The Columbus Blue Jackets made a massive splash in free agency this offseason by signing star forward Johnny Gaudreau. He’s coming off of a career-best season, and his new organization is certainly hoping he can recreate it. As the highest-paid player on the team, there are high expectations for the upcoming season.
Gaudreau’s 2021-22 Performance
Gaudreau was the rising star of the Calgary Flames since his meteoric development following his draft year. Once former captain Mark Giordano was selected by the expansion Seattle Kraken, it seemed that Gaudreau was set to be the next face of the franchise. A year later, that failed to happen, as the 29-year-old decided to exercise his right to test the free-agent market. He shocked the world and signed with the Blue Jackets, who were never really mentioned as a landing spot until the agreement was in place.
In his final season with the Flames, Gaudreau had a career-high 115 points while also putting up 40 goals. This performance launched him into the conversation of the NHL’s elite and culminated in the race for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He was rewarded with a massive contract as an unrestricted free agent and made the move to Columbus. While he has yet to step foot on the ice donning a Blue Jackets uniform, he has already created a major buzz around the city which will only grow as we inch closer to his debut.
Gaudreau’s Expectations in 2022-23
Given his contract, expectations will be sky-high for Gaudreau in his first season with the Blue Jackets. However, he has the skill to back it up. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to recreate his performance from last season, but he should still perform at a very high level. The 100-point plateau is roughly where I expect him to finish the season if he plays all 82 games.
Gaudreau had some very strong teammates in Calgary, which helped boost his numbers in 2021-22. With that being said, he won’t be alone in Columbus. Playing alongside players like Patrik Laine and Boone Jenner, who have become impact players in the league, as well as young, up-and-coming stars like Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson, there’s a lot of potential for him to reach similar point totals.
It remains to be seen who Gaudreau’s linemates will be; however, there are a few players who could complement his game very nicely. Jakub Voracek will be able to create plays off the puck and set up shots, while Laine should be able to take advantage of Gaudreau’s playmaking ability and put the puck in the net. At the same time, his high-end skill could help bring out the best in young players like Sillinger and Johnson (as mentioned) but also Yegor Chinakhov or the debuting Kirill Marchenko.
Regardless of who he plays with on opening night, it will likely be a revolving door for the beginning of the season until head coach Brad Larsen finds the best combination. Fortunately, we’ll get to see some very interesting lines, considering there aren’t a lot of bad options on the roster. The only players who likely won’t get a shot to play with the dynamic winger would be someone like Sean Kuraly or Eric Robinson who fill a much different role. Anyone that the team believes can bring high-end point totals should get a shot at playing alongside Gaudreau.
Expectations for Gaudreau were high in Calgary. However, now he’s the hero of an organization he has yet to play for, which brings a new level of pressure. He has already brought much excitement to the Blue Jackets, and the league is paying attention to Columbus because of him. He needs to have a great season to keep the hype going around the organization and to help the team get back into the playoffs. If he brings his high level of scoring while helping propel the team to wins, then he’ll certainly be able to justify his contract to the already excited fans and cement himself as one of the faces of Blue Jackets history.
William Espy is a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus. He has been writing about hockey since 2016 on various platforms. He currently covers the Columbus Blue Jackets but had a previous stint covering the Calgary Flames.