Washington Capitals Mailbag: Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Crosby Vs. Ovechkin, Johansson

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Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Johansson’s Improvement

This one comes from Peter from Aberdeen.

"I must admit that you were right about Marcus Johansson. He’s a guy who I’d like to see the Capitals keep long-term if possible. What do you think has been the difference with him?"

Thank you for your compliments and honesty, Peter. Let me be honest as well. Before last season, I was driving the “trade Johansson” bandwagon. Not only that, I probably had the pedal to the metal. So what changed? Barry Trotz helped Johansson become a better player.

The biggest difference that I’ve seen in Johansson’s game is that he’s a much more confident player than he was under Adam Oates. People forget that Johansson was productive under Dale Hunter. That alone should tell you how good Johansson is. Oates put Johansson on the first line. When that happened, I think that Johansson got away from his game. He started focusing too heavily on how he could help Ovechkin and Backstrom. That got him away from what he does so well.

Trotz got him back on track. Since Trotz has been hired, Marcus is shooting the puck at a better rate than he has in his career. Does he still need to shoot the puck more? Absolutely. He’s been improving steadily at it and honestly, I’ve been impressed by him.

Perhaps the thing about him that I’m most impressed with is how he’s doing the little things. There are countless little things in hockey that you never see in the score sheet. He’s arguably the Washington Capitals best option as far as power play zone entries. He enters the zone with confidence and makes things happen. He’s starting to be more physical and more defensively responsible. Heck, he’s even screening guys. That’s something that I never thought I’d want to see Johansson doing because of his lack of size. It works because he’s so quick.

In lay terms, Johansson has his swagger back. I don’t know if the Washington Capitals should keep him because Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky are likely going to render him a third line forward in the near future. If they can afford to keep him, they should because he’s at worst a solid top six forward. You shouldn’t get rid of those guys if the main reason that you want to get rid of them is because you *think* you have enough top six forwards. You can’t have enough of those types of guys.

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