Nashville hosts Columbus Saturday and Johansen spoke to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch to discuss how it all went off the rails for the Jackets, the most difficult adjustments to a new club and the different state of mind for each organization.
The new Predator still stays in touch with his friends in Columbus through social media.
“Shapchat and all of that. That’s how we stay in touch now, and it’s every day,” said Johansen. “Like Calvy [Matt Calvert] will send me a video of his baby, just him playing with his kid or something like that.”
Going back to the beginning of the season, Johansen said the fact that his line, which included Nick Foligno (coming off a career year) and the newly acquired Brandon Saad, didn’t stay together was a mystery.
“I never saw it coming, I swear,” he said. “Me, Nick [Foligno] and Saader [Brandon Saad] were really clicking. The guys here [in Nashville] tell me they came away from that game saying, ‘Oh, God, that’s the best line in the league for sure.’ And all I can say is, ‘I don’t know what happened.’ It came apart. We went away from that line, and they didn’t try us back together once.”
If one remembers the Jacket’s first game — and it truly was a promising game for the club — it’s a wonder how their play fell off so quickly.
“That first game, against the Rangers, we were good,” he said. “It was a great hockey game. We’re up (2-1 with three minutes left), and then they got that lucky goal. We lose (4-2). I would never blame it on Bob [Sergei Bobrovsky], but he said it himself, that he had no confidence. He was struggling from the start.
“I’ll say this: I wish I was still a Blue Jacket. Let me make sure I’m wording this the right way… I wish we didn’t start the season 0-8. I wish we were in the playoffs. I wish we had a great year. I wish we were all still together. But that’s professional sports. I loved more than anything else in the world being a Blue Jacket. But now I’m here. And since they didn’t believe that I could be a big piece of the franchise in Columbus any more, I love being a Nashville Predator.”
What truly put heat on Johansen’s situation was the hiring of coach John Tortorella after their poor start. When he was benched and scratched early after Tortorella’s arrival, it fueled the rumours that the two were incompatible.
“We’re 0-8 and I wasn’t playing well, there’s no secret there,” he said. “I wasn’t playing my game at the time. I was struggling to play. A lot of us were. With that … if you think about a coach’s job and the situation he comes into, he has so much he has to take care of and learn about right away.
“The way things were going, it was like, something is going to happen. You hear the rumors.”
Since Johansen arrived in Nashville, he’s quietly put up good numbers, despite the Predators’ up-and-down play. He has 25 points in 35 games after scoring 26 points in 38 with Columbus.
“What I’ve noticed about this group here … they are hungry,” he said. “In Columbus it would have been satisfying to make the playoffs. Here, they haven’t gotten past the second round, but they’ve been in the playoffs basically every year. And it’s starting to get to them. It’s starting to be the team that can’t get past the first or second round, and that’s in the back of their heads right now. We want to go deep. We want to win the Cup. Bottom line.”