Give The Gaudreau Demotion Talk A Rest—At Least For Now

While it’s true that Johnny Hockey clearly needed to take a seat after
five games of less-than-promising performances to start his first NHL
season, the press-box benching doesn’t mean his next stop has to be the
American Hockey League.

You didn’t really think it would be easy making the jump from the
college ranks to the fastest and most fluid game on Earth, did you?

Sure, he scored in his NHL debut last spring. But a meaningless final
regular-season game against a disinterested opponent, a flood of
adrenaline from the thrill of the milestone and the momentum of a hugely
successful NCAA season just miles in the rearview mirror are not the
same conditions Johnny Gaudreau is facing at the moment.

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The 5-foot-9 (*cough*on skates*cough*), 160-pounder (*cough*soaking
wet*cough*) winger is making his true leap to the pros in much tougher
conditions with much more on the line for everybody involved as teams
look to get off to strong starts to their season.

The Flames have played just once on home ice, where they can get the
matchups they want for their players. They played four straight games on
the road, including  back-to-back nights in Nashville and Chicago,
before Gaudreau was pulled. They play another emotional roadie in
Winnipeg on Sunday before settling in for five straight at the Saddledome.

“It’s been a slow start throughout the beginning of the season, but it’s
my first real season,” Gaudreau admitted to my former Calgary Sun colleague Randy Sportak. “The guys here are a lot stronger, faster,
smarter (than in college). These games are just a whole level up. It’s
(taking) a little time to get used to and adjust to. I’m playing with a
lot of talented players in the locker-room that are going to help me get
there throughout the season. I’m excited to see where I end up in a few
more weeks.”

The Flames can afford to give him that time. Sitting a talented young
playmaker in his first year from time to time offers a new learning
opportunity. You see things from above that offer insight into how to
play at ice level. Ask any sports writer and they’ll tell you just how
easy it is to play the game from their lofty perspective.

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Yes, confidence can be gained from a healthy scratch.

It worked for Steven Stamkos.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft hit a wall midway
through his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, managing just
one goal and a pair of assists in a 16-game stretch that followed a
respectable start of three goals and eight assists in his first 24
contests.

Then came the benchings. It was dubbed a learning opportunity by coach
Rick Tocchet. Stamkos’ response reads very similar in context to what
Gaudreau told Sportak.

“Obviously I did something right to have the success I did in junior,
but here it’s a whole new level and you have to learn the ropes,”
Stamkos told NHL.com at the time. “There are so many veterans on our
team and it’s a new game for me. It has taken me a little longer than I
expected to adjust, but things are starting to get on track now.”

Give Gaudreau a chance to get on track at the NHL level before shipping
him to the AHL. He deserves a longer look. The fans deserve to see him
play some more games at the Dome before any judgment is made.
No one wants to see him rushed. Emerging stud defenceman T.J. Brodie was
sent down to the minors after a stellar preseason a few years back and
it has worked out just fine for his development. Players have to put in
their dues, and Gaudreau may eventually have to sharpen his teeth with
the Adirondack Flames.

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There’s no better place to learn how to play in the NHL than right there
with the big boys, though, whether you’re suiting up for 16 minutes a
night or averaging closer to 10 in special circumstances and
occasionally sitting in the press box to help him learn what will serve
him best in reaching his teeming potential.

It worked for Stamkos.

It could work for Gaudreau.

At least give him the next homestand before ushering him out.


  • Grant

    Am I the only one who thinks he’s been solid? I watched him under a microscop, constantly rewinding his and researching his shifts and IMO he looks solid. He has sound positioning and back checks exceptionally well for a 21 year old rookie whose forte is offence.

    That said, Gaudreau is not a 3rd line RW. Just baffles me that a rebuilding team who has a guy with better offensive skills than anyone else on the club decides to play him out of position on the 3rd line.

    He’s not Monahan. He’s a small, skilled winger, so starting him out the same way as Monahan makes little sense.

    Please, just give him the Jooris treatment (why one and not the other?) for a couple of games and then decide.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m with you, I think he’s been great. I want to see him get an opportunity with good line-mates. I also think that will happen when we get this home-stand going. If you’re playing him on your top line on the road in St. Louis or Chicago, he’s going to be facing the toughest match-ups the league has to offer. I say we just see what happens with him in Winnipeg and when Hartley can get him out with good players against good match-ups.

      • MattyFranchise

        You were right to have your doubts about my argument. Now that my head has cleared I can see why my argument has been flawed.

        I even said it myself, let’s not Sven this guy.

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          Not really liking the term sven this guy.. its more like lets not burke this guy.. Sven has worked on what he was asked to work on still he needs to put up points. Both sven and gaudreau will be awesome….hope its with the flames….can they outlast burke

  • The Last Big Bear

    I fully expected Gaudreau to need all 4 years of college, and a year or two in the AHL before he was ready.

    Martin StLouis as a comparison didn’t become an impact player until he was 28 or so.

    Gaudreau is well ahead of the curve as far as I’m concerned, and so him sitting out a few games or going to the AHL are both perfectly fine in my eyes.

  • Burnward

    I’d be interested to see something like this:

    Glencross-Stajan-Jones/Seto

    Gaudreau-Backlund-Jooris

    Raymond-Monahan-Hudler

    Bollig-Colborne-Byron

    …and just roll them.

  • MattyFranchise

    I have no problem with JG sitting through out the season. The fact of the matter is, he is used to playing 40 games a year with limited travel.

    Starting off his first pro season with a giant road trip was never in his best interest.

    The kid is smart, one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history, and he has to deal with some of the toughest competition the world has to offer simply because he’s playing in the NHL now.

    A guy of his pedigree is gonna have a huge sign on his back, especially on the road, there’s a reason he is not playing up to his expectations (which are overblown by the way, remember Cam Barker?) He’s made some good plays in the first 5 games but NHL players don’t have school to worry about and they study players more.

    Give him an extended homestand where he can reasonably be given the high ground and I’ll stop making excuses for him if he can’t succeed there.

    Also, please please please Hartley, give this kid some first unit PP time, his vision alone warrants it. Playing with Brodano up there can only help him.

    Long story short, let’s not have another Sven on our hands.

    • piscera.infada

      I don’t understand the Barker parallel at all. They’re hardly congruous situations. I agree with the expectations argument to an extent, but I think every prospect that shows a hint of promise has unrealistic expectations – especially during a “rebuild”. Kind of goes with the territory.

      • MattyFranchise

        Barker had a stellar junior career, probably why he was drafted so high, but just couldn’t make it in the NHL as his pedigree suggested he should.

        JG has unbelievably high expectations because of his pre-NHL career but still may not make it in the NHL as his pedigree suggests that he should.

        That’s why I made the comparison.

        • piscera.infada

          I get that, but like I said, if all you have to go off of is expectations there’s probably hundreds of other comparables you could use. I think we sometimes forget that Gaudreau was a fourth-round pick (and still a bit of a reach there; if stories are to be believed).

          Barker was one of those high draft picks that didn’t pan out. Seemingly the opposite of Gaudreau. Johnny is basically found money, and if he turns out to be anywhere near the player we think he can be, it’s like winning the lottery.

          Barker, on the other hand, can be used as a cautionary tale of why “tanking” can be counter-productive. The same can be said of Pittsburgh picking Staal over Toews, et cetera.

      • Grant

        2 assists yesterday 2 goals today it seems that Granlund has found his game. He makes other guys better, last year it was Rhino I wonder who it will be today. I wonder when he will be called up.

        With Jooris injured it is likely Johnny plays tomorrow.