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Flames Fans Grieving Gaudreau Departure with Anger



Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are two stars on a top heavy team

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Calgary Flames fans are at varying stages of grief.

Finding out the franchise’s best player is leaving will do that. Discovering Columbus was his preferred destination is like being told your partner prefers McDonalds over The Keg.

People can feel and process emotions however they want, but the mass vitriol being directed at both sides of this contract drama seems a bit unwarranted.

Who are you angry with? Johnny Gaudreau, who decided to leave money and his legacy on the table to seek out what he considers a better fit for his growing family?

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving, whose biggest crime was gambling on being able to keep a player who gave them every indication he could be retained?

If either of these scenarios describe your social media activity in the last couple of days … good grief.

Who knew the festering new nature of global negativity would be brought to the surface by an individual choosing to go get paid millions of dollars playing a game he loves in a city he and his family determined better suited to him than the one he is leaving behind?

People hate things they don’t understand. And nobody seems to be able to grasp why Gaudreau picked Guy Fieri over Brad Pitt. OK, maybe Calgary isn’t Pitt, but it’s at least Ryan Reynolds by hockey standards.

It took the whole hockey world by surprise. Even Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, it seems. But in a world full of greed, and one that historically despises seeing sports figures choose dollars over sense, why is it so hard to accept that a player made a difficult decision and wanted to make a change even if it meant leaving money on the table?

Gaudreau made an “agonizing” decision

Some are saying Gaudreau was in the wrong for making the Flames wait so long for his final decision. Suggesting he knew long ago he wasn’t coming back. For a moment, consider the magnitude of difficulty in your nightly dinner choices with your significant other. That impacts a few hours of your life. This affects seven years for the Gaudreaus.

“If it was easy, I don’t think he’d have been agonizing over it,” Treliving said after Gaudreau finally made his choice to leave. “A lot of that stuff will stay between us, but it was a hard decision for him. It weighed on him and, ultimately, he chose what he felt was best for he and his family and all you can do is respect it.

Why are so many having so much trouble respecting it?

For one, too many people are trying to read between the lines without understanding the lines they’re reading in the first place. When agent Lewis Gross confirmed this was a “family decision,” everyone jumped to the conclusion that John and wife Meredith, who’s expecting their first child in late September, wanted to be closer to home. Lazy journalism and the ever-expanding influence of social media banter is what tied Gaudreau to Philadelphia as the only option. Later, it expanded to New Jersey, his home state, and the nearby New York Islanders.

In the end, other factors were clearly considered.

Family decision doesn’t mean close to home, necessarily

Only if and when Gaudreau shares these intimate details (don’t hold your breath) will you then truly understand the decision. But it’s one only he and his family could make. He doesn’t owe anyone an explanation.

Maybe it’s about where they want their child to be raised. Perhaps it’s related to the intensity of the spotlight in one city over another. The pros and cons list was likely a long one, and your impression of Columbus, and the Blue Jackets, is irrelevant to all of that.

Gaudreau told Columbus writers he was “super excited” to make the move and the social media chatter was “all outside noise.”

Maybe he wants to hear less of that.

It doesn’t diminish what he did over eight years with the Calgary Flames.

On the other front, the hatred of the job done by Treliving seems to be where the other half of the population wants to go.

Was there really a good time to trade Gaudreau in the past two years? He would have been raked over the coals if he dealt him at this year’s deadline. Or ahead of this past season. Treliving had every reason to believe the outcome of these negotiations would be different.

But people would be calling for his head either way. It comes with the territory. You call it poor asset management. He calls it trying to give his team its best chance to win in a window that might close without Gaudreau.

He has a goalie in his prime, an improving core and a coach with an effective track record but a historically short shelf life before a new tune is needed.

“Lots of people have the solutions after the fact,” the Calgary Flames GM said via Zoom on Tuesday. “At the end of the day we made the decision to keep John. To negotiate with him when his side wanted to have those discussions. We respected his wishes with that.

“You understand risk when you go into these decisions. It ended the way it ended.”

Sorry for the loss. Can’t get to acceptance quickly enough.