Sunday, July 2, 2017

Goalie Chad Johnson back in Buffalo

Published by, 7-1-2017

A well-travelled Chad Johnson has been chasing opportunity for a number of years and has done so while playing for six different teams stretching from the NY to Phoenix to Boston, back to NY with the Islanders, cross state to Buffalo and back to his hometown of Calgary Alberta. On June 17 his hometown Flames traded him to Arizona in the Mike Smith deal and now he's back in Buffalo with the Sabres.

Johnson said today that the move from his first stint in Buffalo to Alberta "was nice and an opportunity to be in my hometown of Calgary" but the move was also precipitated by an opportunity to play a big role for the Flames as well.

Throughout his five NHL seasons prior to being traded to Buffalo, Johnson was working his way up the ranks and served as a backup to Tuuka Rask in Boston and to Jaroslav Halak on Long Island. He was traded to the Sabres by the Islanders in the Michal Neuvirth deal at the 2015 NHL Trade deadline and even then he never dressed for a game in Buffalo. Johnson took a shot to the ankle prior to his first scheduled start for the Sabres (March 6) and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

He entered the 2015-16 season as a backup to Robin Lehner and as luck would have it, Johnson would play the role of Buffalo's No. 1 goalie for most of the season. He played in an NHL career-high 45 games for Buffalo won a career-best 22 games while posting a second-best GAA (2.36,) and Sv% (.920.) Johnson said he felt he had a really good second half to that season and "wanted to continue that" if given the opportunity.

"When I left," said Johnson, "I always felt that I had unfinished business [in Buffalo]."

Johnson was never given that opportunity under the previous regime, but now that the Sabres have a new coach and a new GM, he felt that Buffalo was a good fit for him. "Anytime there's change, there's always opportunity for new people coming into an organization," he said. "For me, seeing changes [in Buffalo] was a positive."

The GM and head coach may have changed, but other things haven't as a lot of familiar faces still with the club. "There are a lot of players that are still there that I know and have a lot of trust in and respect for," he said, which influenced his decision. "Looking at the roster and breaking different teams down," he said of the process, "it made sense for me to be able to come back. I have a good relationship with Robin and to be able to come back and compete with him and push this team into being a playoff team.

"I see this organization going in the right direction, [they are] committed to winning, that's what I want to be a part of."

There's a familiar face in new GM Jason Botterill, for Johnson as Botterill was in the organization when the goalie was at the University of Alaska--Fairbanks. And in coming back to the Sabres, Johnson will presumably be working with his goalie coach from 2015-16 in Andrew Allen. "Having a relationship with Andrew was important in my decision when breaking down the teams in the process.

"He understands my game and really took my game to the next level."

Fit and opportunity brought Johnson back to Buffalo and although he looks to be in a back up role for the Sabres, we know from experience that if anything happened along the way where Lehner wasn't the starter, Johnson is more than capable to handle that role.

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