With so many talented NHL players keen to represent their respective countries and only a limited number of Olympic roster spots, a significant number of high-profile players will inevitably be upset by being left on the outside looking in. Mixed with the disappointment of not being able to play is the crushing message that you’re not quite good enough (“Uh sorry, we’d rather 25 guys other than you compete for us on the grandest international stage”). No matter how confident, buoyant or rational a guy’s disposition is, that has to sting. And as usual in these instances, some players are taking their dose of rejection better than others.
As outlined by The Columbus Dispatch, the soon-to-be 27-year-old defenseman is downright peeved -- not only at being left off Team USA but with how the whole selection procedure played out, as revealed in last week’s piece by ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside. That's particularly true because Columbus’ bench boss, Todd Richards, participated in the process as one of the national squad’s assistant coaches.
“I read the article that said three coaches unanimously left me off,” Johnson said. “It’s over now. ... Anything that’s said now is empty and meaningless. When I needed the belief and trust, I didn’t get it, and I didn’t get it when it counted from numerous people.
“The team’s picked. I sat there and watched it on TV along with everybody else. That’s how I heard. From TV.”
You can’t blame the guy for feeling at least a little bit betrayed, particularly since he’s represented the U.S. on 10 previous occasions. But while this flavor of talk often inspires potential trade chatter, there’s no indication the Blue Jackets are willing to entertain that option. If anything, Richards seems determined to smooth things over with his alternate captain.
“Look, I know what he means to this team, this organization,” Richards said. “I know what he’s done here. I got asked a lot over the summer about where this organization’s turnaround started, when we got it going in a different direction, and to me it all started the previous season [2011-12] when we got Jack in that trade [with Los Angeles for Jeff Carter], just the way he handled it. I know the importance he has on this team.”
If anything, the perceived kick in the teeth is likely to serve as an inspiring kick in the pants for the talented blueliner. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Johnson played one of his best games as a Blue Jacket against the New York Rangers on Monday, as suggested by his head coach.
From a fantasy perspective, this development is intriguing. Owned in only 55 percent of leagues, Johnson has put up awful numbers this season as compared with the past. Perhaps the slight by Team USA management is enough to stimulate a turnaround from the former 40-point blueliner.
The Columbus defenseman is hardly alone in this respect.