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Calgary Flames

Any Boos For Former Flames Star Gaudreau Just A Symbol Of What Was Lost

The Calgary Flames host Johnny Gaudreau and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, reminding them of the offensive talent they lost in a tumultuous offseason.



If, or when, the boos fly for Johnny Gaudreau in his return to the Saddledome on Monday night, it will just serve as another reminder of the sting of loss the Calgary Flames and their fans felt last summer. 

Despite being in the mix for a wildcard spot or better, coming off a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and boasting some pretty talented players who simply haven’t yet reached their full potential this season, there’s much more apprehension around the Flames this year. 

Most of that is because of loss. 

Losing Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency and then Matthew Tkachuk in a shotgun trade with the Florida Panthers was, in many ways, traumatic. 

The grind these current Calgary Flames are going through for goals is an indication of the cliché but accurate suggestions in the offseason that you can’t replace players. You can only hope to build something new. 

Adding talented forwards like Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri built hope and expectations. But the team still doesn’t have a player like Gaudreau. 

Maybe few teams in the NHL really do. 

Calgary Flames fans still miss the way the silky stickhandler could gain a zone, and how he just clicked with Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk. After all three of them potted 40 last season, the Flames are on pace for zero 40-goal scorers this year. Not even Lindholm, although he’s faring well at close to a point-per-game pace. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets were Gaudreau’s choice. The reasons don’t even matter. 

And with the Jackets rolling through town Monday night, Calgary fans have the opportunity to both celebrate what he did while he was here and let him know how they feel about his decision to leave. 

It’s been well documented that Gaudreau expects boos. Tkachuk got the heel treatment every time he touched the puck in game action, but he also received a standing ovation after his tribute video. 

With iconic goals in Flames silks, Gaudreau’s video is going to challenge fans and players alike to keep from crying. He scored emotional goals and experienced massive moments growing as a player in Calgary for the first eight years of his career. 

None as fresh as his overtime winner in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. 

“He did that a lot,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter told reporters on Monday morning. “He’s a puck possession guy. Not only a transporter, but he’s a guy that did a lot in changing the tides of games.”

Sutter stopped short of calling Gaudreau a gamebreaker. Sutter teams simply don’t have those. But that’s what Gaudreau was … what he is. 

“I was disappointed to lose Johnny,” Sutter said, adding he ticked every box as a good person, good teammate and good player. “I enjoyed coaching him, enjoyed seeing his progression last year. He had quite a career here, and he had a career year here last year.

“I’m sure he’ll be really well received.”

The boos that will surely come — whether they’re directed at the decision, the fact he’s the best player on the opponent’s team, or just because they add to the excitement and atmosphere of a game — Gaudreau is ready for them.

He even got some practice at the morning skate with his Blue Jackets preparing him for the worst when he touched the puck in practice. 

“They’re a passionate fanbase here, that’s why I loved playing here,” Gaudreau said from the podium on Monday. “I don’t expect anything else.

“They love their Flames. I’m not on the Flames anymore — I’m on the other team — so I get it.”

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