Sunday, October 25, 2015

Johnny Gaudreau = Johnny Dominant: Little Guy Playing Big Role in Flames Offence

The Flames offence is off to a sleepy start.

Calgary ranks 26th in the NHL averaging exactly 2.00 goals per game. That's down from last season when they finished 6th at 2.89.

Mind you, you could say all facets of Calgary's game was in a deep slumber the first two weeks before stirring awake Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings. In the most inspired effort of the season by far, Flames fired 40 shots on goal in a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory.

But then, like hitting the snooze button, the club drifted back asleep Sunday night scoring only once in a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

While there are many players that have been staggering around with sleep in their eyes. Johnny Gaudreau is certainly not among them.

Last year, it wasn't until Calgary's seventh game of the season that the rookie found the scoresheet for the first time. Fast forward to today and after eight games, the 22-year-old already has 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists), which ties him for 11th in NHL scoring.

What's most impressive is he's racked up all those points despite Calgary's inability to produce many goals. The Flames have scored just 16 goals.

Here's a closer look at Johnny Hockey's eye-popping start to the season, in which he continues to establish himself as the straw that stirs the drink when it comes to Calgary's offence.

Point Percentage of Team Goals

How big a factor has Gaudreau been? He's either scored or set up 62.5 percent of the Flames goals. That's first in the NHL heading into Monday's action, just ahead of a guy in Chicago you may have heard of, who interestingly enough is a fellow American that Gaudreau's creativity is sometimes compared to.

Top Five Point Percentage

1. Johnny Gaudreau Cgy, 1-9-10, 62.5%
2. Patrick Kane Chi, 5-6-11, 61.1%
3. Mike Cammalleri NJ, 3-8-11, 57.9%
4. Evgeni Malkin Pit, 3-4-7, 53.8%
5. Henrik Zetterberg Det, 2-9-11, 52.4%

For comparison, Gaudreau had points on 27.0 percent of Calgary's goals last year. The team's scoring leader a year ago was Jiri Hudler, who was in on 32.1 percent.

In Calgary Flames history, 34 players have finished at 30 percent or higher in a season. Hudler's season last year ranks 20th.

Top Five Point Percentage - Calgary All-time

1. Jarome Iginla, 2001-02, 96 pts on 201 g, 47.8%
2. Jarome Iginla, 2007-08, 98 pts on 226 g, 43.4%
3. Theoren Fleury, 1995-96, 96 pts on 241 g, 39.83%
4. Kent Nilsson, 1980-81, 131 pts on 329 g, 39.82%
5. Craig Conroy, 2001-02, 75 pts on 201 g, 37.3%

It should come as no surprise considering how long he was this team's star player -- and often doing it on his own -- that Iginla accounts for six of the top 10 seasons.

Surprisingly at first, although not so surprising once you consider how deep those teams were, is in that mid-80s to late-80s period when the Flames were among the NHL's best teams and most prolific scoring teams, the top individual season was Joe Mullen in 1988-89 at 31.1 percent. His 110 points on 354 goals ranks him 24th all-time.

Others that might surprise you include Valeri Bure at 13th (35.5% in 1999-00), Marc Savard at 17th (33.0% in 2000-01) and Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow tied for 33rd (both were at 30.2% in 2006-07).

More About Gaudreau

Getting back to this season, here are a few more factoids about Gaudreau's start.

Best Set-Up Man: Percentage of Goals Assisted On

For this, I subtracted the goals scored by the player himself and then calculated what percentage of the team's other goals that player assisted on. Looked at in this way, remove his one goal and Gaudreau is the NHL's No. 1 playmaker, having set up nine of the Flames other 15 goals.

1. Johnny Gaudreau Cgy, 9a on 15g, 60.0%
2. Mike Cammalleri NJ, 8a on 16g, 50.0%
3. Henrik Zetterberg Det, 9a on 19g, 47.4%
4. Patrick Kane Chi, 6a on 13g, 46.2%
5. Evgeni Malkin Pit, 4a on 10g, 40.0%

Some pretty good company on that list. Interesting to see former Flame Mike Cammalleri as high as he is. Still plenty left in his tank, apparently.

Most Assists Per Game

Getting away from percentages and just looking at raw counting numbers but on a per-game basis to even the playing field, Gaudreau is in a tie for third.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov Wsh, 8a in 7 gm, 1.14
1. John Carlson Wsh, 8a in 7 gm, 1.14
3. Johnny Gaudreau Cgy, 9a in 8 gm, 1.12
3. Henrik Zetterberg Det, 9a in 8 gm, 1.12
3. Victor Hedman TB, 9a in 8 gm, 1.12
3. Martin Hanzal Ari, 9a in 8 gm, 1.12

Most Primary Assists-Per-Game

The NHL's enhanced stats now include a split of primary and secondary assists. In theory, the more primary assists, the better one's playmaking ability as that is the last person to touch the puck before a goal is scored and is often the principal person responsible for creating that scoring chance. Gaudreau's slick set-up to Jiri Hudler for Sunday's only goal is an example of this.

Here's how the top five looks counting primary assists only. Gaudreau tied in quantity with Montreal's P.K. Subban, but has played one fewer game than the Canadiens defenceman.

1. Johnny Gaudreau Cgy, 7a in 8 gm, 0.88
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov Wsh, 6a in 7 gm, 0.86
3. P.K. Subban Mtl, 7a in 9 gm, 0.78
4. Henrik Zetterberg Det, 6a in 8 gm, 0.75
4. Max Domi Ari, 6a in 8 gm, 0.75

Final Thought

Obviously these numbers will come down for Gaudreau as it will for all players. I'm more curious if his ranking versus the rest of the NHL will come down. That won't necessarily be the case. Everything we've seen in his young career is that his skills are off the charts and he's capable of executing those same sublime passes we saw him pull off at Boston College at the NHL level too, no problem.

Gaudreau may be small in stature, but he possesses an innate ability to create space for himself on the ice with his shiftiness when carrying the puck. The kid is the genuine article.

Something to watch for this week is can Gaudreau have a similar impact on the road? Five of the eight games so far have been at home where match-ups can be more favourable. Life always gets more difficult in opposition buildings. But to start off their three-game road trip, Gaudreau did get free to set up that beautiful first period goal at Madison Square Garden. The next two games are away games also -- Monday against the Islanders and Wednesday versus Ottawa.

One thing for certain, it's clear Gaudreau is going to be an impact player in the NHL for a very long time and Flames fans should be thankful to be able to watch a player of his talents every game.

Not bad for a fourth round pick.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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  1. We're going to have to pony up and pay for Johnny hockey starting next season... 6 million per year would be a steal, I think.

    1. It's going to be very interesting to see what he will command compared to Monahan. Is it the same? Is Monahan slightly higher? I would have thought the latter entering the season -- especially with Monahan with one extra year and being a centre -- but now I'm not so sure. Never a dull moment around here, it seems. Always some sort of money discussion to be had.