Geek of the Week: Wake Me Up Before You Gaudreau

Ben Burnett

2019-12-08


One of the toughest holds for fantasy hockey players this season must be Johnny Gaudreau. The diminutive forward has always been a somewhat tougher own in bangers leagues, as he routinely finishes seasons with hits and blocks totals in the teens, and mediocre penalty minutes.

This year though, he’s been a tough hold even in points-only leagues, where his full-season pace has fallen nearly 40 percent from 99 in 2018-19 to 60 through this year’s first 30 games. Across the board, if early trends hold Gaudreau looks like he’s going to put up lower totals than last year in every category except power-play points, where he’s currently pacing for a decent 27 points.

As the Flames move on from Bill Peters, Gaudreau’s situation is obviously in flux. But do we have reasons to expect a bounce back under new interim coach Geoff Ward? Thus far, Ward has coached only three games, and for his first game he mostly mirrored his predecessor’s line combos, he’s tried out a few new looks in his second and third games at the helm.

New Look Lines

The Gaudreau / Sean Monahan / Elias Lindholm trifecta that we’d come to rely on in Calgary was finally split over the past week. While Lindholm centered Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, Monahan joined Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube. Gaudreau was relegated to a line with Milan Lucic and Derek Ryan.

That changed over the course of Thursday and Saturday night’s games as Ward experimented. Despite starting on line three in each game, Gaudreau has played most of his minutes with Backlund and Monahan. Though the Flames found lots of success with their top six set-up from last year, I’m intrigued by these mix and match possibilities. There’s no reason we shouldn’t see what Gaudreau / Monahan / Tkachuk / Lindholm / Backlund can do once they’re shaken up like a game of Boggle.

And yet, despite winding up next to Monahan and Backlund on Thursday, Ward went back to the Lucic – Ryan – Gaudreau combo at the Flames’ next practice. So who knows what will come from these lines moving forward, though I’d imagine we aren’t seeing the beginning of an era of bottom-six Johnny Gaudreau.

Season So Far

When we look at Johnny’s numbers, the first thing that stands out at even strength is he’s running a career-low on-ice shooting percentage, and IPP. These numbers tend to regress over larger sample sizes, implying that we should see a bounce-back from Johnny regardless of how he’s used by a new coach. The biggest part of that slump is Gaudreau’s personal shooting percentage. Prior to Saturday’s games, he was shooting 4.4 percent, despite never having posted lower than a 10 percent over a full season.

As a whole though, there are statistical reason to think Gaudreau’s line is playing worse at even strength. Both their xGF% and high danger chances for percentages are around 47 percent, after living in the mid-50s for the past few years. Gaudreau seems to be a big culprit in the fall off of high danger chances, as his individual numbers have dropped by over half, from 3.68 iHDCF/60 to 1.74. They’ve gone from elite numbers to looking like a third line on a mediocre team.

On the power play, Gaudreau’s production is more or less in line with previous years. He’s running a little hot at 18 percent shooting, and there’s room for improvement from a squad whose goals for, expected goals for, and shooting percentage numbers are all just inside the top 20. But for Gaudreau right now, his numbers seem fairly sustainable.

Rest of season

While Gaudreau’s usage may seem like a bit of a guessing game until Ward settles in, I think it’s still useful to establish whether or not the fall-off has been as bad as the results have shown so far this season. I’d say it’s still likely Gaudreau winds up in a top line, top power-play role. And if so, I want to know whether we can still treat him as an elite fantasy option. Here’s what I’d expect Gaudreau to put up as a full-season pace, based on on-ice stats and three-year average percentages. We usually provide bangers stats as well, but given Johnny’s marginal multi-cat value I’m leaving them out here.
 

 

GP

G

A

Pts

PPP

SOG

ROS pace

82

30

52

82

15

230


While these numbers do represent a three-year low for Johnny, they also show that positive regression should be expected. His on-ice numbers are still solid enough to show a productive offensive player. And perhaps all that’s needed is a new coach who can help accentuate his positive attributes. Starting on the third line isn’t ideal, and if that doesn’t change quickly, that’s when I’d start to worry.

In the meantime, if you can buy Gaudreau as a 60-65-point player, you have to do it. It could be a minor bust, but it could also win you your league.

For buy-low questions about Johnny Gaudreau hit me @burnett_hockey or follow my podcasting adventures @avgtimeonice.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency FLA Players
24.5% NOEL ACCIARI ALEKSANDER BARKOV JONATHAN HUBERDEAU
18.6% EVGENII DADONOV MIKE HOFFMAN LUCAS WALLMARK
9.8% BRIAN BOYLE DRYDEN HUNT

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