Folks, National Hockey League clubs open their prospect camps later this week. Pretty soon it’ll be time for main camps, the pre-season and, inevitably, the fantasy draft season. You know what I mean: that week where every time you said “Sure!” to a league invitation from somebody you know comes back to haunt you. If you’re like me, you’ll have a bunch of drafts in the same week.
Instead of panicking or giving up sleep to prepare for your draft, your pals at Daily Faceoff – who post updated lines, pairings and starting goaltenders for every day of the regular season – have prepared their annual Draft Guide to help you navigate your annual fantasy conundrums.
Among the various prognostications in the guide is a projection for Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. Daily Faceoff’s crack team projects Gaudreau for his second consecutive 30-goal season and 76 points overall, a slight dip from his 78 points in 2015-16. But given the changes in Calgary over this past summer, could Gaudreau crack 80 points in his third full NHL campaign?
If you’d like the short answer, it’s “yes, probably.”
If you’re curious as to why that’s the case, it’s really three questions:
- Will Calgary’s coaching change make Gaudreau better?
- Will Calgary’s power-play be better than it was in 2015-16?
- Will Calgary’s scoring depth improve?
There’s no definitive answer to the first question, but optimists point to the improvements made by Jamie Benn during the period of time when Glen Gulutzan was head coach. While his production and possession fell back a bit in 2012-13 (likely one of the reasons Gulutzan wasn’t brought back for a third year), Benn’s individual Corsi events per 60 increased during his tenure, and the challenges Benn faced during Gulutzan’s tenure arguably helped Benn explode offensively in recent years.
(In that sense the answer is “Yes, eventually…”)
In terms of the power-play, a cynic would answer “Well, it couldn’t get much worse than it was…” The Flames had one of the worst power-plays in the league for much of last season (and they were among the very worst special teams in the league overall). Ultimately, their power-play was 22nd in the NHL despite featuring two top NHL scorers in Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and a bunch of high-end defenders in Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. If nothing else, the complete changeover of the tactical staff for the Flames PP – Gulutzan has been joined by former Ottawa Senators coach Dave Cameron, who’ll handle the power-play units – should freshen up the systems and provide a new perspective. For what it’s worth, if the Flames’ power-play was nudged up to the league’s average, it would equate to an extra four or five goals on the same number of extra-man opportunities. If you think Gaudreau would get a point on half of those, he’s at the 80-point mark already.
In terms of scoring depth, it matters in the sense that (especially on the road) Gaudreau saw a lot of the league’s top pairing defenders and shutdown lines. Why? Well, because his line was the only one consistently generating offense. If Sam Bennett can continue his growth and becomes more of a threat, or Micheal Ferland can finally translate his size and physicality to offensive situations, perhaps the Flames can develop more secondary scoring. Or perhaps Matthew Tkachuk and/or Hunter Shinkaruk can become full-time NHLers that can help ease the scoring burden. There are a lot of possibilities for the Flames to spread the offense around and become less of a one-line team, but none of them are certainties (and several of them are somewhat improbable).
The long and the short of it is that Gaudreau got keyed in on in a major way last season and still managed nearly 80 points on a team with one primary scoring line. Can he eke out two more points this season on a (theoretically) better-coached team with an improved power-play and better scoring depth? Unless his game significantly falls off and he ceases to be able to do the things that he can do, Gaudreau probably can crack the 80-point plateau this coming season.
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