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

    Hey Macfarlane…you’re not comparing Gaudreau to Stamkos are you ? Johnny Hockey my ass!!

    Everyone’s gotta quit telling this kid he is St Louis then maybe he will do something.

    • Steve Macfarlane

      Hey Grant. No, I’m definitely not comparing Gaudreau to Stamkos. I’m just giving an example of how sitting a talented kid in the NHL offers an opportunity to learn and you don’t have to send a guy with great hockey sense down to get him ready to contribute regularly.

  • 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.

  • piscera.infada

    @Truculence

    1. Hartley doesnt have a clue. 2. Burke implements numbers rule yet Jooris wears 86. 3. Gaudreau gets reduced min pp and es starting from the first regular season game for some inexplicable reason, literally. Watch the first game, after van scores he doesn’t play. MediAs all over gaudreau when it should be asked does Hartley believe in the skill of his young forwards to give them consistent ice time 4. Brad treliving wonders where the scoring is going to come from, sends young skilled forwards down to the farm, keeps old junk players on the roster. 6. Mcgrattan has yet to fight. 7. Flames take bad penalties, why, because it’s truculent? 8. Monanhan has yet to score, Sven could prolly help with that. 9. Gaudreau doesn’t get first line talent to play with, Jooris does. 10. Why Mcgrattan in the line up anyways? Hasn’t even had a fight yet 11. Oh yea flames signed Stajan to a new 3 year deal with a no trade to play on the fourth line, 3.5 mill 12. Nolan yonkman is the captain on adirondack, first year in the org….huh? 13. Loyal fans of this franchise have to watch lousy overpayed players such as Jones, Stajan, mcgratton etc. when what we really want is to see our young players play and play a lot. 14. A salary cap team with loads of space, loyal fan base, but are unwilling to accept their mistakes and buy out horrible contracts or allow the gm to make trades that will make your team better. The flames hired jay feaster not the fans. 15. Jay then signed Dennis wideman to a horrible contract, not the fans. 16. Sam Bennett was the most dangerous flame in the preseason, maybe not consistently, but it’ll come. Had he not been injured would he make the teAm? Prolly not but with standard set of earned not given you would have to think he shoulda made it.