Blue Jackets’ Johnny Gaudreau returns to Calgary and knows what to expect

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Johnny Gaudreau has been booed to various levels every time the Blue Jackets have performed on the japanese seaboard this season. Fans in New Jersey have been the loudest, however he additionally obtained an earful in Philadelphia and Long Island.

It’s simply defined: the Devils, Flyers and Islanders have been all thought-about potential locations final summer season when Gaudreau, from Carney’s Point Township, NJ, opted to signal as a free agent with Columbus.

In one sense, these three experiences may very well be seen as a warm-up act. Gaudreau knows what awaits him in Calgary on Monday, when he returns to play his first sport towards the Flames since making the choice to swap organizations final summer season.

“There are some passionate fan bases within the NHL and Canada is at a unique degree,” Gaudreau mentioned. “They love their staff, and that is why I liked taking part in there a lot. I liked being part of that group for 12, 13 years. It’s going to be enjoyable to return.

“It’s going to be a very completely different expertise. (Flames followers) have been so supportive of me for my total time there. They’re a passionate fan base. They love their Flames. We’ll see what occurs.”

This will likely be a largely new expertise for the Blue Jackets, too.

They’ve been on the opposite facet of it, with former gamers Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and even Rick Nash having a shower with boos once they’ve returned to Nationwide Arena after messy or awkward departures.

Gaudreau has mentioned that leaving Calgary was a tough choice, one he didn’t come to phrases with till hours earlier than he turned an unrestricted free agent. He signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus on July 13.

He’s taken important criticism from each followers and media in Alberta, not only for stringing alongside the Flames — dropping him by way of free company supplies no compensation — but additionally for signing with the Blue Jackets, who weren’t thought-about a possible vacation spot.

It sparked a significant roster renovation with the Flames, who moved shortly to commerce winger Matthew Tkachuk earlier than they might undergo an identical destiny when his contract expired one yr later. Right like that, two-thirds of the NHL’s prime line in 2021-22 was gone from Calgary.

Gaudreau had one of many best seasons in NHL historical past with the Flames: 40 objectives, 75 assists and a plus-64 score.

“They liked (Gaudreau),” mentioned Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbrason, who additionally left Calgary to signal with Columbus as a free agent over the summer season.

“That season, each time he touched the puck they have been on the sting of their seats ready for one thing to occur, and numerous the time he did make one thing occur. I feel they’ve nice respect for him.”

But hell hath no fury like a jilted sports activities fan.

“I talked to Tkachuk (now with Florida) when he went again (to Calgary on Nov. 29),” Gaudreau mentioned. “We all perceive. Sports is superior. It brings individuals collectively.

“I obtained to play (in Calgary) for 9 years, had some nice reminiscences. Now they’re most likely somewhat upset that I’m not there anymore. Yeah, I get it.”

Gaudreau has been ready for at the present time to come nearly since he determined to signal with the Blue Jackets.

“It would have been ice to do it in October or November,” he mentioned with a smile. Mostly, although, he is bored with speaking about it, having to clarify (once more and once more) his rationale for leaving Calgary for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets spent Sunday touring to Calgary, so the extraordinary highlight of this sport will solely shine for sooner or later. The Jackets will take a morning skate within the Saddledome on Monday, play the sport that night, then fly postgame to Edmonton upfront of Wednesday’s sport towards the Oilers.

Both Gaudreau and Gudbranson will seemingly get “welcome again” movies on the Saddledome scoreboard throughout a first-period TV timeout.

“I’m excited to return, for certain,” Gaudreau mentioned. “I’m excited to see some acquainted faces, taking part in towards my former teammates, taking part in within the ‘Dome once more. … It’ll be enjoyable.

“(The video) will convey up some nice reminiscences. It’ll be a fast minute, minute and a half. It’ll be good to be acknowledged and then play the remainder of the sport.”

Gaudreau has been the offensive catalyst the Blue Jackets anticipated, though his play has dipped as a way of hopelessness has enveloped the season. In 45 video games, he has 42 factors (12-30-42), tying for the lead in objectives with Patrik Laine, and main the membership in assists and factors.

But he would not have anyplace shut to the supporting solid he performed with in Calgary. Since the early levels of this season, the Blue Jackets have performed like a lottery staff, not a playoff contender as Gaudreau had hoped.

“It’s been a tough yr; we get it,” Gaudreau mentioned. “We have been by means of ups and downs, accidents and stuff. It’ll be enjoyable to return (to Calgary) whether or not we’re in first place or final. It’s gonna be a particular night time.”

Gaudreau, Gudbranson and the Blue Jackets beat the Flames 3-1 on Dec. 9 in Columbus, taking part in one among their finest video games this season. Finding an emotional attachment to current video games has been tough, however should not be a difficulty on Monday.

How can Gaudreau’s new teammates finest assist him?

“Just play our property off and get a win for him there,” winger Gus Nyquist mentioned. “I’m certain that might imply rather a lot to him.

“I’m certain (Calgary) actually needed to hold him. Any staff on this league desires Johnny Gaudreau on their hockey staff. We’re lucky to be those to have him.”

The video games earlier this season on the East Coast have given the Blue Jackets somewhat style of what’s approaching Monday.

“I hadn’t heard boos like those in Jersey since I used to be on a staff with Brad Marchand,” mentioned Blue Jackets heart Sean Kuraly, a former Boston Bruin. “But boos are on the highway are cheers at house.

“You simply need him to really feel perhaps somewhat additional that, as a teammate, you are with him and you are behind him.”

(Top picture of Johnny Gaudreau: Ben Jackson / NHLI by way of Getty Images)

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