When he makes his debut today, Stephen Johns will doing so against the team that traded him as part of the Patrick Sharp for Trevor Daley (and Ryan Garbutt) trade.
For Stars fans, the hope is that this will be added incentive for the former Notre Dame blueliner to play well. Since Johns is more than capable of playing a physical brand of hockey, Stars fans will also hope that "incentive" can be loosely translated as "hadouken":
Hockey's Future has this to say about Johns:
Johns is a big stay-at-home defenseman with good character. Johns' best asset is his ability to dole out punishment through the physical game, though he does lose defensive positioning at times looking for the big hit. Though he may not project as much of a scorer at the pro level, Johns can deliver hard, accurate passes on the breakout and is not shy about taking shots from the blue line to get the puck to the front of the net.
And for gifs of Johns as far as the gods can see, former managing editor Josh Lile put together this very useful breakdown of his AHL play.
Despite Johns' reputation as a bruising "stay at home" type, he's more akin to Jason Demers. Which is fitting, since Johns is basically replacing the injured Demers. Keep in mind this isn't meant to be a direct comparison. This is not to say that Johns is as good as Demers. This is simply to talk about what to expect from his style. Even his NHLe (which stands for NHL equivalency) articulates this point per Sean Tierney:
If you're unfamiliar with NHLe, I'd suggest reading Gabe Desjardins' seminal piece at behindthenet. The color of the bars are important, however, since the darker the blue, the more potential. Travis Morin doesn't project to have the same impact breaking into the NHL as someone like Jason Dickinson because this is just the story that sports favor; the quicker you can dominate pre-professional levels, the more predictive your success at the actual professional level.
However, for defensemen, points aren't where we tow the line. In watching Johns throughout his stay with Texas, the old clips of him dishing out big body checks like he's Scott Stevens don't represent who he is. Sure, that part of his game is still there.
But Johns gets prime minutes in Texas. He plays on the Power Play, and the first PK unit. Which places him 13th in the AHL in estimated time on ice per game. Just above Nikita Zadorov. That tells you a lot about Laxdal's trust in him to "play 200 feet" as the tortured cliche goes. But Johns is more than willing to tell you himself.
"If you play 32 minutes in a game, you want to play more," he said to Sean Shapiro on his podcast.
His game has matured during the 2015-2016 Texas Stars run. He's physical, but he's much more selective. He's not fast, but he's agile. He's not precise, but he's poised.
There will be a lot of pressure on him to perform for the Dallas Stars. Demers is out a minimum of six weeks, and neither John Klingberg nor Jordie Benn will suit up this weekend. It's a real half life war boy blueline in Big D. In addition, Hawks fans (at least the mediocre ones) might want to see Johns fail. At least one Hawk fan won't. With all the pressure, expectation, excitement, fun, joy and animus that comes with playing your first game against the team that traded you, all I can say is...
Bienvenido Mr. Johns!
In town just in time for picture day! pic.twitter.com/TSAVs4C49e— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 10, 2016