2014-15 By The Numbers: #24 Jiri Hudler

In all my haste to get Calgary’s, um, worst players out of the way, I somehow skipped over one of their major success stories – the NHL’s 7th-leading scorer, Jiri Hudler.

Hudler joined the Flames as a free agent, signing a long-term deal just before the 2012-13 lockout began. His 2012-13 season was thus, truncated, and unfortunately punctuated with the death of his father. Long story short, much like his coach (Bob Hartley), Hudler probably would’ve liked a mulligan on the entire 2012-13 campaign.

He seemed to get his legs under him last season, and he was really, really good in spurts this season.

Despite playing a LOT of hockey this season, Hudler’s even-strength ice-time was heavily concentrated on four players: Gaudreau, Monahan, Wideman and Russell – four of the Flames that got the most offensive zone starts this campaign. Below is the 100+ even-strength minutes breakdown for Hudler’s WOWY analysis.

Player Together Apart Diff.
Gaudreau 48.1% 43.0% +5.1%
Monahan 46.0% 45.2% +0.8%
Wideman 44.6% 41.9% +2.7%
Russell 44.6% 42.1% +2.5%
Brodie 46.6% 44.9% +1.7%
Giordano 49.0% 48.1% +0.9%
Engelland 48.5% 38.7% +9.8%
Granlund 41.3% 41.1% +0.2%
Jooris 53.2% 45.2% +8.0%

Hudler is generally a difference-maker on the ice, despite not being a huge guy, a physical guy, or a guy that is really noticeable every shift. Hudler played roughly 70% of his even-strength ice-time with Johnny Gaudreau, so it’s pretty fortunate that they have incredible chemistry and work really well together.

If the hope this season was to give Gaudreau some high ground in terms of zone starts and quality of competition, the fact that he gelled so well with Hudler and Monahan made life easy for everyone, in that Bob Hartley really only had to do half of that. The top line saw a lot of the NHL’s best players, but they did so while starting most of their shifts in the offensive zone. They weren’t world-beaters in terms of puck possession, but Hartley managed to give them some wiggle room.

Along with Gaudreau, Hudler was also one of the Flames that was most adept at carry-in zone entries. While Sean Monahan often just chucked the puck into the offensive end, Gaudreau and Hudler often created chances with carry-ins – Hudler had a particular favourite move where he’d skate into the zone, turn so he was moving parallel to the blue-line, then chuck the puck to a Flame that was entering the zone. Most of the time, it was Johnny Gaudreau who entered the space Hudler created and got a scoring chance, but Josh Jooris and T.J. Brodie also did so on occasion.

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It’s hard to tell which guy was the difference-maker this season: Hudler or Gaudreau. Both guys numbers are basically the exact same – aside from Gaudreau’s wonky start to the season. Either way, they’re basically the same player – and you can make an argument that the duo’s performance was predicated on how effective everyone else was. If the team had nothing going on, you could key in on the top line – as Anaheim and Vancouver attempted in the post-season – and likely win. But if the Flames depth guys got something going, it was more difficult to do.

So, long story short, the above chart more or less represents Calgary’s variable depth throughout the season. Sunrise, sunset.

Oh, and Jiri Hudler is a damn fine hockey player. He’s not a great defensive player, but Hartley’s smart enough to pair him with a smart two-way center in Monahan and a fast, underrated back-checker in Gaudreau, and give them a ton of offensive-zone starts.

As Calgary develops more useful depth and some of their youngsters progress, Hudler may become less important to their success. But right now, he’s arguably the glue to their top line and a very effective veteran mentor to those aforementioned young players. And despite the inconsistency of his (and the top line’s) performance in 2014-15, he still was one of the top point-producing players in the entire league. The 2015-16 season is the final year on his current deal. I figure the team attempts to re-sign him, but I have no idea if the two sides can make the numbers work.

2014-15 BY THE NUMBERS

#1 Jonas Hiller #19 David Jones
#3 David Schlemko #21 Mason Raymond
#4 Kris Russell #23 Sean Monahan
#5 Mark Giordano #24 Jiri Hudler
#6 Dennis Wideman #25 Brandon Bollig
#7 T.J. Brodie #29 Deryk Engelland
#8 Joe Colborne #31 Karri Ramo
#11 Mikael Backlund #32 Paul Byron
#13 Johnny Gaudreau #33 Raphael Diaz
#15 Ladislav Smid #60 Markus Granlund
#17 Lance Bouma #79 Micheal Ferland
#18 Matt Stajan #86 Josh Jooris
Everybody Else
    • supra steve

      I won’t argue that moving him this summer is the right or wrong thing to do….but, who will offer a first rounder (in a deep draft year) for Hudler? I don’t see his value being that high. So then what would you NEED to get for him in order to make moving him worth doing?

      • Parallex

        … who will offer a first round pick for a top 10 NHL scorer, who even if this was his career year is still a consistent 20G+ pace scorer, that has had a letter (indicating that his current team views him as having leadership qualities)?

        Ummm, I think the answer would be “several”.

        • supra steve

          And what were the offers for Cammi last trade deadline? And Glencross a few months ago?

          Also, Hudler has not been a “consistent 20G+” scorer, he has scored 20+ 3 times in his career. He has been a 10-19 goal guy more frequently. So now what’s he worth?

  • Parallex

    He’s basically scored at that pace for the past four NHL seasons and five of his last six… that’s consistent enough for me. Hudler would get you a first rounder easy… not a top 10 pick but you’d get one I wager.

    • Greg

      I think he would too, but ironically he’d probably be worth more at the deadline as a rental then tight now with a full (and underpaid) year on his contract.

      If the flames are not in the playoff race next year, but he’d fetch a good package, I’m all for trading him. If they are in it and he’ll resign for a good price and term, I’m all for that as well.

    • Not a chance, if it happens on draft day or throughout the summer I will gladfully eat crow but I don’t see anyone giving up a 1st rounder for this guy with the exception of maybe the two worst GM’s in the league (Sather and Rutherford) who do so with regularity, I think they maybe have even learned from their mistakes tho.

      1st rounders are imperative for building and maintaining organizational growth and aren’t thrown around nearly as much as they used to be

  • RKD

    Hudler is a pretty darn special player, he’s a good mentor to the younger players and had a great season. He proved he can do just fine without guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg as his linemates and that speaks volumes about him as a player. If we are all quick to pull the trigger on him, then we better make darn sure the return is something special.

  • RKD

    I’m all for trading Hudler at the trade deadline next year..as long as he is resigned the next year with us.We don’t want a bunch of kids without any vets on the team…Stajan and Hudler are functional vets and good for the kids.We don’t want to be like the Oilers.

    • Parallex

      “We don’t want a bunch of kids without any vets on the team”

      Why do I always feel like whenever someone says this they believe that time stands still for everyone else?

      Say we do trade Hudler… are we somehow “vet” free? No, We’ll still have Stajan, Raymond, Giordano, Jones, Wideman, Russell, Smid, Engellend… heck Backlund will be on his 6th/7th pro-season and Brodie his fifth. Yes we’ll “lose” vets… but other players will age into “vet” status.

      • Parallex

        I agree with you which is why I get sick of the Oilers and their excuses for Hall, Eberle and RNH as they all have been in the NHL for how many seasons. They are not the young kids on the block.

  • Hudler is one of the “vets” I would keep. His calming effect on the team can’t be understated. He has been with a winning team and brings that with him too. The chemistry he has with Monahan and Gaudreau is fantastic. I don’t see these glue players growing on trees.

    Don’t trade him unless the offer is ridiculous. Period.

    If there were 4 tiers of players:

    Tier 1 Untradeable – Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, Brodie

    Tier 2 untradable unless there is a pretty stupid offer – Gio, Hudler, Backs

    Tier 3 – replaceable – most of the team

    Tier 4 – people that need to be replaced!
    Smid, Bollig, Engelland, Colbourne.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Not likely interested in trading Hudler as chemistry there with 13 and 23 and thats not easy to find plus he’s been with Detroit and shows he is elite without Datsyuk and Zetterberg, plus goid character. So deal must be very strong to trade.