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02-26-2013, 04:28 PM
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Tom Johnson, D

  • Excellent defensive defenseman - and capable of defending with either finesse or brutality
  • Not as good a skater as Harvey, so he rarely joined the rush, but he was an excellent puck handler and passer and could get the puck up to the forwards with efficiency. "Part of Montreal's rapid transition game."
  • His trademark move was to strip a forward of the puck without body contact and pass it up to his forwards before the opponents could get turned around.
  • Anchored the Montreal penalty kill (and second defensive pairing) at a time when Doug Harvey played the full power play.
  • Had a career year offensively when Harvey was injured and Johnson was finally given time on the power play.
  • An extremely dirty player. Johnson was among the league leaders in PIMs in his rookie year, but for most of his career, he seems to have usually gotten away with it.

Originally Posted by
From the Manitoba prairie town of Baldur, Johnson was an excellent skater and an intelligent defender. He was highly regarded as a playmaker and he was tenacious in corners and along the boards. He became a penalty-killing specialist primarily because fellow Habs defenseman Doug Harvey anchored the power play. Johnson was often used as a forward late in games with his team down a goal. He broke Harvey's skein of four straight Norris Trophies when he won the award in 1959. Harvey won again the next three years. Johnson had career highs of 10 goals, 29 assists and 39 points in 1959 and was named to the First All-Star Team.

Originally Posted by legendsofhockey
An accomplished skater and puckhandler, defenseman Tom Johnson played a valuable role on the powerful Montreal Canadiens teams of the 1950s. He contributed to the Habs' rapid transitional game and would have scored more points had the team not already been blessed with Doug Harvey to quarterback the power-play. One of his key traits was an ability to recover almost immediately after making a rare mistake on the ice.
Johnson stepped into a starting role with the Habs in 1950-1951 and impressed them with his eagerness and durability in playing all 70 regular-season games. He was, however, vulnerable to common rookie mistakes such as hasty decision-making and taking unwise penalties. Johnson soon became a stalwart on the penalty-killing unit, where the team utilized his speed and his ability to win the majority of the battles in the corners. One of Johnson's patented moves was to steal the puck from an attacking forward without bodily contact. This allowed him to feed a pass to one of his teammates while the opposition was still heading toward the Montreal net. Although Johnson rarely saw power-play duty, coach Dick Irvin often switched him to center if the Habs needed a goal late in the game. Johnson won his first Stanley Cup ring in 1953 when the Habs defeated Boston. He later played a vital role on the Canadiens squad that won the Stanley Cup an unprecedented five consecutive times from 1956 to 1960.

By the time the team began dominating the NHL, Johnson was beginning to receive his due credit. In 1956 he was selected to the NHL Second All-Star Team. Three years later, he won the Norris Trophy and earned a spot on the First All-Star lineup. That year he was arguably the most valuable player on the team as he stepped into the void created when Doug Harvey was injured. Johnson didn't have Harvey's speed but he was a superb stickhandler and a consistent, accurate passer who rarely erred in his own end of the rink.
Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
After apprenticing under the great Butch Bouchard, Johnson settled in with Jean Guy Talbot as long time defensive partners. A slow-footed defender, Johnson rarely received any power play time but was a key penalty killer for Les Habitants. The 6 time Stanley Cup champ was also known for his physical, sometimes dirty play.
Johnson may have been underrated by awards voters due to being overshadowed by teammates:

Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
Johnson was a hard working defensive blueliner who played much of his career along side Doug Harvery, perhaps the greatest d-man in NHL history. Playing in Harvey's shadow, Johnson's talents and contributions went largely unnoticed.

"I was classified as a defensive defenceman. I stayed back and minded the store. With the high powered scoring teams I was with, I just had to get them the puck and let them do the rest," said Johnson, who wore #10 long before Guy Lafleur made it immortal.

New York Rangers' GM Emile "The Cat" Francis was one of Johnson's fans. "Johnson's trouble was playing on the most colorful team in hockey history. With guys like Maurice Richard, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Jacques Plante and Jean Beliveau in the lineup, nobody ever noticed Johnson. But he was the real worker on the team."

''He was never, ever really appreciated in Montreal, even though he played on all those great teams,'' said veteran Montreal beat reporter Red Fisher. ''The reason for it was he, and others with him, played in the very long shadow of Doug Harvey. The only defenseman I ever considered better than Doug Harvey was No. 4 Bobby Orr.''
Johnson escaped Harvey's shadow for one season - 1958-59. With Harvey hurt for much of the season, Johnson posted a career high 10 goals and 29 assists while earning the Norris Trophy. The Norris Trophy win interrupted Harvey's 8 year ownership of the award.
Johnson was selected the most underrated player in the NHL in a 1957-58 Coach's Poll, which supports Pelletier's claim that he was generally underrated in Montreal.

Johnson was a very dirty player (though his PIM totals show that he seems to have usually gotten away with it):

Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
"Johnson's on my black list," explained Stan Mikita, a long time Blackhawk. "He liked to hit you from behind. When he got into a fight he never dropped his stick. Instead of using his fists, he used his stick for protection.
Johnson was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970. The election was one of the most controversial in Hall of Fame history. It was a bit of a surprise to some, including Tom. Eddie Shore in particular was so outraged by Johnson's inclusion that Shore threatened to buy back his own induction. Shore didn't appreciate Johnson's questionable stick work or alleged cheap shots.
Author Todd Denault (Canadiens Fan on hfboards) on how the 1950s Canadians used their defensemen:

Originally Posted by Canadiens Fan
Johnson and Harvey were rarely if at all paired as a duo. Toe Blake pretty much rotated the other three (sometimes four) defenseman around Harvey and Johnson. If you watch some of the old games you'll see that there is rarely a moment where the Canadiens don't have either Harvey and Johnson on the ice, but rarely, if ever are they paired together.
Originally Posted by Canadiens Fan
having watched all of the available footage (including some unavailable to the general public), in addition to having comprehensively interviewed Red Fisher, Dick Irvin, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Phil Goyette etc ... all (in the research for my Jacques Plante biography) I think I have some grasp of the issue.

In the course of my research I was also fortunate to be able to discuss Doug Harvey at length with Jean-Guy Talbot and 'Junior' Langlois (two Habs defensemen of the time) and it is from these discussions (and then a later check of the available footage) that I became aware of Toe Blake's penchant for not having Harvey and Johnson on the ice at the same time, and of rotating his other defensemen through them.

To repeat, according to the available footage, as well as the testimonials of Talbot and Langlois ... Harvey and Johnson were not a regular defense pairing.

I asked Todd for more specifics on the usage of Johnson (and Harvey) via PM. This is his response:

Originally Posted by Canadiens Fan
No problem, glad to help.

At even strength both Harvey and Johnson would generally play the right side with the other defenceman rotating around the two of them.

However, on penalty kills Toe Blake would often move Harvey over to the left side beside Johnson.

From what I watched Johnson almost always played the right side, while Harvey tended to move between the two quite frequently.

Hope that helps.

Todd Denault

Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe: 03-12-2013 at 03:48 AM.
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