Calgary Flames At NHL Awards: Why Johnny Gaudreau Will Win Calder Trophy


The Calgary Flames are sending an impressive number of players to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards which will take place tonight. After a surprising season that was scheduled to be a disaster ended in the second round of the postseason, there will be four Flames up for awards tonight.

Johnny Gaudreau is up for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year following a tremendous first season in the NHL, head coach Bob Hartley is up for the Jack Awards Award as Coach of the Year, Jiri Hudler is among the three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy as Most Gentlemanly Player and captain Mark Giordano is up for the Foundation Award.

Gaudreau was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Draft, with the 104th overall selection. He always showed he had the skill and talent of his peers, but teams were scared off by his size on draft day. Listed at 5’9″ and just 150 pounds today, there wasn’t a team in the league willing to even use a 3rd round pick on the highly skilled winger who was lighting up American High School hockey leagues.

More from Calgary Flames News

It was thought that it would be extremely difficult for the undersized winger to become a scorer at the NHL level because of his lack of physicality. It was thought by many that it would even be difficult for him to score much at the NCAA level when he joined Boston College in 2011.

After scoring 44 points in 44 games as a Freshman with Boston College and following that up with seasons of 51 points in 35 games and an astounding 80 points in 40 games in 2013-14, some still doubted his skills would translate to the NHL.

Apr 25, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates his second period goal on the Vancouver Canucks in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Gaudreau played one game for the Flames at the end of last season after deciding to turn pro following his Junior season of NCAA. He scored a goal in that lone NHL goal on his lone NHL shot of the 2013-14 season, in a foreshadowing of things to come.

This season started a little slowly for Gaudreau as he was held scoreless in his first five contests and was actually a healthy scratch for one game. The longest he would go without a point for the rest of the season was three games and that occurred just twice as the rookie NHL left winger showed a tremendous amount of consistency for a first year player.

Gaudreau finished 5th in goals by a rookie this year with 24, first among all rookies with 40 assists and tied for first in points with 64. Gaudreau led all rookie forwards in ice time with 17:43 per game and was a catalyst in the Flames far exceeding expectations this season. Without Gaudreau, the Flames depth at forward would take a huge hit, their power play, where Gaudreau led all rookies with 21 points, would have been abysmal, and there is simply no way they are a playoff team without Gaudreau in the lineup.

Apr 11, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) celebrates his goal with Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Stone, who is also up for the Calder Trophy, was tied with Gaudreau in rookie scoring with 64 points. He scored 26 goals compared to Gaudreau’s 24, and helped lead the Ottawa Senators to the postseason. There isn’t much to choose between Gaudreau and Stone, but I think Gaudreau’s consistency will see him edge out Stone.

Stone had a decent first half to the season, but didn’t really enter the Calder Trophy conversation until very late in the season. He scored 20 points in his first 39 games, but finished with an extraordinary 19 points in his last 14 games. If the Calder were for the best rookie of the last month of the year, Stone would have run away with it. However, if you look at the season as a whole, even though Stone and Gaudreau ended at the same place, Gaudreau’s steady pace all year makes his season slightly better than Stone’s.

It’s the classic tortoise and the hare race. Would you rather the consistent and steady, focused pace, or the lazy starting hare that finishing with a blaze of glory? This will be the only time I ever compare the speedy Gaudreau to a turtle, but I just think his overall consistency makes him the right choice to win Rookie of the Year.

The third player on the ballot is Aaron Ekblad, a defenceman with the Florida Panthers. Ekblad is the youngest player of the three finalists as he jumped right to the NHL from the number one selection at last year’s draft. Gaudreau is 21 and Stone is 22, but Ekblad just turned 19 in February.

Mar 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) shoots the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Though what Ekblad did as an 18 and 19 year old in the NHL was outstanding, age among finalists isn’t a criteria for the award. Basically, Ekblad doesn’t get bonus points for being younger than the other rookies. A rookie is a rookie as long as they are 25 and under. The Last time a Flame won the Calder it was Sergei Makarov in 1990 and he was just about to turn 32 years old. The rules have changed since then and it is an award for any first year player under the age of 25.

Ekblad had an impressive season, but I just don’t think he was on the same level as Stone and Gaudreau. He scored 39 points in 81 games, but didn’t even lead rookie defenders in scoring. John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars scored 40 points in just 65 games, pushing Ekblad to second among defenders in scoring.

I’m not saying Ekblad had a bad year or anything like that, I just don’t think he dominated the way the forwards did. He typically played on the second pairing in Florida with Willie Mitchell and received tons of ice time on the power play. He was good for sure, but just good, and more of a depth player, while Gaudreau, Stone and even Filip Forsberg in Nashville were great in leading roles.

Mar 25, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates his second period goal against the Dallas Stars at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Like Stone, Forsberg had an inconsistent season, which is why he didn’t find his name on the ballot when the finalists were announced. Forsberg started the year strong and struggled down the stretch, which basically reversed Stone’s season. Since Stone was good late in the year and helped propel his team to an unlikely playoff berth, he ends up on the ballot.

But if a player like Forsberg had an extremely similar season, just with different timing and doesn’t even get on the ballot, would it make any sense for Stone to win the award?

To me, no, it wouldn’t make any sense for Stone to win the award because he played phenomenal hockey for the last month of the season. Gaudreau was the model of consistency, and finished the year atop the rookie scoring leaders.

Like the tortoise, steady and consistent should win the race, not short bursts of exceptionality mixed with long dry spells. Let’s hope the voters agree, and rightfully chose Johnny Gaudreau as the winner of the Calder Trophy.

More from Flame for Thought