It is still true. The Columbus Blue Jackets did in fact sign Johnny Gaudreau this offseason to a seven-year deal. It is not a dream. Soon, he will take the ice at Nationwide Arena.
When the news broke, most everyone in the hockey world was stunned. “Why Columbus” seemed to be a trending question. In the end, Gaudreau chose the Blue Jackets and it seemed he couldn’t be more happy about it.
Now that the excitement of the offseason shocker has calmed down some, it’s time to look ahead to reasonable expectations for Gaudreau in his first season with the Blue Jackets. We need to make one thing very clear about this signing. As good as Gaudreau is, he wasn’t signed by the Blue Jackets to save their franchise.
Gaudreau Isn’t Their Savior
The Blue Jackets had plenty of good pieces in place even before Gaudreau decided to sign with them. While no one in franchise history has joined the team with the kind of resume he has, he is not the savior some are making him out to be.
Gaudreau will without question help the team in several areas. That’s the key thing here. He will help the team get to the next level. But to say anything beyond that to the point of saving the franchise is just not accurate.
Gaudreau is expected to be part of a core that will help the Blue Jackets become a regular in the playoffs with the hope of eventually winning the Stanley Cup. We do need to somewhat temper our expectations at the start. Like any player joining a new team, there will be an adjustment period.
Gaudreau has to adjust to his new teammates and a new coaching staff. To expect him to duplicate a line of 40-75-115 and a +64 in 2022-23 is just not realistic. His 115 points last season was the first time in his career he eclipsed 100 points in a season. He was on some good Flames’ teams during that time.
Gaudreau Will Elevate His Teammates
This is the part where things start to get exciting from a Blue Jackets’ perspective. Gaudreau’s playmaking ability should unlock massive potential with his linemates.
The obvious name to start with is Patrik Laine. In terms of a pure goal scorer, Gaudreau has never played with a finisher with Laine with all due respect to Flames’ teammates of the past. Coach Brad Larsen has hinted the duo may start together but then see where it goes. Will they have instant chemistry?
If Gaudreau and Laine do click, it’s not out of the realm to see Laine finish with 50 goals. He’ll play every major offensive situation and will have someone in Gaudreau who can feed him the puck.
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Whoever becomes their center will also see an uptick. Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic seem to be the leaders to start at 1C. Jenner plays the type of game that can complement the two wingers well. He drives the net. He scores most of his goals from within six feet. He is also defensively responsible. If his health is cleared, Jenner is in line for a productive role.
Meanwhile Roslovic’s skating and continued development into a two-way center would be a nice fit on the top line also. He’s proven he can provide offense when necessary. The Blue Jackets actually do have some options to play that key role.
The power play should also see some improvement with Gaudreau on board. Imagine a power play consisting of Gaudreau, Laine, Jenner, Jake Voracek and Zach Werenski. Has there been a better Blue Jackets’ power play on paper ever? There’s no denying how impactful Gaudreau’s signing is.
Now consider the domino effect on the rest of the lineup. The other lines should become stronger and more formidable. There is the potential of multiple players achieving new career highs. To give you some perspective, let’s show you what the lines could look like come opening night.
- Line 1: Gaudreau-Jenner-Laine
- Line 2: Johnson-Roslovic-Voracek
- Line 3: Nyquist-Sillinger-Marchenko
- Line 4: Robinson-Kuraly-Olivier (Danforth/Bemstrom/Chinakhov/Luoto)
Do you see how good these lines or a similar version would be? There is plenty of competition going into camp. Gaudreau’s presence allows for an upgrade in depth on all lines. That’s where you will see the biggest impact of the signing.
Predicting Gaudreau’s Numbers in 2022-23
We do expect a period of adjustment for Gaudreau to learn the systems and the tendencies of his new teammates. He will still produce even despite that but we don’t think it will be to the level of last season.
Therefore we expect Gaudreau to approach 30 goals and to continue excelling in his playmaking. We will predict a season of 28-62-90 in 2022-23. We also expect Laine to exceed 44 goals for a new career high. We also think Jenner will exceed 50 points for the first time in his career.
Many people will focus on Gaudreau’s production and rightfully so. But to see his true impact, watch what he’ll do for his teammates. That’s why there is major excitement around his signing.
Don’t think of Gaudreau as a savior. Think of him as someone who will play his part and help unlock the potential of others. If you can do that, then you’ll see why the Blue Jackets are excited not only for this season but for many future seasons too.