Would Johnny Gaudreau be a good fit for the Flyers?


The allure of south Philly is something you just cannot overlook. There’s just something about a few thousand screaming fans, drinking, cursing, shouting at the opposing team, that just makes you feel right at home. This must be what Calgary Flames left winger Johnny Gaudreau was talking about when he said “Yeah, it’d be sweet.” When speaking with the 94 WIP morning show in Philadelphia. What he is referring to is the possibility to finally suit of for his favorite team growing up, the Philadelphia Flyers.

Now, before we all get too carried away, let’s look at the logistics of this situation. Johnny is in the midst of a 6 year, forty and a half million dollar contract that expires after the 2022-2023 season. He has expressed desire to stay in Calgary, a city and hockey team that has been nothing but gracious to him. He is their franchise guy. He is THE man in Calgary, similar to Claude Giroux here in Philadelphia. Why would Johnny throw all that away to come back home? Well, to quote Dorothy here, “There’s no place like home.”

Gaudreau holds a lot of ties to the city of Philadelphia. Johnny still visits during the off-season, seeing friends and family. He holds his annual charity golf outing, the Johnny Gaudreau Scholarship Golf Tournament at Ron Jaworski’s Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor City, not too far across state lines. Growing up, he states he was a big fan of Danny Briere, along with the Flyers club as a whole. So what more is there to discuss? Hometown boy wants to come back home and play for his favorite team. Not so fast…

Let’s take a look at whether Johnny Hockey would be a good fit on the orange and black roster. Johnny Gaudreau is listed at five feet nine inches tall, weighing about 157. He’s not a big guy by any means. The Flyers don’t have big guys on their team. Their biggest player is Sean Couturier who sits at six foot three and weighs 211 pounds. Size wise, Philadelphia should look elsewhere. However, if we are talking skill, they should look no further. The Flyers have one left winger on their team, Michael Raffl, and Gaudreau would clearly be an upgrade at that position if he decided to don the orange and black. Raffl was a surprise to the Flyers when he first entered the league. He was relatively unknown among North American hockey fans, but made a pretty good first impression with the team. His point totals grew in each of his first three years in the league, but dropped this past season, albeit shortened due to injury. Yes, the Flyers do use centers and right wingers to fill the void left by only carrying one true left winger, but adding someone as talented as Gaudreau, who is a natural left winger, would be an immediate upgrade.

Now, let’s say that Gaudreau either finishes out his contract in Calgary, or ends up getting dealt at the deadline in his final year to the Flyers. What kind of scene would he come in to when he arrived in the city of brotherly love? Well, you can almost expect to see one or two youngsters making an impact on the main roster at the left wing position. You have guys like Tyrell Goulbourne, who impressed early on in his career and flashed some great potential, or you have Danick Martel, who put up 40 points in 68 games last year for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The most likely scenario that Johnny Hockey would walk into is Raffl more than likely out the door, and Taylor Leier gracing the big leagues with his presence. He has experience in the bigs, and impressed enough people to stick around for a few games when he could have been sent back down. Depending on how the other prospects pan out, you may also see forwards Noah Cates, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Matthew Strome playing up with the Flyers. Ratcliffe would bring some size to a club where it is much needed, especially in a very strong metropolitan division. Cates and Strome possess great skill, and if their development stays on track, they can end up being valuable assets to the Flyers in the future.

Boiling everything down to it’s most simplistic form, let’s see if this is a legitimate option for the Flyers. Ever since taking the reins, Hextall has always had the “build through the draft” mentality, and rightfully so. The Penguins just won two Stanley Cups, and this year it was more evident than the season before, your farm system prospects matter. Injuries riddled the rivals to the west all year, and deep into the playoffs. When the baby pens needed to step up, they stepped up in big ways. Yes, there had been a big acquisition or two, including the Kessel deal, but for the most part, that team was built from the ground up with a lot of prospects plugging holes left by injuries. If Hextall continues the way he has been, he won’t stray far from that path. In that sense, you can count out a big signing such as Johnny Gaudreau.

However, maybe years of frustration boil over, and Hextall is getting impatient with the development of his younger players. If Johnny Hockey hits the open market, bidders will come out of the woodwork. Would he be willing to sign at a discounted rate because he would be coming home? Or, would Hextall be willing to engage in a bidding war of sorts for his services? Knowing Ron Hextall, he will not grow impatient, and will refuse to engage in a bidding war for someone who will be around the age of 30, and more than likely on the decline of his career.

This situation sounds very familiar, and if you remember back a few years, you can remember when the name Bobby Ryan was floating around south Philly. Bobby Ryan, a Cherry Hill native, voiced his displeasure with his team at that point, the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan had fans in Philadelphia abuzz with rumors flying left and right. People were envisioning a line with him, JVR and Mike Richards. It all turned out to be just rumors. Bobby Ryan instantly regretted voicing his want to play in Philadelphia, and was later traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he currently plays. Players will always want to play in their hometown. The allure of coming home, seeing your friends and family in the crowd at every home game, is a dream every kid has when he is growing up. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. In Bobby Ryan’s case, it just wasn’t meant to be.

The likelihood of Johnny Gaudreau joining the Philadelphia Flyers is very slim also. After his initial comments on the morning show, he followed up with these remarks via TSN:

“I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that. I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows… If we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much.”

Yes, what Gaudreau said here was basically meant as damage control. He didn’t want the Calgary fans thinking that at the first sign of distress, he was fleeing Calgary and heading to another team. However, with a team contending for a playoff spot, and with the acquisitions like Travis Hamonic and Dougie Hamilton this and last year, the Flames are building quite the formidable force in the western conference. Gaudreau is better off staying in Calgary with their young, very talented team. That’s not to say that he might not find success with the Flyers at some point. The Flyers will be a successful team in the coming years with the influx of prospects coming up through, but right now, Calgary is the team that is going to succeed over Philadelphia, and Johnny Hockey will have a better chance at hoisting Lord Stanley if he stays put rather than come to Philadelphia.


Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports