2015-16 Reasonable Expectations: Jiri Hudler

I would like to use this picture as wallpaper. Not computer wallpaper, but literally on the walls of my home.

I think it would be fair to say that most Flames fans were a little unsure of what the Flames were getting when Jay Feaster inked former Red Wing Jiri Hudler to a four-year deal in 2012. However, after last season, I would think that many have forgotten any ambivalence felt towards him. 

However, in the cold light of summer, what should we expect from the Flames left-winger who will turn 32 this season? Let’s reflect and project!

When the Flames signed Hudler in the Summer of 2012, there were some mixed reactions about how useful a player he would be given the state of the Flames in 2012. I looked over some of the reactions and it is truly bizarre the transformation that the Flames have undergone in a relatively short period. This is from Kent’s breakdown of the Hudler signing:

Hudlersign

Man, that feels like a long, long time ago doesn’t it?

Since signing with the Flames, Hudler has moved from an auxiliary scoring winger to leading points guy and wingman to the stars.  In fact, over the past three seasons, Hudler has led the Flames in points and performed at a top-40 pace among league scorers. 

NHL Scoring13-15

data courtesy of quanthockey.com

I started off by including some of Hudler’s teammates when he joined the Flames and then looked at some of his closer comparables in terms of league scoring (by the way, check out Blake Wheeler). You should check out that list, it is interesting to see Hudler’s production over the course of the last three seasons and see the peer group that he’s situated within. Certainly, it could be said that he has earned his four year, $16 million contract from the summer of 2012. 

Hudler has spent a great deal of his time in Calgary playing with very young players and has gained a reputation as a solid influence on his pupils. At 31 years old, this past season was unequivocally Hudler’s best, smashing career highs in goals with 31 and points with 76, two points shy of a PPG average. The reason for Hudler’s success was the formation of one of the most successful Flames lines in recent memory:

  

 

I had many to choose from, this one just felt best though.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM HIM THIS SEASON?

chart (2)

As you can see from this chart, science proves that Jiri Hudler will continue to grow his points pace at an exponential rate until his seven points-per-game season at age 63. It’s a fact. 

However, if science fails us, Hudler’s production will dip or plateau soon and questions I’m sure Flames fans are curious about are: how sustainable was Hudler’s last season? Should 65+ points be expected of Hudler as long as he’s playing with Gaudreau and Monahan? Can Jiri Hudler be my uncle? 

Well, it’s hard to say how long Hudreanahan will stay together, but it is important to note that the majority of Hudler’s successes last season came at even strength. In fact, Hudler was the NHL’s most prolific even-strength scorer last season:

ESscoring

teamshots

So, as you may have guesses, the big line was extremely successful at generating pucks towards the net and Hudler was one of the most successful even-strength fowards in the NHL last season. If the Flames are going to want a prayer of repeating their playoff success last season, they will need a strong season from this top-line and Hudler is a large part of that. 

The good news is, Hudler is a reliable point producer and has been throughout his career and is heading into a contract year. The last time Hudler was in a contract year, he scored a then career high in goals for the Red Wings with 25. 

I suppose it boils down to: should Flames fans expect 70+pts from him this season? Probably not. But if Hudler can play more than 65 games, it seems likely that he’ll approach the 20 goal mark and the 60 point mark. I think most Flames fans would be happy with that.

  • mk

    I’d echo your comment – 20 goals and 60 points is a pretty reasonable expectation. I think a lot will depend on 2 questions: who does Hudler play with and how much offense can his linemates create?

    If he continues with Gaudreau/Monahan, we probably see 65-70 points. If he plays with Bennett (giving him the rookie-mentor treatment), he might start a bit slower and hit 55-60 points while showing Bennett the ropes. If Bennett comes out flying (possible, but its not something to bet on), Hudler could hit that 65-70 points this way too.

  • mk

    Considering this is a contract year, don’t expect much less from Jiri. He isn’t a selfish player, but he will likely takes as many shots as he can. As well, Johnny and Monahan are in contract years as well, so they will likely play with even more intensity. Besides, both players have improved every year they have played hockey.

    What this article doesn’t talk about is what he is worth compared to his group. Getting older, but putting up better numbers. Finally playing on the 1st line. Plays a less physical game, so he could conceivably play into his later 30’s.

    Do the Flames consider him to be a part of the core for the next 3-5 years? If so, contract talks will begin in ernest this fall/winter.

    • Don’t expect much from Jiri because this is a contract year and he isn’t selfish? I’m not sure I follow your lack of logic.

      If the first line has another strong campaign I’d like to see them extended as one unit, three identical contracts. Maybe 5.5M for 5 years. I think that would really help them all to see reason when considering the teams cap situation.

      • Actually I said “don’t expect much less…”. Meaning he will pot his share of goals, but will pass quite a bit too (not selfish). Playing with Mony and Johnny will translate some of those passes into points.

  • ‘As you can see from this chart, science proves that Jiri Hudler will continue to grow his points pace at an exponential rate until his seven points-per-game season at age 63. It’s a fact.’

    I love science.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    I see know reason to expect a significant decline in his play. He will likely start the season with the same line and they will likely be productive again; when things do get juggled he will likely ride shotgun with Bennett. He’s in a contract year so he will have even more incentive to play well. Reasonable expectations; someone will find his shoes.

  • I am a big fan of this guy. I was one of the people that thought Detroit inflated his possession and numbers. Was glad to be wrong.

    I have seen it time and time again where glue guys like this are traded and are difficult to replace. Not to say that he is someone you absolutely can’t trade but he is just below that level in my books. I may change my mind if it looks like he wants a truckload of money and they are not close on a deal. Then FLames may need to trade to at least recoup something.

    He seems like a reasonable guy so I am guessing that if he wants to stay and the Flames want him to stay, they can work something out.

  • hulkingloooooob

    ideally he regresses slightly, enough for us to find a way to sign him. otherwise he’s going to be too expensive. a few less points and a split in his mentorship skills (keep the top line together for the most part, but let him play with bennett a bit too) and I’ll be happy. i’d love to see him compete with OV for the rocket richard, but we simply can’t afford that.