Johnny Gaudreau is, clearly, an incredible player. Not even two seasons into his career, and he already has 114 points to his name. In just his sophomore year, he’s been hovering around point-per-game status all season, and is tied for top 10 in NHL scoring. All that, and he’s only 22 years old – not to mention one of the smallest players in the league.
Gaudreau’s size has been the most frequent criticism of him, and it’s even reached out to his scoring stats. Clearly, he can put the puck in the net – at home. Thirty-six of his 49 points so far this season have come at home, while he’s only scored 13 points on the road.
A coach can control match-ups at home, which could account for Gaudreau’s greater success at home than on the road this season: a suggestion that because he is smaller, he needs to be sheltered in order to play as an elite player. But is this actually the case?
The NHL’s top 10 scorers
There’s a four-way tie for ninth in overall scoring – Gaudreau, along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Blake Wheeler all have 49 points so far this season – so really, I’m listing 12 players here. Fifty-odd games into this season, the following are the guys who have done the most offensively.
Gaudreau’s home and away splits are slanted, with a mere 27% of his points this season coming on the road. Is that the norm when comparing him amongst his peers, or is he an outlier?
Gaudreau is at the bottom of the pack. While most of the NHL’s top scorers score more at home than on the road – only Tyler Seguin, Artemi Panarin, and Joe Pavelski are the opposite – Gaudreau has by far the lowest road points percentage. He sits at 27%; the next lowest is Malkin, for whom 33% of his points have come on the road.
The Flames’ top 10 scorers
The NHL is one thing; the Calgary Flames are another. The Flames have been right at the bottom of league standings throughout this season. So maybe Gaudreau’s lack of points on the road simply stems from the team he’s on. The Flames do, after all, have a 15-11-0 record at home, but are 8-14-3 on the road.
So, are Gaudreau’s teammates suffering from a lack of ability to score on the road this season, as he seems to be?
It doesn’t quite appear to be the case. Only Sam Bennett and Michael Frolik have scored more on the road than at home; the rest of the Flames’ top scorers are all collecting most of their points at home. (Though this does, in part, reflect their records at and away from the Saddledome.)
Gaudreau once again carries the lowest road points percentage, although it is perhaps worth nothing that those who follow him – Sean Monahan at 31% and Mark Giordano at 33% – are the next lowest. Those three are the only Flames who have reached the 30 point mark so far this season.
What about Gaudreau’s rookie year?
This year, it appears Gaudreau is struggling to score on the road. His road points percentage is the lowest amongst his direct peers, whether they be his teammates or fellow top scorers league-wide.
But as Flames fans should know by now, percentages can be a very fickle thing. And for the attention Gaudreau’s lack of road scoring has gotten this season, it wasn’t addressed last season: because it wasn’t an issue last season.
In Gaudreau’s rookie year, he scored 64 points: 35 at home, and 29 on the road. That’s a road points percentage of 45%, which is about average for both the top scorers in the NHL this season, as well as this year’s top Flames scorers.
Is he actually facing more difficult competition on the road?
Via War on Ice, we can measure just how difficult the competition a player faces is via how much time it spends on the ice. This is a TOIC% stat, and it operates under the logic that better players will receive more ice time.
Here’s the breakdown for Gaudreau, both home and away, through his first two seasons in the NHL thus far:
Gaudreau is facing more difficult competition this season than he did as a rookie. As a rookie, seven Flames regulars – Giordano, Brodie, Jones, Monahan, Glencross, Hudler, and Backlund – saw more difficult competition overall. This season, only Brodie and Giordano see tougher opponents.
Despite this, Gaudreau is still out-scoring his rookie self. He did face easier competition at home in his first season in the NHL, but it doesn’t look like that’s actually been the case this season.
But that’s just a quality of competition metric. What about when it comes to actually generating chances? Here are Gaudreau’s raw scoring chance numbers:
Regardless of competition, Gaudreau is generating more chances at home than on the road. But while Monahan and Hudler were the only Flames forwards to have more scoring chances than Gaudreau in the 2014-15 season, this season, he’s the top forward. Monahan is second when it comes to generating chances, with 503 – 50 fewer than Gaudreau has had so far this season.
Last season, 45% of Gaudreau’s points came on the road, and so did 48% of his scoring chances. This season, only 27% of Gaudreau’s points are coming on the road… but so are 46% of his scoring chances.
This is only Gaudreau’s second year in the NHL. It’s far too early to declare him one-dimensional and in need of favourable match-ups to put up elite numbers. In fact, he’s facing his most difficult competition yet while at home this season, and yet, that’s where he’s putting up the most of his points, so the factor of competition doesn’t appear to be a problem.
Gaudreau’s scoring splits may be something to keep an eye on, but considering how the only anomaly here is that he simply isn’t putting up points on the road this season – despite generating plenty of scoring chances and facing more difficult competition than he did the year before, when he did score on the road – his low points totals away from home could just be a case of randomness.
One final thought, though: the Flames are above .500 at home, but well below a winning record on the road. Perhaps part of the reason for their follies is simply as Gaudreau goes, so do the Flames.