We all remember the Cinderella story from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs - not the Cinderella story of the entire team, which was of course important - but of Freddy Gaudreau being called up in the biggest games in franchise history, not even getting his own locker. Gaudreau made his debut during the Western Conference Final, but it was during the Pittsburgh series where he made his mark, becoming the first player since 1944 to score his first three career goals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Great things were on the horizon, and there was nowhere to go but up, right? Unfortunately, not necessarily. As the resident Freddy G fan at On The Forecheck, I took the task of reviewing his season with the Predators.
The Report Card
- Defense - Gaudreau was only asked to play a little under 10 minutes per game in his 55 starts, but when he was on the ice he filled the role admirably. Gaudreau was excellent at shot suppression, as well as helping to keep the puck out of the net: while on the ice, the opponents averaged 1.71 expected goals (xG) per 60 minutes, but he only allowed 1.45 goals/60. His on-ice xG differential was tops on the team, with a +0.91 xG. He also led the team at even strength in on-ice shot differential (+11.39 per 60) as well.
- Aside from defense, Gaudreau was largely invisible. He managed only three goals and one assist overthe course of the season and his great differentials mentioned above were by virtue of his shot suppression, not because he generated chances. His most frequent linemate was Rocco Grimaldi, coming in at 260 minutes on-ice, but Grimaldi was able to at least manage a five-goal, 13-point season.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until this game in late November that Gaudreau got his first career (regular season) goal. He finished hard at the net, making the most out of the chaos created in the high-danger areas.
Gaudreau started a career-high 55 games this season - he came into the year with just 28 starts in the previous two seasons. Three goals and no assists shouldn’t be the type of output you would expect with double the playing time. While his defensive effort was good, there’s concern that he and his line got pretty lucky with that type of Goal/Expected Goal spread. Grimaldi used his limited playing time and at least hit the double-digits with points, and even Salomaki had seven points compared to Gaudreau’s four - both coming in fourth-line minutes.
Freddy is highly unlikely to get the type of playing time that he got last season. The team has an abundance of centers, so he won’t get much usage in that role. The addition of Daniel Carr, as well as Salomäki and Watson being healthy, makes Gaudreau one of the odd-men out when filling out the bottom six. If Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, Rocco Grimaldi and Calle Järnkrok are mainstays in the lineup, the prognosis doesn’t look good. Next year is the final year in his contract, and with a $700,000 cap hit, Nashville may look to waive him in hopes of stashing him in Milwaukee.
D As much as it pains me to say it, even on a team with fairly limited bottom-six depth, Freddy struggled to make a mark with an extended stint on the NHL roster. Gaudreau, on any given night, would need to beat out the likes of Austin Watson, Miikka Salomäki, and Daniel Carr for a fourth-line spot, not to mention any AHL call-ups we may see at the start of the year. He proved with his defensive play that he is not a liability when on the ice, and his ability to play center was valuable during the season, but neither of these will likely be enough to secure playing time next season - if he even remains on the team.
How would you grade Frédérick Gaudreau’s season?
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