This past Wednesday, Johnny Gaudreau shocked the hockey world when he elected to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets that will see him make $9.75 million annually. The general consensus amongst fans and insiders alike was that if he were to depart the Calgary Flames, it would be to join a team near his hometown of Salem, New Jersey, with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers seen as the favorites.
While Gaudreau leaving was always going to be a frustrating situation for Flames fans, the fact that he chose the Blue Jackets, a team that, while closer, is still quite a ways from where he grew up, has put those frustrations into overdrive. Perhaps the most puzzling of all for the Calgary fanbase is that he declined an eight-year, $84 million deal from Brad Treliving to do so.
At the end of the day, this was Gaudreau’s decision to make and one that he earned. The most important thing to him, and rightfully so, is the happiness of him and his family, and by all accounts, he seems very excited for his new chapter as a member of the Blue Jackets. Nonetheless, Flames fans aren’t and likely won’t be at peace with the decision for some time, if ever, which could very well taint the strong legacy he had created for himself in the city of Calgary.
Amongst Franchises All-Time Leading Scorers
Had Gaudreau chosen to sign a long-term deal with the Flames, it is very possible he would have ended up as the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring. That honor is currently held by Jarome Iginla, who compiled 1,095 points over his 1,219 games with the organization.
Over his 602 games with the Flames, Gaudreau put up a very impressive 609 points, which ranks fifth all-time in franchise history, and is just seven shy of Joe Nieuwendyk’s 616 for fourth. Make no mistake, Johnny Hockey was without a doubt one of the most gifted offensive talents to ever dawn a Flames uniform, and the fact that he ranks near the top of the franchise scoring leaderboard proves just that.
In his eight seasons as a Flame, Gaudreau sits sixth in the entire NHL for points and is trailing Brad Marchand by just one for fifth. He also ranks just eight behind Leon Draisaitl in that span and 32 behind Sidney Crosby, albeit they each appeared in 43 fewer games over that same span. Nonetheless, this goes to show just how elite of a player Gaudreau was during his time with the Flames and is why it is so tough for fans to see him go.
The major critique of Gaudreau during his time with the Flames was his struggles when it came to the postseason. This past year was the best we have seen from him in the playoffs as he managed 14 points in 12 outings, however, he was limited to just a goal and two assists in his team’s final four games of their second-round series loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Prior to this year, Gaudreau had just 19 points in 29 career playoff games. Even worse was that none of his teammates were able to step up and lead the charge, which resulted in the Flames failing to advance past the second round during his tenure. That comes despite the fact that they led the Western Conference in points during the 2018-19 campaign, and had a franchise-best 111 points this past season. By no means is that completely his fault, but he was the team’s best player and was unable to lead them to playoff success. Despite many of his great accomplishments, this will always be one of the things he is remembered for when it comes to his time in Calgary.
Time Heals All Wounds
In the years to come, the majority of the Flames fanbase will be sour at Gaudreau and how he left things in Calgary. They are of the belief that he knew well before free agency began that he had no intentions of re-signing and should have let Treliving know beforehand so that he could begin to look at other options.
It is unfortunate given the great things he did as a Flame, but there is little doubt that when he makes his return to the Saddledome on Jan. 23, he will be booed, and booed immensely. Had he chosen the Devils or Flyers as so many had expected, the reaction would likely be much different, but the fact that he chose the Blue Jackets does not seem to be sitting well with many.
All that said, however, time does heal all wounds. At some point, the anger directed towards Gaudreau will cool off. Once that happens, it is likely that Flames fans will be able to look back and realize just how special of a talent he was and how much he embraced being in Calgary over his eight years. At the end of the day, he made the decision that he felt was right for him, something that, as mentioned earlier, he had the right to do. For now, however, you can guarantee Flames fans will be rooting for both him and the Blue Jackets to have very little success for the duration of his contract.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.