42Johnny Gaudreau
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Johnny Gaudreau

For the fifth consecutive season, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau was one of the smallest human beings playing in the National Hockey League. For the second consecutive season, he was one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game.

2018-19 season summary

If you want to be glib, the 2018-19 campaign was the most Johnny Gaudreau season that Gaudreau has ever played.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
82 36 63 99 20:04 54.49 +0.97 60.55 1.011

Gaudreau spent the entire season on the first line and top power play unit – I think we’re at the point now where the term “first line” is shorthand for “whatever line Gaudreau is on,” similar to how things were when Jarome Iginla played for the team. With the departure of Micheal Ferland, Elias Lindholm was the primary right wing on Gaudreau’s line with Sean Monahan, though James Neal, Matthew Tkachuk and Derek Ryan got cups of coffee with the top line.

Offensively, Gaudreau had a monstrous year. He played every game, set a career high for five-on-five ice time, and set career highs in five-on-five goals, primary assists, points, shots, scoring chances, high-danger chances. He also set a new career high in penalties drawn, something he was already considered excellent at.

In terms of rates, Gaudreau led the team in high-danger chances per 60 minutes and was among the team’s leaders in shot attempts, shots and scoring chances. Defensively, Gaudreau was in the bottom third rates-wise compared to the rest of the regular forwards but that was an improvement on prior seasons – and let’s be honest, defensive prowess isn’t exactly why he’s getting paid the big bucks.

The reason behind Gaudreau’s success could be Lindholm. Renowned for his two-way play, the thought process behind plunking the Swede on the top line was likely that he could take some draws on the right side and help with the defensive side of the game. Lindholm’s back-checking seemed to fire up Gaudreau’s competitive side, so he back-checked more, too, and Lindholm’s underrated scoring touch helped the line bury their chances. For a few reasons, Gaudreau’s trio had the puck a lot more than they had in the past and it really helped them become a scary-good line for 75% of the season.

The oodles of ice time early on seemed to wear down Gaudreau’s line late in the season – more Monahan than him, if we’re being honest – and his productive tailed off late in the season and into the post-season. But let’s not let that rain on the parade: the smallest offensive player on the team had 99 points.

Compared to last season

The top line was used basically the same way they were in 2017-18, except they swapped out Ferland for Lindholm. Their offensive rates dipped ever-so-slightly, but Gaudreau enjoyed the best defensive rates he’s ever had as a pro. The top line was much better at puck management, had the puck more in the offensive zone, and found ways to bury their chances.

The result was a jump of 12 goals and 15 points for Gaudreau for the season.

What about next season?

Gaudreau will be 26 years old when the 2019-20 season begins, and will have three seasons remaining with a $6.75 million cap hit. So far, he’s been a bargain at that AAV based on his production. Considering his primary linemates are going to be 24 and 25, it’s not unreasonable to expect his high-end offensive production to continue.

The challenge may be to figure out how to keep the top trio fresh enough to have some gas in the tank for the end of the season; it’s natural to be tempted to lean on your best players when they’re playing really well, but Bill Peters’ tendency to rely on his best players may need to be resisted a bit for longer-term gains.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund

  • Off the wall

    You summed it up well Ryan.
    Gaudreau is a small but mighty force. The introduction of the purple Gatorade was really special. He’s got some moxy.

    Perhaps Peters’ learned a thing or two about overusing Gaudreau to make the playoffs.

    Is it better to be the first seed, or is it better to remain in the top 3 in the Division by committee? I’d take the latter, if it means we’re playing past the first round.

    I know athletes are well conditioned, however they do get fatigued playing out a full season.But congratulations to Gaudreau for making it a full 82 games.

    The lil Jersey boy is a keeper!

      • Flameon13

        How many cups do Patrick Kane have? And how many playoff points and Conn Smythe trophies has he won? Just because the player is small doesn’t mean he will be ineffective come playoff time. Johnny isn’t the problem here. Yes he only has 12 points in 20 playoff games but he also doesn’t get a whole lot of help.

        • Raffydog

          He isn’t the main problem, but he is part of the problem. To soft, no heart, starts pouting when things dont go his way, and the ceaseless whining to the refs.

          • idbr

            How do you possibly know who has heart? Your comments are ridiculous. Guys like McDavid, Gaudreau, etc. take a heavy beating in games. Particularly on the hands. Who can blame them for getting angry about it. I do think we as an organization should do a better job in keeping him better protected. Don’t pretend you know anything about who has heart. Gaudreau has as a bigger heart than most guys in this league.

      • Flaming Duck

        Gaudreau is a keeper and had a great year. Great contract value. The biggest issue in the playoffs was the disappearance of his line mates especially Monahan. As a result the Avs were really able to focus and single out Gaudreau effectively minimizes his impact. Gaudreau’s effort was there, I blame his line mates on the results.

    • Rudy27

      Regarding player fatigue, let’s not forget the overseas trip and exhibition games in China along with end of season play at the World Championships. It all adds up!

      • Theo4HoF

        Raffy is right, if Gaudreau is the go to guy for the flames, they will struggle to win any rounds. I have no faith in this core to ever be good enough to win a cup. No one will agree, but I think we are better off rebuilding again cause we are heading to no mans land. Trade Gio now after he wins the norris before no one wants him again.

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    Johnny had a great year. This team needs a center to be able to play with Johnny. Monahan is not a long term fix for this team to be able to succeed. Was really happy to see Johnny shoot more this season.

    • _vntony

      Johnny is definitely a special player and his AAV is an absolute steal.
      But I believe Hall, Panarin, Marchand are also ahead of Johnny for the best LWs in the league.

      • withachance

        Ah sorry meant it as in that group. Yes I think after Ovi its Marchand, Gaudreau, Panarin, in that order. Hall had one good season, then got injured, so meh.

  • Flameon13

    If we don’t want to be relying so much on our top line we need a reliable scoring second line to take some of the heat off our first line and we have a great and replaceable asset in Brodie that could be moved for someone in order to help out in this regard. Plenty of names have been thrown out there for second line scoring (Zibanejad, Kadri, Hayes, Kapanen, etc) so options are there for him he just has to pull the trigger. Does moving Brodie upset chemistry and our dressing room? Sure it does, but after the finish a trade like this can also motivate those who have been feeling too comfortable where they are. BT didn’t make a move at the deadline because he didn’t want to upset what they had going, but that hesitancy is what got us here. (Yes, there was a deal in place, but that wasn’t the only deal that needed to be done either) So hopefully now he will look more to change things up and bring in that secondary scoring option through a trade. (Rather than overpaying a UFA that had the better part of their careers over)

    • withachance

      I think this season is a great learning experience, and shows obviously that this team has a great platform to build off of. Just need a retool and some complementary pieces to go along with the core. BP will also have a solid taste of playoffs now, so hopefully he understands what adjustments he needs to be making in the leadup of the playoffs next year.

      • Flameon13

        For sure they’ve also got a great group of young talent coming up 4 of which are ready now in Vali, Kylington, Dube and Mangi (I already conside Ras our second best defender) So some of these veteran guys with big money who are easily replaceable with younger better talent should be moved on from this offseason and BT should not be afraid to do so. Players like Brodie, Frolik, Stone and Neal (tho likely unmovable). Atleast with Brodie we have a chance to move from a position of great strength to fill a position where we have always been generally weak (secondary scoring) whether its a second line center or a RW. He has to avoid trying to fill this position through FA with a player nearing the end of his career looking for that last payday, see Brouwer & Neal.

  • Slowmo

    I know every one is going to hate my thoughts on JH but we should move him to NJ for there 1st this yr and next. If we can’t get that then forget it try to move mony as well they are great always first part of the yr but when it’s time to play playoff hockey they wilt. You guys know it is true.

    • redwhiteblack

      They do seem to have a pattern of wilting. I am willing to see however if they have learned from this experience. If we see the same movie next year then I would seriously consider at least Mony.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          Johnny has made a career of proving people wrong and I don’t expect this to change. He is close to a 40 goal scorer without having a center that can keep up with him. He does not have a great shot yet he is a prolific scorer at this level.

          This is the same Johnny that couldn’t produce on the road, couldn’t play against big physical teams and peaked in his Rookie or Sophmore yea are. He will improve his shot, be a better finisher on breakaways and ultimately take his game to the next level in the playoffs. Players like Johnny that hate to lose as much as they love to win always find a way. Protecting Johnny so he can play his game will determine how far this team can go.

      • Kevin R

        Honestly, & Im just pushing buttons here, but we have 3 more years of this rockstar contract for Johnny. After that, I hate to think what he’s going to be asking for. I know some will hate me for posting this but I think I would seriously consider moving Monahan to Pitt for Malkin if Pitt were looking for cap space & feel Monahan would slide perfectly behind Crosby. Malkin is a force out there & truly one of the best players in this league. If there is any truth that he would like to be the top centre go to guy & is considering a move, Calgary’s young & up & coming team may appeal to him. Also having Gaudreau on his wing may be enticing as well. yeah yeah he’s 32 & he also has 3 years left on his deal. But a regressing 32 year old Malkin is still better than Monahan as a top line centre.
        Gotta give to get. Then I would flip Brodie for Kadri & have a 2nd line of Kadri, Tkachuk & Bennett.

        Haha just spitballing, be easy on me. :->

        • withachance

          Thats the thing, every year the pens dont win a cup, theres summer rumours that Malkin is going to be traded. It never actually happens. Malkin is probably not available.

          Toronto likely not looking for another left hander, even though Brodie is better on the right side. I think MTL is an ideal landing spot for Brodie. They need someone to go with Weber on their top pair. The Flames can get a nice package from the Habs too (Gallagher is off the table though)

      • Slowmo

        Why not JH is a proven top quality 99 point player the first is not and could take a few yrs to become a good player. How many first over all have become lost picks or just don’t play the way a first over all should it’s a risk for use not for NJ how will become a contender with JH.

      • Garry T

        CalgaryFan.
        1. Hughes is going to take 3 years to make the team if NJ handles this
        right.
        2. NJ attendance is not the best.
        3. JH will fill the place right now.
        4. JH will sell 30-40,000 New Jersey’s at $160 a pop USD
        5. TV and radio revenues will jump.
        6. With no loss of players, just picks you are adding 200 points a year to
        the team in terms of line scoring.
        7. JH is that good that he can jumpstart a team and Jersey needs that.
        8. JH would make Jersey a perennial play off team for the next 7-10
        years. Think of that revenue.

        If I am offered JH, I am giving up 2 firsts and 2 2nds. In this and next years drafts. With his cap hit over next 3 years Jersey does this deal.

    • One Eyed Jack

      I’m sure he would love to go home. (or close by) What would it hurt to explore what you might get in return? Same with Mony. Either that, or find someone to compliment them so they don’t disappear when the going gets physical.

  • Luter 1

    Didn’t see Johnny as burnt out in the playoffs but completely ineffective. His legs were moving a million miles an hour (first place to see burnout) but he was panicky, being intimidated and harrassed every second he was on the ice. Until we deal with that, teams will continue to be able to shut him down in the playoffs. Monahan is part of the problem as he is a very soft player. Lindholm I thought was all heart especially being injured and was one of the more aggressive players in the playoffs. Put his old buddy Hayes on his line and he would be twice as effective in the playoffs.

  • Derzie

    Thoughts of trading away our best offensive player are borderline insanity. In hockey, and in life, tenacity and grit are much easier to find than elite skill. Johnny needs a better team around him. All this “soft” and “whiny” commentary is crapola. You don’t get 99 points in the NHL without being a great player. A whole team of Patrick Maroons would be relegated to the ECHL, but the playoffs demand you have a Patrick Maroon to support your skill, which is JG.

  • CowboyBob

    Does have some elite level skills and coming off a very productive year. But, man, this year’s playoffs left a sour taste, he was a human give away machine for those five games. When I watched those games it reminded me of minor hockey kids going from Peewee to Bantam. You watch them during their first game and you can see it in their eyes, “whoa, there’s body checking now”, even the elite kids develop ‘dinosaur arms’, where they stop reaching for the puck, stop battling on the boards, and give up the puck when an opposing player’s shadow touches them. That’s what Johnny looked like for five games. Flames need to determine if he can be a player in the playoffs, I personally hope he is, if not, get rid of him sooner than later and maximize the return.

  • Day1-Cfan

    JG, put on 10-15 lbs muscle over the summer, get your hate on and show them what kinda HOCKEY you can play next year. Screw the hackers and slashers, give it right back.
    It would be pretty cool if he could transform himself a bit. A little nasty edge to his game with the skills he has would be a treat to watch.

  • freethe flames

    Johnny is fun to watch and Monny is a good trigger man for him but that line needs the right other guy. It looked like Lindholm was the right guy but he may be needed elsewhere. We have bantered names around here and I am sure BT and his staff are looking at all sort of ideas here’s hoping that they can find the right guy.

  • Budgie

    Great regular season numbers but struggles in the playoffs when checking and hitting take over. Find a bigger hitting forward to compliment him might do the trick. He is Calgary’s biggest asset, compare him to Iginla, or another smaller player-Fleury, he needs some one to make some room for him, the other two didn’t. Healthy-the Gadreau,Monahan, Linholm combination was the hottest in the league for a couple of months-purple gatorade flying in the air-Gadreau was outstanding-99 points-tied with MacKinnon-the biggest obstacle Calgary faced knocking them out of the playoffs-can anyone joing Gadreau’s line and slow down MacKinnon?>

  • Justthateasy

    I like him. He’s a tourist attraction and compliments any line he’s on. He needs more support than he’s getting. He’s entitled to make a face when he gets whacked and there’s no call. I would not call that whining. He showed some heart during the playoffs by doing some hitting.
    He needs to practice his shootout though. He’s got to convert especially when he has all those moves.

  • VinnyFlames

    There is a player within our team that is killing this team over and over again: Gaudreau. This is a must-read article I’ll put in as a link: https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/flames-neal-gets-reality-check-gaudreau-shrugs-off-playoff-struggles/sn-amp/
    I don’t agree with Eric Francis on a lot of things, but I felt there was something rotten about the “star” players on our team. Gaudreau (and Monahan as well), have continued to fizzle our by the second half of the season (it’s a trend). This year’s playoffs and prior ones (excluding 2015) is prime example of their underachieving. These spoiled brats are the sole reason for the punching it’s fanbase in the nards. We must eliminate these scumbags by any means necessary, even if it means trading for only picks and prospects. Only by getting rid of cancer can we truly see the light at the end of the tunnel. #Gaudreautradebait #Monahantradebait