By Jake Miller and Bill Stoll
With just two months left in the college hockey season, it's not too early to look at the road ahead for BC. One of the Eagles' biggest concerns this year will be the topic of Johnny Gaudreau. Hockey gurus Jake Miller and Bill Stoll take sides in the debate of whether he'll stay or whether he'll... Gaudreau (alright that's the last time, we promise).
Why His Bags Are Already Packed - Jake Miller
Decision Day is looming for the nation’s leading scorer, Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau, and the decision couldn’t be much easier.
With nothing left to stay for at BC, our most beloved man of winter will almost certainly be taking his talents to the icy plumes of Calgary, where he’ll begin his NHL career with the team that drafted him 104th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
For those of you that don’t know, the Calgary Flames are currently the third worst team in the National Hockey League. At the bottom of the barrel that is the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, the Flames are desperate for talent.
Having lost the face of their franchise a year earlier when they traded Jarome Iginla, (for the record, it was a pleasant separation between the two parties, as the Flames dealt Iginla to a team with whom they thought he could win another Stanley Cup to end his career) the Flames have been searching for even the slightest of sparks to not only ignite their team but also their fanbase.
Starved for talent, the Flames organization will undoubtedly throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Gaudreau family to entice Johnny to leave BC and help them regain the popularity, notoriety, and winning tradition they once had in the late 80s and early 90s.
And with Gaudreau on pace to outscore the entire Boston University Terriers this season (sarcasm), the logical question left to ask is: why should he stay?
On a scorching pace, Gaudreau currently has 22 goals and 28 assists, which is good for 50 points. Comparatively speaking, he only had 51 ALL OF LAST YEAR and was voted runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award.
A finalist for the award last year, he’ll likely be a unanimous selection this year as college hockey’s best player. With that trophy safely perched atop his mantle at home in Carney’s Point, New Jersey, what more will there be left for him to accomplish at the collegiate level?
One of the big reasons he stayed here to play out his junior year was the chance to play with his younger brother Matt, a current freshman. While Matt has seen scarce ice time due to the Eagle’s success and bevy of other freshmen contributors, his older brother has no doubt gotten his fill of brother-brother bonding time between practices and the day-to-day hockey grind to allow him to leave Boston College.
So to review: Johnny Gaudreau will presumably have nothing left to accomplish by the end of this season in terms of hardware (one or maybe two Beanpot MVPs and one – in all likelihood – Hobey Baker Award) and the NHL team that drafted him could desperately use him in their system. Though slightly undersized at 5’8”, 153, what he lacks in stature he makes up for in every... every... other facet of the game.
There is no reason that I can think of that would keep Johnny Gaudreau here in Chestnut Hill for his senior season save for two possibilities, one of which is rather fickle and the other I don’t even want to mention.
The first is that he’d have to go to Calgary. Yes, that Calgary. The one completely enveloped in cold and unforgiving winters. Take a New England weather and extend it two months in either direction and you’d get the climate of Calgary. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to subtract about 20 degrees from the yearly average temperature and you’ve got yourself a wondrous tundra well-suited for anyone who craves seasonal depression.
Who wouldn’t anyone want to go there as soon as possible???
Potentially Johnny Gaudreau, that’s who.
The other, less finicky reason I see Johnny staying at BC for another year is if he is seriously injured sometime this season or shortly afterward, causing him to no longer be quite as useful to the talent-famished Flames organization. In this horribly morbid scenario, Calgary would likely allow him the time to nurse his injury and play out the rest of his collegiate eligibility under the guiding hand of Coach York.
But let’s face it, he’s had almost four years to think of ways to cope with the idea of being a Calgary Flame. A native of New Jersey and student of Massachusetts, he’s also had an entire lifetime to grow accustomed to this wonderful thing we call winter.
On top of all that, he’ll have line mate Bill Arnold, a fellow Calgary draft pick and current senior, there with him too.
He’s as good as gone.
Why He Might Stay - Bill Stoll
Okay, look. Johnny Gaudreau is…well…good. Really good.
The guy has 50 points in only 25 games this season for BC and has absolutely dominated the competition. The BC men’s hockey team is currently 18-4-3; they have far and away the best goal differential (+54) of any team in Hockey East; they have scored 25 more goals than any other team in Hockey East; they are currently ranked #2 in the entire NCAA, and right now they are heavy favorites to contend for and win BC’s sixth national championship. Johnny Gaudreau is currently the NCAA Division 1 leader in points. He will probably win the Hobey Baker trophy as the best player in D-1 men’s hockey, and after winning numerous Beanpots and Hockey East accolades, among other things, it’s hard to imagine he will have any real incentive to stay.
On the other side of the coin, the team that drafted him, the Calgary Flames, are awful.
They are third-to-last in the NHL this year and in transition in the front office with a new GM and coach. There's little true hope that they will be good any time soon. Sounds like a match made in Heaven right? A struggling team desperate to motivate a stagnant fanbase--an electric offensive talent with nothing more to gain looking to take the next step in his career-- it seems perfectly reasonable that Johnny Gaudreau will have played his last games in Maroon and Gold at the conclusion of this season.
But then again, maybe not. For the rest of this article I’m going to be doing some pretty serious grasping-at-straws here.
But what follows might not totally be out of the realm of possibility either. At the very least it’ll be something to think about:
Sure, Johnny Hockey has accomplished almost everything in his three-year career at BC. The only thing he could gain is the Hobey Baker, the Men’s Hockey equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. And he will most likely take home the Hobey Baker this season. He also has a national championship under his belt, and could have two if the rest of the Eagles’ season plays out perfectly.
What else does he have to play for? Well, let’s say the Eagles do win the national championship this season. That would be great--we’d all be for that--it would be a nice time.
Know what else would be nice, though? A repeat national championship.
Since 1970, there have only been three programs who won titles in back-to-back seasons. Denver in 2004-2005, Minnesota in 2002-2003 and Boston University in 1971-1972. I personally can’t stomach the fact that BU has back-to-back titles and BC doesn’t.
Perhaps Johnny can’t stand it either, and might want to return to fulfill this potentially tremendous accomplishment. Also, it stands to reason that Johnny Gaudreau’s brother, Matt, will gain significant playing time next season and be a consistent starter after receiving only spot starts this season. This could be the last chance for Johnny and Matt to play together on the same team.
Furthermore, you know what player has won back-to-back Hobey Baker Awards? Nobody. Johnny Gaudreau could be the first to ever do that. That would be a pretty decent epitaph for Johnny Hockey to carry around with him for the rest of his career too.
And, like I said, the Flames are terrible. They're pretty bad. And one would think that Johnny Hockey is undeniably welcome.
Their lone two bright spots are currently C Sean Monahan, the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and LW Sven Baertschi, the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Those players are still developing, and it still makes sense that they will need a couple years before becoming consistent contributors on the ice. But, it makes sense that Johnny Gaudreau could spend next season honing his talent for a while in the AHL before coming up to the Flames and possibly filling out that line with Monahan and Baertschi. On paper, it sounds like a potent line offensively.
However, there is one variable the Flames are keeping an eye on, and it may be the reason they choose to keep Johnny out of their system next year, lest he actually have success and help launch the Flames out of the cellar and into averageness. And that variable’s name is Connor McDavid.
Connor McDavid, who plays for the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League (one of the three Major Junior Canadian leagues), is currently considered to be the top prospect in all of hockey. Many scouts have stated that he would be a sure-fire first overall pick in this year’s 2014 NHL Entry Draft, except that McDavid isn’t even eligible for the draft until 2015.
To get you up to speed about McDavid, you can watch his highlights from when he dominated the 2013 World Juniors as a 16-year-old here:
He’s already being called the next Sidney Crosby. High praise, until you consider the fact that McDavid is ahead of where Crosby was at the same stage. He is undoubtedly the ultimate prize of the 2015 NHL Draft despite the fact that it is still two drafts away, and he is considered the type of player who can automatically change the fortunes of a franchise for the next decade at least.
Now, why is this relevant? Because, as previously noted, Calgary is awful. And they don’t really look like they’ll be getting better anytime soon. Unless, of course, they add some new players into the mix who can turn around the club and at least make them competitive, competitive enough to knock them out of the draft lottery.
Again, they will probably just bury Johnny Gaudreau in the AHL until the 2016 NHL season, but let’s just say he tears up the AHL like he tears up the Hockey East. How long will the fanbase be content before demanding his call-up? Is the line of thought implausible? Sure. But is it entirely impossible? Again, maybe not.
What is for certain is that BC fans everywhere will hope they get one more year of Johnny Hockey. Back-to-back Championship banners hanging in Conte sure sounds nice.
Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.