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.


  • 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.

  • OptimusFlame

    Sitting Johnny for a game here and there may be good for his body and his understanding of the game, sitting him too often if that occurs could be detrimental to his spirit. Once he is back in lineup hopefully against the Jets maybe Hartley will give him a better set of forwards. I was against the idea of playing Johnny and Monahan together at the start of the season but as both are struggling maybe a line of these two and hudler at least on the pp might get them going.

    Again lets be patient but lets also do the right thing for the kid and the organization and if that means after 20 games he gets some AHL time then so be it or if he returns to form great.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Kevin R

    Sitting is fine & very prudent by the Flames. Sheltered & selective minutes are mandatory. You gotta give this kid at least 10 games to figure out the much bigger dmen & wingers at the NHL level. Last thing Flames want is to throw him in the deep end right of the bat & see this kid get crunched &/or seriously injured. He has very high hockey IQ & now he is a new student.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    He’s small, young, and new. Taking off the occasional game is probably a good thing for him this season.

    I certainly hope that his ice time and PP time increase throughout the year though. It’ll make it easier for him to reach the expectations of Scoring God.

  • RKD

    Most of this was caused by an Eric Francis article to rile everyone up. Let’s see how he does on the homestand before we can really assess where he is at. He’s creating chances and playing well defensively. Going from college or the OHL to the NHL is a massive leap. Like Johnny said, you are playing against player that are bigger, faster, smarter. Gaudreau was king of the jungle in the NCAA now he’s got to start to learn how to compete, learn how finish his chances, make his teammates better even before he can start to really shine on his own.

  • beloch

    The Flames have one more game on the road and, after that, a five game home-stand against reasonable competition with no back-to-backs. If Gaudreau is still struggling after that, then we can revisit the notion of him shipping out for Adirondack. To discuss it when all we have is a five game sample with two back-to-backs is a tad silly. It’s like throwing your kid into the deep-end and then yanking him out by his ankles before he’s had a chance to figure out which way is up.

    • The Real Slim Brodie

      A few weeks ago people were talking 67 NHLE and Calder. Lol.

      I think the over reaction to the downside after 5 games is equally as crazy.

      Give the kid some time. He’ll get his 25-30pts this season playing 65 games and that will be one great season of development in a meaningless season (standings wise).

      In a few years he will be an impact player IF things are handled right. I think Hartley knocking fan expectations down a few (or a lot) of notches will ease the pressure off the kid and let him figure out this level without talk of Calders and insane NHLE.

    • EugeneV

      A few weeks ago people were talking 67 NHLE and Calder. Lol.

      I think the over reaction to the downside after 5 games is equally as crazy.

      Give the kid some time. He’ll get his 25-30pts this season playing 65 games and that will be one great season of development in a meaningless season (standings wise).

      In a few years he will be an impact player IF things are handled right. I think Hartley knocking fan expectations down a few (or a lot) of notches will ease the pressure off the kid and let him figure out this level without talk of Calders and insane NHLE.

  • 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

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • OptimusFlame

    I am also happy with Gaudreaus play so far, what I am worried about is Hartley’s depolyment of the kid. Pair him up with Backs and (insert rw here) and have them on the ice with Gio and Brodie so they actually can maintain possession and get some scoring chances. I thought Johnny was one of the best forwards in the Van game and since has seen his ice time cut a lil each game. He also has seen lil pp time since and no 4 on 4 ot shifts. When you have a player with his talents/size why not give him pp or ot mins where there is more room for him to operate. Should play him similar Hartley deployed Jooris in last nights game!!!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    WAAAAAAY off topic, but i just looked at the CFL standing s and see that 4 western teams all have better records than any team in the east. 1 western team will definitely cross over, but if that team has the best record in the east, do they get a bye? That can’t be right, can it?

  • EugeneV

    Dustin Stevenson…6′ 4 ” 200lbs Defenseman. Plays a rugged game and getting points in Addy early in the season..maybe a gem?? Worth watching over the next few months….

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I could have sworn you were trolling the ON posts recently. Are you a fan of any team or just like to trash talk?

      Doesn’t really matter. Flames are headed in the right direction, regardless of whether Johnny plays 82 games or not. He will need to score some points to be trusted in key situations (PP, PK, last 5 minutes of a close game). Hartley gave Jooris some plumbs because he showed he could handle PK in pre-season.

      I think you will see Johnny take off about the same time that Monahan does. Humm, maybe they should play on the same line?

      • 24% body fat

        Both teams suck, so I trash both. It helps generate chatter and comments in the articles which helps the site.

        Guadreau gets trashed, because the site was selling Gaudfather shirts before he played in he nhl, and it was said on this site by numerous posters that he would win the calder with “book it”

        Monohan was rushed in, and regardless of his 22 goals, it was not a good season. Hence his start to this season.

        What makes you think they are going in the right direction. Because the signed Engeland?

        Flames are three years away from making a claim like that.

        And the oilers should be heavily fined monetarily (as no rule states you will be fined draft picks for incompetance) if they get another lottery pick.

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          Even if you’re not a designated Oiler troll, I have yet to see anything of value spouted from your “neutral” higher ground. Just 100% negative crap without anything constructive.

          So, this one’s for you:

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          Still not willing to name your team I guess. No problem. FN was selling the shirt based on his years at BC, WJC and WC.

          This team is headed in the right direction because they have a deep prospect pool, haven’t gone nuts in FA like most teams and are sitting at the cap floor. They need some top D prospects but are deep everywhere else.

          Road games are tough to start a season on, but I’m not worried about Money or Johnny. Perhaps you should worry about your own team. Whatever that is.

  • 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.

  • OptimusFlame

    I would like to hear what the trainers think of JG’s strength and conditioning. IMO it will be a critical part of his maturation. It’s not like he can afford to lose weight by playing too many games in a short period..

  • OptimusFlame

    As Steve said, the Flames are on a 6 game road trip and cannot match up lines like at home.

    Tonight, Johnny is playing with NAcklund and Raymond…Finally a line combo I really like with Johnny!

    And Poor Matt Stajan is finally back with GlenX instead of 2 plugs! Did someone knock some common sense ino Hartley?

    GO FLAMES GO!

  • Nighteyes

    I think Backs and Raymond will compliment Johnny nicely. Backs brings defensive responsibility and is a good playmaking centre while Raymond has speed and a good scoring touch. I think he’ll benefit from some high hockey IQ and experienced line mates.