CALGARY – This was not the ideal homecoming for Chad Johnson.
"I think everybody, especially at this point halfway through the season, is just disappointed, embarrassed by how things have gone so far," the Buffalo Sabres goaltender said Monday.
There was no way for Johnson to sugarcoat things as he returned to Calgary, the city where he spent his childhood and played last season. Disappointment and embarrassment abound for the last-place Sabres and their struggling netminder.
"We're trying to stick together, but it's been a really tough year personally and as a team," Johnson said in Scotiabank Saddledome.
Johnson enters Monday's start against the Calgary Flames with a 1-8-3 record for an 11-26-9 club. He hasn't won since Oct. 15, and his .877 save percentage ranks 58th of the 60 goaltenders who have appeared in 10 games.
It's far from what the 31-year-old envisioned when he returned to Buffalo. He went 22-16-4 with a .920 save percentage for the Sabres in 2015-16. He went 18-15-1 with a .910 for the Flames last season. Those numbers include a red-hot start of 13-4-1 with a .932 save percentage that helped Calgary make the playoffs.
"That's what makes it tough about this year," Johnson said. "The last two years I've kind of had my game and the results. … I was where I wanted to be. Now it's tough really to get that. I think everybody is that way on this team."
Playing for the lowest-scoring team in the NHL will hurt any goaltender's numbers, but Johnson hasn't helped himself. He's allowed three goals or more in 11 of his 17 appearances, contributing to a 3.85 goals-against average.
Johnson entered the season with a career GAA of 2.44.
"Every game you can get in, you have something to prove," Johnson said. "Everyone has something to prove, especially when we're in last place in the league right now. A lot of guys on this team are fighting for contracts, fighting for positions, fighting for new teams, fighting for whatever you're looking to do.
"There's going to be changes."
Johnson is among those fighting for a contract and, given his age, a career. He signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Sabres during the summer, but those figures will be hard to replicate come July 1.
He was hoping a return to Calgary could propel him toward a solid second half and a brighter future.
"This is always special being able to play in your hometown," Johnson said. "Obviously, having played here and having some success and friends on the team still and in the organization and stuff, it's always exciting to be back here, but a little more special knowing last year and how it went."
Story topics: Chad Johnson