Johnny Gaudreau is playing much longer shifts this season

On Jan. 24, Elliotte Friedman offered up some thoughts about shift lengths in his 30 Thoughts column. Specifically, it was about how much time Erik Karlsson spends on the ice over the course of a single shift (#17):

A year ago, Karlsson played the most in the NHL (2,375:55) and had the longest shift length (1:04). But he was tied for 72nd in shifts per game and 34th in overall shifts taken. It’s not like he’s stapled to the bench, as his overall time is eighth. But he’s now second in the NHL in shifts per game, going from 27.1 to 32.2 per night. His length has dropped to 0:50, which is 38th. He’s agreed to stay out a little less, but the trade-off is minimal as they put him out there more.

What does this have to do with the Flames? Well, shorter shifts generally result in more effective shifts. And Johnny Gaudreau has gone from being tied for 64th among all forwards in average shift time in 2015-16 to fourth this season.

That’s quite a jump, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s the Flames’ average shift time for the past three seasons. We start with 2014-15, when the Flames unexpectedly made the playoffs; we continue into 2015-16, when they bottomed out again; and we finish with this season, when they have a new coach (and are back in the playoff hunt). (Click on the chart for full-sized image.)

flames shift length

Just about everyone’s average shift length has gone up this year, with a couple of exceptions in T.J. Brodie (who’s been bumped down to the second pairing in place of a top pairing that’s working pretty dang well) and Jyrki Jokipakka (who has been, well, bad). 

You see some guys with notable increases, too. Matt Stajan is one; he’s a responsible bottom six centre who has proved himself reliable once again over the course of this season. Michael Frolik has gotten a jump, too, as the line he plays on has been the Flames’ best this season.

Then you’ve got guys like Sam Bennett, still finding his way in the NHL, getting much longer shifts. Sean Monahan went from modest growth under Hartley to much more this season. And then there’s Gaudreau, who leads everyone on his team in shift length – including the defencemen.

We’ve seen Gaudreau try to do a lot on his own this season, and a fair amount of the time, that backfires. Monahan going out there and scoring goals with a high shooting percentage – as he has done throughout his NHL career – does a lot to alleviate any flaws in his game, but Gaudreau has (deservedly) set himself up for higher offensive expectations.

Both Monahan and Gaudreau have had about an extra four seconds added to their shifts this season. The difference? Monahan’s shift length this season was Gaudreau’s last year. Gaudreau has had even more time added to his – and it’s not exactly paying off.

Perhaps reigning Gaudreau in could be a solution to some of his struggles this season. Not to say he doesn’t have the endurance a professional athlete requires, but we are talking about a now-23-year-old (still a kid, really) who once overdosed on Nutella and can’t identify fruit.

On a more serious note, though, there is evidence to believe players Gaudreau’s age should be playing longer shifts – but perhaps not as long as he currently is. Hockey Graphs took a look into when NHLers are at their peak physical condition, and surprise, they tend to have greater stamina when they’re younger – but having their shifts exceed 50 seconds on average may be asking a bit much. 

Brodie is the only other Flame to hit the 50 second mark in the past three years, and remember, Brodie is one of the few who actually plays shorter shifts this season.

As talented as Gaudreau is and however much he deserves top line minutes, maybe shorter (and more frequent) shifts would be a better way of utilizing him. Even if he is the go-to guy when the Flames end up down a winger (such as they were against the Flyers), Gaudreau could probably stand to spend a little less time on the ice all at once.

  • WSO

    As I Wrote on another thread, Id look at shipping [misogyny edited out, user probated. So long, fella -Ari] out for a couple of actual building block cornerstone pieces while he has value. He’s not a franchise player, regardless of the love by flames fans. Hes not Patrick Kane, Toews, Seguin….and hes certainly not Mcdavid or Matthews. The flames would be well served to turn him into an actual franchise player to pair up with Monahan and Tkachuk over the next decade.

    • freethe flames

      I’ll play. So what would you want for Johnny? What do you think teams would pay for him? The two teams that might overpay would be NJ and PH; what is the offer?

        • McDavid's Comet

          That would be ironic; Gudreau and Hall are very alike, they play the game very similarly.

          It would also drive Oiler fans “bat-s***t-crazy”.

          With the way john’s season has went this year (not that Hall has had a stellar year either), it wouldn’t be a player for player swap. Calgary would have to sweeten the deal; based on what Jersey had given up to get Hall.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      It’s true JH is not those players. He is also not payed to be those players. Toews and Kane make 10.5$ a year. A player like McDavid will probably get 12-14$mil. Players making bank like that force most teams to have less talented 2/3/4 lines.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      He may not be a franchise player but when he is on his game….he is electrifying. A lot of stories are coming out about off ice issues which may be cause for concern. He is having a tough year but We have all seen what he is capable off.

      I am always amazed how star players reach an elite level without proper training or nutrition. Johnny will need to step this up if he wants to reach the next level. There has been a lot of cases of players hitting a softmore slump….Johnny is a year late but it is nothing more. He was a finalist for the Calder in his first year, 6th in league scoring in his second year.

  • freethe flames

    So it is now the middle of February and soon the NCAA will be finishing; who are the NCAA FA that the flames should be considering? Whose out there? This is another place where a team could target a need.Anyone have any thoughts.

  • Stan

    This is something I’ve heard GG numerous times. After the loss to MON, he ragged on the fourth line for taking too long of a shift. After JG was demoted to the fourth line, GG cited shift length as one of the reasons. It’s encouraging to see that he’s aware of the issue IMO, hopefully JG reigns it in a bit! For his sake and the teams.

  • Justthateasy

    Yup. Agreed. I have followed Johnny since his second last year at BC but now I see he has plateaued. As interesting as he is, it’s time to move him.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Problem with moving Johnny before next season is that the Flames would be selling low. Johnny has shed value this season faster than my Bre-ex shares did.

      Trade Johnny before he can recoup value and what do you get?

      -a passel of low to mid level prospects

      -a big ticket player who has fallen out of favour with his club

      In other words, not much.

      Ol’ Johnny has done screwed his employer good. But any problem caused by Johnny can be fixed by Johnny. Let him have a bounce-back season next year and then pull the trigger. The problem here is backsliding. The team will think Johnny’s bad year was a one off and keep him. Big mistake!

      I think the real problem with Johnny is that what I have said all along: he doesn’t want to play for a team that is an outpost in the middle of nowhere. If he had his druthers he would be playing on the American east coast. I am not criticizing Johnny foe this because it is more a problem with the CBA which gives very little bargaining power to players during their first several years in the league. Players are virtually slaves to their teams until they finally become UFAs.

      If Johnny hated being a Flame so much, why did he sign for 6 years? By signing for 6 years, a team interested in him knows exactly how long they can control him and for how much. That makes a player much more attractive on the trade market. The only problem here is that Johnny has not given a $6.75M season to the Flames, so he has hurt his trade value immensely.

      But Johnny has repeatedly said how much he loves the city, the fans, the club, his teammates. Does that mean Johnny is a flaming liar? No. Remember the CBA makes players virtual slaves to their clubs until the player finally gains UFA status. Just like your momma taught you, I am sure Johnny’s momma did the same when she said, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

      Play well next year, Johnny, and if the team doesn’t get stupid, you can realize your dream of having your folks at every home game plus a lot of the 2-hour roadies.

      • Justthateasy

        That pretty much sums it up as I see it. He is still a mama’s boy and being at home would serve him well. He will have his flashes and maintain his marketability over the foreseeable future. Trades don’t happen overnight and the right trade will come along. We should not fall in love with him because he is a commodity, after all.

  • TrumpeterSwan

    Currently Johnny Hockey is 101 in NHL points, clearly not enough for the 6.75 million contract he is receiving but still not too bad of value when you consider the upside. I don’t think the shifts are the issue.

    Johnny has to adjust his game as the league has adjusted to his. IE: How many times do you see Johnny get tied up by a bigger Dman on a rush? (Like all the time now)

    Also if Johnny had a bigger winger or centre to create space for Johnny he might do better. Lucic type guy

    I say give him one more year to develop and if the same result trade him in a Taylor Hall type deal for a big shutdown Dman to replace wideman.

  • Pond Hockey

    Is Gudreau the problem or is it his line mates? With the right complimentary pieces a Gudreau line could be dynamite.

    Every team in the NHL would be thrilled to have a player like Gudreau.

  • Brodano12

    Guys shut the F*@$ up. We aren’ trading Johnny, ever.

    New coach, radically new systems, no training camp, first injury in his entire life, unlearning all the bad Hartley habits in the neutral zone, having Chiasson as a RW for 31 games, and of course longer shifts… there are plenty of reasons Johnny’s production isn’t as great this season. He still leads the team in points per game, and has been getting a lot of looks (his shooting percentage is down from his career average), so his numbers are bound to up, especially now with Versteeg on his line and Monahan playing really well. T

    here are some changes that could help him, but almost every elite player hits growing pains in their first few seasons, and he has definitely been improving his defensive game (his plus minus sucks but his possession numbers are much better). Talking about trading the best player we’ve had since Iggy and Kipper after just 50 games of slight underperformance offensively? Holy shit guys come on. This guy was SEVENTH in NHL scoring as a sophomore. He led an incredibly stacked Team North America in points. He’s had immeasurable success on every team he’s played on and has been his team’s best player on very good international teams at every level. Gaudreau is a top player in this league, and there are very few players I would even consider trading him for.

  • Justthateasy

    Johnny does not have any toughness to compensate for his size like the aforementioned characters. All stick work and never the body. I tell you He’s soft. No room to dipsy doodle 5 on 5. 3 on 3 yes.
    Did I mention overpaid?

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    It may be true that he is not a franchise player, but he’s not paid like one either. If the current trend continues, the flames could look to send him eat for Taylor Hall.

    Im sure I’m not alone, at some I think he’s going to be back in the NE states.

  • Lucky 13

    What gives? Johnny not a franchise player? I wish I lived in your world.
    Last 2 seasons Johnny was scoring at a rate of .89 per game. This year it’s at .73 which may be pedestrian by his standards but not terrible if you consider it’s been a year of low point production by many elite players.

    Having to play with Chiasson for 1/2 of the season I’m sure didn’t make things any easier for him. Having a broken finger and wearing an oven mitt would make anyone feel uncomfortable, regardless of his abilities. Or do you know something I don’t about hockey gloves?

    It’s pathetic that some are suggesting trading him already! Give your head a shake and wake up.. Johnny is the most dynamic player we’ve had in a decade and yah let’s just trade him because he’s having a little offensive slump.

    I hope you all eat your words next season. He has been consistent at every level he’s played. He’ll rebound and he’s truly happy to be a Flame. Let’s give him some credit for who he is and what he means to this team.

    He’s going nowhere!

    • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

      I hope you’re right, but…..

      We’ve seen some concerning things from Jonny this year. A contentious contract negotiation where he presumably didn’t get what he wanted, his drop in point production, extended shifts, trying to beat teams on his own, he has been popped twice this year already (Gologoski & Komorov) which is something we never saw before, and he barely showed for a practice (practice?) in Central Park.

      I don’t question his talent, but I’m starting to question how engaged he is. If he doesn’t want to be here, best to cut bait.

    • Justthateasy

      In my opinion he has no impact on the game except in overtime. I will take him at half the money. The money is what sticks in people’s craw.
      He has good intentions but he is limited. Don’t cry when he goes. It is business.

      • Lucky 13

        Lol. I can cry if I want to. As you can see my username is indicative about how I feel about this kid. So I can be a bit salty when fans call for trades etc.

        However he needs more time in this league to play with better wingers to create space for him, being smaller in stature. I have a friend who’s son played hockey with Johnny and they remind me (weekly) that he wants to produce so badly that he takes liberties to create offence. He’s driven by success, which in itself is a remarkable goal for such a young man. He’s not used to being in a slump or not dominating play, so perhaps this adversity is good for him in the long term.
        Sure he needs to mature but he comes from a great family and he’ll be just fine once he finds his way around this.

        Patience is something we all lack, but with Johnny the rewards will be worth it imo.

    • Southalb43

      I completely agree, playing with chiasson and brouwer (and Bennett occasionally) doesn’t help him at all. He needs someone who can make space on the ice for him. I remember watching hudler and him playing together seeing how they read the play and cycled he puck, he hasn’t anyone like that to play with so of course he won’t be as productive. I’m certainly not a mathematician, but by adding Brouwer, stajan and chiassons contracts (appr 8 mil combined) I believe we could have 1 or 2 quality top 6 forwards with actual scoring ability, and have shinkaruk, vey, or Poirier (you pick the minor leaguer) fill spots for 7-8 min a night at a much reduced cost.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Many people make their decisions about who they think is good, or bad, game-to-game. With that way of thinking, everything has to happen RIGHT NOW. This way of thinking is not realistic, and not the way any rational GM does their job. The reality is, team, and player development, take time.

  • BobB

    Adjustments are needed. It’s tough being a small man in a big man’s world and the NHL is a learning environment that adapts very quickly.

    Teams adjust and Gaudreau is the Flames biggest ticket now. He’s the McDavid, Crosby, Kane etc of this team. Talent he has in spades, but to succeed you need toughness, fitness, strength and compete every shift. Gaudreau’s gotta figure out how to find that next gear.

    Look, we should know the textbook. We had the textbook small, talented forward in Theo Fleury. He excelled in the clutch and grab era – 204pts after 195 games by the end of his third season. 1.05ppg. But he was tough as nails too and had 339pim in those seasons, likely half of that giving it back to those giving it to him.

    The most important skill Theo had was compete. Much like Iggy after him, you fired Theo up and he burned you on the scoreboard. Very Often.

    Maybe Gaudreau and Theo should go for lunch, the young guy could learn a thing or two from the old warrior.

    • Lucky 13

      Well said and I get what you’re indicating. There’s no question Theo could play with the big boys and not be intimidated. He really was exceptional for a small player and I agree he was always engaged in the game.

      Unfortunately, Johnny is intimidated and he needs to adapt as you say but I don’t think you’ll ever see him play a Theo style of game. His is about finesse and playmaking. Theo could be a wrecking ball and still score. Lol

      I just find it interesting that Johnny flourished under Bob Hartley with offensive punch to the game. Under this structured possession game he looks lost?
      Bennett, Gaudreau, Brodie, Gio and Monahan all thrived under Bob. Perhaps Bob knew which buttons to push even though he was a hard ass at times. Is it coaching? I don’t know, but it seems to be the nice players coach (Gully) seldom get the respect or results needed to get the most out of the players.

      Do we send Johnny to fitness and nutrition workouts with Gary Roberts? Might be a great way to help him while keeping him on track with personal goals for next season. I’m sure Theo would love to share insights from his tenure with the Flames.

      • BobB

        In your opinion were any of the years he played in Calgary more clutch and grab than todays game?

        Fleury was a 1.05 ppg player in his first three years but also a 1.05 ppg player throughout all the games he played in Calgary until 98/99.

        It wasn’t until he went to the Rangers that he was consistently under a point per game.