Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gaudreau and the Flames: Conceivably How Soon Could It Happen?

As the Johnny Gaudreau watch picks up in earnest with optimistic fans hoping to see him in a Calgary Flames uniform soon, here is a breakdown of the different scenarios for how the remainder of Boston College’s hockey season could play out.

This will enable you to follow along in the upcoming weekends and have a better sense of whether suiting up for the Flames this year is a realistic possibility or not for Gaudreau, who will take a 29-game points streak (27-29-56) into action this weekend.

Of course, this is if he signs, which is still very much an uncertainty for ol' Johnny Hockey, who will celebrate his 21st birthday in August.

Also, I'm not suggesting Gaudreau would join the Flames and just like that, be in the NHL for the rest of his career. But I do think Calgary wouldn't mind getting him into a game or two if it worked out just to give him a taste. Also, such a cameo appearance would very much be a 'show 'n tell' moment for the organization and an opportunity to boast about what it hopes will be a bright future.

Note: This article and the timing around signing/playing would also apply to Gaudreau's Boston College linemate, Bill Arnold, also a Flames prospect.

FIRST UP: Hockey East Playoffs

After an opening round bye last weekend, Boston College hosts Notre Dame this weekend in a best-of-three quarterfinal. This series will be played at the Kelley Rink on the BC campus.  The eight teams remaining in the Hockey East conference playoffs will be whittled down to four by the end of the weekend.

Note that even if Boston College gets knocked off by Notre Dame, they are the No. 2 ranked team in the country so will still be a lock to receive one of the at-large bids and be invited to the NCAA tournament beginning Mar. 28. So, regardless of outcome, Gaudreau’s season won’t be over this weekend.

Game times:
  • Game 1 - Fri, Mar. 14, 5:00 pm MT
  • Game 2 – Sat, Mar. 15, 2:00 pm MT
  • Game 3 (if necessary) – Sun, Mar. 16, 2:30 pm MT

SECOND UP: Hockey East Championship Round

The surviving four teams play in a single-elimination showdown at TD Garden in Boston the following weekend. The Hockey East tournament winner will automatically receive an invite to the NCAA tournament. As previously mentioned, even if BC does not win the Hockey East tournament, they’ll still be going to the NCAA tournament anyway.

The only repercussion for the Eagles of getting knocked out of the Hockey East tournament early is a longer layoff before the NCAA tournament begins.

Game times:
  • Semi-Finals - Fri, Mar. 21 at 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm MT
  • Final – Sat, Mar. 22 at 5:00 pm MT

Selection Sunday

At 10 am MT on Sunday, Mar. 23, the 16 teams that will make the NCAA Division 1 Men's Hockey Tournament will be announced.  Automatically receiving a spot in the tournament will be the winners of the six conference tournaments. The other ten spots will (or should) essentially be the 10 best remaining teams as chosen by the selection committee.

Which teams will make the NCAA Tournament from a Flames prospects perspective?

Based on the pairwise rankings provided by College Hockey News (as of Mar. 12), here is the scoop on the four teams that have Calgary draft picks playing for them.
  • Boston College (Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold) – For sure. Ranked No. 2 in the country, they'll be in the tournament one way or another.
  • Providence College (Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski, John Gilmour) – Probable. Ranked No. 11 in the pairwise comparison ratings, one would assume they would receive an at-large bid if they don't win the Hockey East tournament.
  • Colgate (Tim Harrison) - Possible. Ranked No. 16 in the above ratings, their entry into the tournament -- if they don't win the ECAC tournament, will depend greatly on which teams win the conference tournaments and which schools are left over for the 10 at-large bids.
  • Yale (Kenny Agostino) – Doubtful. Ranked No. 18 in the pairwise comparison ratings, if Yale does not win their way in by capturing the ECAC tournament, they may end up one of the best of the rest and on the outside looking in.
  • Michigan State (Matt DeBlouw) - Very, very doubtful. Ranked No. 36, would need to pull off a mammoth upset and win the Big Ten conference tournament to get in.

THIRD UP: NCAA Tournament

Much like the March Madness basketball tournament, the NCAA hockey tournament is a single-game elimination format also. However, with hockey it’s comprised of 16 teams as opposed to 64. There are four regions and each region will play host to four teams that will play in a semi-final and then a final. The four regional winners will advance to the Frozen Four.

At this point, if you lose, you're done. So, this is when the Gaudreau watch will really get serious.

Game times:
  • Region Semi-Final – Either Mar. 28 or Mar. 29
  • Region Final – Either Mar. 29 or Mar. 30

LAST UP: Frozen Four

Taking place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, it goes the weekend of April 10-12. It is once again a single elimination format consisting of the four regional winners from that opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Again, it’s lose and you’re out but given how far into April we are now, if Boston College makes it this far and with the Flames final regular season game on Apr. 13, I'd suggest the odds of Gaudreau signing and getting into Calgary's final regular season game in Vancouver are highly unlikely.

Game times:
  • Semi-Finals – Apr. 10 at 3:00 pm MT and 6:00 pm MT (approx)
  • Final – Apr. 12 at 5:30 pm MT

Message from Darren: I have accepted an offer to join a rec hockey team playing in the Calgary 2014 Alzheimer's Pro-Am. As a participant, I've committed to raising $2,000 towards battling Alzheimer's, dementia and other related mental illnesses. Please consider supporting me and this important cause that has touched so many people and can be so devastating on families. All donations are tax deductible. Click the banner to visit my personal page. Thank you.

IN SUMMARY: Answers to Popular Questions

Q. When is the soonest Gaudreau’s season could be over? 

Boston College will make the NCAA tournament so the soonest Gaudreau’s season could end is if BC loses its opening tournament game, which will either be Mar. 28 or Mar. 29, depending on the region they end up in (determined on Selection Sunday, Mar. 23).

Q. How many games does Gaudreau have left?

As few as three if they lose two straight in the Hockey East tournament and then lose their first game in the NCAA tournament.

Or, as many as nine if they go three games with Notre Dame to open the Hockey East tournament and then make it right through to the Hockey East final, and also go all the way to the Frozen Four final.

Q. How quickly could Gaudreau conceivably sign and report to Calgary?

These things have the potential of moving fast. More than anything, it all hinges on Gaudreau and how long he wants to ponder his options. I trust that on the Flames side, Brian Burke will be ready to get him on a plane should they succeed in getting his name on a contract.

Last year as an example, Ben Hanowski made his Flames debut four days after playing his final college game. So signing, getting to Calgary (or joining the team on the road, in this case) and getting ready to go can happen that quickly if not even quicker.

For reference, it was 11 days after Boston College's final game last year that Gaudreau announced via Twitter his intention to return to school for his third year.

Q. Could Johnny Gaudreau wear a Calgary Flames jersey this season?

Certainly possible.  While the all-important question of whether he’ll sign or not is still an unknown, the schedule would allow for him to play in Calgary if Boston College gets knocked out early in the NCAA tournament.

The soonest his college season could be over is Mar. 28. The Flames begin a five-game Eastern road trip on Mar. 30 that takes them to Ottawa, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Florida and New Jersey. How about this for a dream scenario. Given Gaudreau is from Carneys Point, New Jersey, wouldn’t Calgary's game on Apr. 7 against the Devils at the Prudential Center be the perfect backdrop? The kid's NHL debut comes in his home state with his parents and siblings in attendance. Goodness.

The only home games Gaudreau could possibly appear in would be against Los Angeles on Apr. 9 and when Winnipeg visits the Saddledome on Apr. 11.

If, on the other hand, Boston College makes it through to the Frozen Four final as expected, that would surely kill any chance of Gaudreau playing for the Flames this season considering the final is on a Saturday night in Philadelphia and Calgary's final game of the regular season is the Sunday night in Vancouver. If BC gets knocked out in the semi-final on Apr. 10 instead, it's still a stretch although a tiny bit less of a stretch.

Q. Could Gaudreau join the Abbotsford Heat?

If he signs a contract that begins with the 2013-14 season -- which is what Kenny Agostino did, then he would not be allowed to be assigned to the AHL because he will have signed the contract after the NHL trade deadline had passed. This is a provision in the CBA. He would be able to play in Abbotsford in 2014-15 but not be assigned there this season. This extends to when the Flames season ends, he still could not be sent to Abbotsford.

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