Kings GM Rips Berenson, Michigan
Jack Johnson Defends Former Coach, Program
CHN Staff Report
Former Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, a member of the U.S. Olympic team and former U.S. National Program player, who now plays for the Los Angeles Kings, harshly criticized his own team's general manager after taking offense to comments made about the Michigan program and Johnson.
In a move reminiscent of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow's criticisms of Minnesota coach Don Lucia amid the Kyle Okposo situation, Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi roundly criticized Michigan coach Red Berenson and the program during an interview. He further said that Johnson was not that good a player while at Michigan, and didn't handle criticism well.
“This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan],” Lombardi said in an interview with FrozenRoyalty.net. “Jack just did what he wanted. ... Michigan is the worst. For hockey people, if you’ve got a choice between a kid — all things being equal — one’s going to Michigan and one’s going to Boston University, you all want your player [going to Boston University]. Michigan’s players — Red doesn’t coach. It’s ‘Do what you want.’ He gets the best players in the country.”
Johnson lashed back in a story reported at the Los Angeles Times blog.
"I'm a Michigan man. I'm very proud of it. I wouldn't want to have it any other way," Johnson told the L.A. Times. "Michigan has produced more NHL players than any other school. Even the U.S. development program, people rip that and they just don't know anything about it and don't know what they're talking about."
Johnson went on to defend Berenson, who has won two national championships and is a one-time NHL Coach of the Year.
"(He) is one of the finest coaches and men that I've met," Johnson said. "For my general manager to rip me as a person and criticize me as a person and as a player and call me an awful hockey player is irresponsible and unprofessional."
Johnson was originally the No. 3 overall pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. He has certainly been known as a high-risk, high-reward player, who is still learning to hone his skills in the defensive zone.
Laying the criticism at Berenson's feet, however, seems peculiar coming from Lombardi. Perhaps he was just trying to defend and provide cover for Johnson, as Snow was theoretically doing.
Here's more comments from Lombardi:
“Jack was a thoroughbred out there. But he was all over the place. He was awful as a hockey player. As an athlete, you’re going, wow! Look at the way he skates, shoots, he can pass. But he had no idea where he was going.”
“At times, he was playing forward at Michigan. You had no idea what position he was playing. But he had always been the star and he always got his numbers. Then he turns pro and for the first time, we’re telling him ‘whoa, just make the first pass and learn to play in your own end.’ How about making a read in your own end about the right guy to pick up? He was awful.”
“He struggled with (criticism). ‘What do you mean, you’re criticizing me?’ Yeah. When these kids come up now, this might seem totally abnormal to you, because anyone else growing up probably got slapped around [figuratively speaking] as you were learning your career or anything you’re learning. But these kids are all told how great they are.”