Flame fans are missing Johnny Goudreau. How could they not? This young scorer has been the soul of this franchise for nearly a decade, and I’m not sure Calgary really predicted the end of their time together until it was too late. From his first full season in 2014-15 through the end of last year, Gaudreau Score an additional 180 points than any other flame. After hitting career highs with a 40-and-75 season as a left winger with perhaps the best streak in the league (and leading the Flames to 50 wins and a league title), the future looked bright. At least it looked brighter than it used to be ColumbusAnd as Gaudreau decided to sign instead.
While I can’t speak for Gaudreau’s personal life in Ohio, this move on the ice so far hasn’t worked out either way. The Blue Jackets – not a particularly intimidating team on paper even at the start of the year – had to endure a storm of injuries that sent them down to last place. Gaudreau himself has contributed a mere 13 goals in 47 games, which is a drop in the pack when you look at the team’s overall difference of -62, and even making a run for the eighth seed would be a Pyrrhic win when Conor Bedard is on the draft board.
Calgary’s hole is nowhere near that deep, but after major renovations they were forced into in the off-season, they are much closer to the league average than the cup contender. Nazim Kadri is a step lower than what Goudreau delivered last year, and Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Wegar, who were both acquired on a forced deal by Matthew Tkachuk, were no replacement for him either. Without that dominant first line, and with a huge drop in performance from goalkeeper Jakob Markström, this season has felt like an awkward first day of school. The Flames aren’t a team you can trust on any given night, and just to get into the playoffs as a wild card, they’re going to have to drag themselves over Edmonton and Colorado, which is a daunting task.
Gaudreau’s strong second half, which will now backfire in Columbus, will go a long way in Calgary. But it’s too late for that! He left! All that is left to be shared between Flames fans and their former hero are the feelings that come from seeing him in an unfamiliar jersey. Monday night, when the Jackets visited the Flames for the first and only time this season, it was their chance to get it all out. Unlike select NHL running backs of the past several years—John Tavares and the Islanders—this one wasn’t completely imbued with malevolence. The Flames audience gave Gaudreau a standing ovation after his video tribute.
But the game itself did not include such subtleties. Goudreau booed heartily every time he touched the puck, and Calgary was more than willing to revel in his failures. Just five minutes into the first, Gaudreau stole a pass in his own territory and kicked a penalty kick into his flight across the ice. No one was courteous about it when he completely missed the net.
Gaudreau has played a huge part in this game, for good or bad. The Flames dominated the action and built up a 2-0 lead, but it was Johnny’s pass on Columbus’ power play that helped tie the game at 2-2 in the second period. (The feelings were hot enough that veteran Flame Milan Lucic got in a legitimate battle With Brave Jackets player Mathieu Olivier.) The Jackets tied it up again after Andrew Mangiapan pulled Calgary forward, and so things were going into overtime. There Gaudreau was stripped of the puck by Noah Hanifin, and Dillon Dube capitalized the game-winner.
In game after game, neither side said anything that could turn the Jackets-Flames into a true rivalry. You get this impression that by the time they meet again next year, everyone involved wants this story to be behind them.
“For the most part, it was great to see everyone standing up, clapping their hands, and cheering for me,” Goudreau said From his tribute video. “And then five seconds later, start booing again. That’s what I expected coming here. It’s a great fanbase, and they’re passionate fans. I loved it. It was a special night for me.”
while, Dobby said“I think it just shows how good a player he is and how important he is to this organization, because you don’t get a reaction like that if you’re not that important.”
With Columbus sinking into apathy and Calgary needing to — forgive me — take things one game at a time as they fight to extend their season, there won’t be much reason to think about Johnny Gaudreau for the rest of the winter. Hopefully he can stay healthy, score a few more goals, and then enjoy his first season as a dad. He has another six years for the Blue Jackets to build something around him. For now, though, this free agent signing is a tragedy on the ice: The city Gaudreau sneers at is the city he needs, and the city cheering him on has no practical use for him yet.