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FlamesNation player evaluation: Johnny Gaudreau

Johnny Gaudreau exploded with 99 points in 2018–19 before cratering in the playoffs, failing to record a single goal in the Flames’ five-game loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.

This year? Well, his regular season was worse, but his playoff performance was marginally better. Still, is that enough to keep Gaudreau in Calgary for the foreseeable future?

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2019-20 season summary

Nothing really went Gaudreau’s way this season as he put up one of his most underwhelming years as a professional.

(Data courtesy of NaturalStatTrick)

GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS POINTS TOI/GP 5V5 CF% 5V5 CF% REL OZF% PDO
70 18 40 58 18:47 50.38 +0.19 60.0 0.999

The Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm top unit returned this year with some seriously diminished results. Gaudreau was hit perhaps the hardest of the trio as he saw his points output drop from 99 to 58 while seeing his shooting percentage fall from 14.7% to 8.6%. At 12.1%, Gaudreau’s career average falls closer to the high end of the void between those two numbers, but it’s still concerning that his chance generation engine seems to have lost a gear.

Gaudreau attempted 349 shots in 70 games this year, averaging 4.99/game. That’s his lowest mark in that category since his injury-shortened 2016-17 season. 2019–20 was also the first year for Gaudreau since 2016–17 that he did not lead Flames forwards in expected goals generated; this year, he finished behind both Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk for forwards, coming in 7th on the team with a total of 39.96 expected goals created. Gaudreau slipped underwater this season in terms of expected goals, with his xGA figure of 41.56 troublingly ranking second-highest on the team.

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Gaudreau also ranked last among all Flames regulars in high-danger chance percentage, with his 47.52% figure coming in only ahead of routine scratches Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Brandon Davidson, and Austin Czarnik. Gaudreau can definitely generate high-danger chances, but he also surrendered the most high-danger attempts-per-minute of any forward on the team. That’s certainly not ideal.

Compared to last season

Much like Mark Giordano, Gaudreau saw his shooting percentage tank this year. But he also saw devastating changes to his underlying numbers that significantly weakened his positive impact on the team.

Gaudreau has never been a defensive titan, but he’s usually been able to make up for his deficiencies in that regard by creating a lot of expected goals. In 2018-19, the Flames generated 2.63 xGF/60 with Gaudreau on the ice. This year, that plummeted to 2.34. That’s a difference of one expected goal for every three games played.

In contrast, the Flames surrendered 2.44 xGF worth of chances/60 with Gaudreau on the ice this year, up from 2.23 last season. So, basically, his offense regressed enormously and his defense stumbled to the point where it began to outweigh his scoring. That’s not great.

In the playoffs, Gaudreau recorded zero even-strength points (bad) but managed to score three goals and four assists on the power play in 10 games (that’s good). Ideally, you’d like to see Gaudreau do some stuff without the man-advantage, but, given his past in the playoffs, even seeing him pop a few PP goals was a nice change from last year’s zero-goal affair.

What about next season?

Gaudreau has a lot going for him. He’s speedy, he can embarrass defenders, and he can set up plays. But the question remains — will he do that in Calgary? With just two years remaining on his current deal and one year until his modified NTC kicks in, the Flames will need to decide what to do with him.

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If the 2019–20 version of Gaudreau is the one the Flames expect to see going forward, they should probably look at moving on. Gaudreau was pretty ineffective for the Flames this season, boasting some of the worst defensive results on the team and regressing from being elite offensively to merely “pretty good.” If someone else is willing to bet the farm on that “pretty good” becoming elite again, maybe it’s time to let them do that and put those guys on the hook for doling out Gaudreau’s new contract in two years.

If Gaudreau sticks around, it’s easy to see Calgary returning to the Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm well again. But this likely won’t be a quiet summer for GM Brad Treliving, and it’s entirely possible Gaudreau is given a brand new line to run with come the start of the 2020–21 campaign. Mikael Backlund hasn’t exactly thrived playing with Gaudreau in the past, but it seems #13 could benefit from playing with some linemates who possess strong defensive consciences. Who knows who they might be. But it feels a lot more likely that Gaudreau keeps playing on a very sheltered line with the aim of generating as much offense as possible.

2020 Player Evaluations

Mark Giordano | Sean Monahan | Sam Bennett