcus hits the ice, way more pucks are headed towards Washington’s net than the other guy’s. It’s a really wretched number, but maybe it’s that way because Marcus Johansson is getting tough assignments against quality competition.

Nope. Hell no. Marcus is actually playing against weaker opponents than any other Caps forward.

Robert Vollman of Hockey Abstract puts together player usage charts that visualize how poorly Marcus is doing compared to what he’s up against.


Note: Ignore Hamrlik; he’s only been in 3 games.

The bottom-right quadrant of the chart means sheltered. Marcus is taking most of his zone starts in the offensive zone (a team-high 58.5%) and he’s playing against weaker talent than everyone, and yet he’s still got the worst possession numbers among all forwards. His circle is big and red because his puck possession is way negative (i.e. more pucks going towards the Caps net).

In short: despite having the cushiest gig on the team– playing meh players real close to their net– Johansson is still dead last when it comes to puck possession.

When players go through scoring droughts, they’re usually the main ones who suffer. But when it’s an issue of basic puck possession like with Marcus Johansson, every player sharing the ice with him takes a beating. Using hockeyanalysis.com’s With You/Without You comparison, we can see the difference in how Capitals perform depending on if Johansson is with them.

This table shows how much time MJ90 shares with each player (minimum of 10 minutes), and how much worse each player does during that time.

Player TOI Δ Corsi%
Nick Backstrom 35:55 -18.9
Mike Green 26:39 -6.3
Troy Brouwer 21:59 -18.6
John Carlson 21:22 -15.2
Karl Alzner 19:15 -12.9
Alex Ovechkin 18:14 -1.2
Tom Poti 14:56 -12.6
Tomas Kundratek 14:12 -25.1
Jeff Schultz 11:45 -14

Every skater sharing the ice with Johansson does worse during that time. Not one saw the ice tilt better when playing with him.

It’s a total mess, and I’m baffled by it. While I’ve never been too keen on Marcus Johansson, these numbers are atrocious.

A year ago, some folks were saying Johansson had arrived, that the Capitals have finally found their second-line center. His performance in 2013 not only belies that argument, it gives doubt that he’s ready for any workload at the NHL level.

At the top of this article, I asked what is wrong with Marcus Johansson, but I really have no idea. All I have is evidence that there is something wrong and the beginnings of a peptic ulcer whenever his name shows up in the line combos.

Right now, the only thing I can think of to improve the situation would be to change the colors and logo on his jersey.

Marcus Johansson-3

Photo credit: Chris Gordon. Stats from behindthenet.ca and hockeyanalysis.com. Special thanks to Robert Vollman of hockeyabstract.com for the player usage chart.

  • Mojo’s seems to have lost his mojo. :C

  • Dammit Rachel where were you when I needed that joke an hour ago

  • Sitting in my studio space drawing Matt Hendricks beating the snot out of someone, probably.

  • Change in color and logo…..as in trade or coming here in Hershey? (Passing waivers of course)

  • Japers Rink has a good piece with other conclusions based on the usage data http://www.japersrink.com/2013/2/4/3952704/capitals-usage-chart-february-4

  • Your call! I think trade is more likely than him passing waivers.

  • He will have his breakout soon enough, the whole team is struggling right now and getting use to the system. He was a solid 3rd line center in the past, with those minutes not many players get as many points as he has.

  • Yv

    MaJo improving lately. He was looking good against Flyers, less with Pens. And if Caps looking currently for trades, where MaJo probably one of the pieces (see Canucs and reuniting him with Sedins and other Swedes there) this article not helping Caps:).

  • Oh I meant to make a joke about how the Caps should deal him to a team with a GM who doesn’t believe in advanced statistics! Damn.

  • Still think we should use Perreault as trade bait?

  • Either way, I dont think he should be on our team next season. It’s like he’s cursed or something!

  • I’ve always wanted to see Mojo be a better player along the boards. Wolski and Perreault are two undersized players that are great in the corners and don’t get pushed off the puck easily. I feel like that’s the key for him becoming a decent NHL player, but I’ve seen little to no progress in that since he came into the league. He’s definitely an above average skater, but if he doesn’t have a great shot, he can’t keep the puck on his stick, and he can’t forecheck or penalty kill, I don’t see a lot of use for him on this team. I feel like he could benefit from a change of scenery and there has to be another NHL team out there that’d be willing to take a shot on him.

  • I also want to reiterate that I believe the team hurt Johansson’s development early on by not giving him any time in Hershey to get used to the North American game. He needed time to learn how to chip and chase, win battles along the boards, and for whatever reason, despite all his struggles his rookie year, GMGM never took that step with him. Hopefully Oates can help him develop this year, but there is a reason why I made this image a few years ago. http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/marcus-johansson-hershey-bears.jpg

  • That year he didn’t play in Hershey might have been stifling. There’s a lot of chippy corner-battles that could have helped him develop.

    Neil and JP say that there’s a market for him. I know nothing about that stuff, but I hope they’re right! The shake-up would probably be good for everyone– including Marcus.

  • Yeah, but GMGM shoulda done that in June!

  • That’s why I said “still”. Seems like we have a “tasty tasty” Swedish meatball as tradebait now…

  • Tim

    Johansson should be getting nacho duty for the foreseeable future, unless the Caps trade him – if anyone will offer anything for him. Might be best to just try to send him to Hershey. I don’t see it being much of a loss if he gets claimed. He’s never been good at puck possession, has never had a physical game, and benefited from good linemates last season. I agree with Ian that he should have gotten a year in Hershey, but it’s too late for the Caps to do anything about that now.

  • GuestZ

    he’s like Luiz (sp?) from the Mighty Ducks 2. he might be able to skate, but homeslice can’t keep the puck to save his life… as discussed in the comments already posted, board work isn’t his forte. just cause he can get there quick doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing once he’s arrived.

  • breaklance

    I think the answer is obvious – its in the goatee. When Johansson went back to Sweden during the lockout, he was kidnapped and replaced with an evil clone with the intent of ruining all European players

  • jongo

    Is a coincidence that the euros who went home to play are struggling? Maybe it really harmed their ability to play against NHL D on the smaller rink. Mojo was never very physical either. I think he was generally rushed along in his development and struggles to play a north american style game. Add to that the readjustment after the lock out and you have one seriously lost slumping player.

  • jongo

    He refused to play in Hershey as I recall….opting to stay back in Sweden when given the option.

  • IkeA. Metball

    It was painfully obvious in the playoffs last year that the boy is absolutely terrified of contact. That has not changed. “Oh please big strong (North American?) hockey player, here is the puck, just don’t hurt the children!”

    I recommended last year that they have a drill where they pass him the puck in the slot 100 times and he gets nailed in the head/chest with pads each time as he one-times on net.

  • Mojo is an undersized forward with no blaring physical skills, no great ice vision, no amazing speed or quickness, no really much of anything above average. Therefore when he performs AVERAGE, that means nothing is wrong. THIS is Mojo, a bottom 6 forward AT BEST.
    P.S. why isn’t there an article about “what is wrong with Alex Ovechkin?”

  • When he played 3rd line, wasnt he with Laich/Brouwer a lot? Laich and Brouwer SHOULD ALWAYS BE TOP 6 FORWARDS. There’s your explanation for his point production, hell he played alongside Semin quite a bit, is Semin a 3rd liner? (Answer: Semin was the BEST forward on the team)

  • GMGM should no longer be our GM…. if you couldn’t see the moves he made over the last three years have been slowly sinking the ship, then you’re blind.

  • Hank

    Nothing! MOJO SCOAAARS!

  • Scoops

    Incredibly well-done article with lots of metrics to substantiate the obvious: a marginal-at-best player has continued to digress into an on-ice liability that is systematically bringing the team down.