Friday May 13, 2022

On Thursday morning, the NHL listed the three finalists for the Hart Trophy. None of the names in Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Igor Shesterkin came as a major surprise, given the fantastic individual seasons all three put forward. Still, a disappointing omission from the list was Calgary Flames’ forward Johnny Gaudreau, who put together one of the better regular seasons we have witnessed from any individual in franchise history.

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In most years, Gaudreau’s 2021-22 season would have been more than enough to earn him the Hart. However, the 2021-22 campaign was far from a regular one. Eight players were able to crack the 100-point barrier, while Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller was just one shy at 99. On the back end, Cale Makar scored 28 goals in 77 games, while Roman Josi put up an outstanding 96 points. Safe to say, there were plenty of individuals who were deserving of the honour, which had to have made it difficult for those involved in selecting the top three finalists.

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that said, Gaudreau’s case to be one of the final three was as good, if not better than anyone’s. Not only did his 115 points tie Jonathan Huberdeau for second in league scoring, but his 90 points at even strength led all of his peers, with McDavid finishing second in that category at 78. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that his plus/minus rating of plus-64 marked the best single season total we have seen in that regard since Wayne Gretzky’s plus-70 back in 1986-87. Gaudreau really excelled at both ends of the ice this season, which has many believing he was snubbed.

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Coleman & Tanev Believe Gaudreau Should Have Been Hart Finalist

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Several Flames players were extremely surprised to see that the 28-year-old was not a finalist. One, in particular, was Blake Coleman. Not only did Coleman spend parts of two seasons with Nikita Kucherov, who won the Hart back in 2018-19, but he was also teammates with Taylor Hall during 2017-18, in which he won the award.

“I guess I’m biased because I see him all the time, but he’s definitely one of the best players in the NHL,” Coleman told reporters. “He’s what you buy tickets to watch. He’s one of those players that’s just so dynamic and he put butts in seats. The season he had is incredible. I think Johnny would be the first to tell you he’d trade the Hart for a Cup any day, so we’ll go with that.”

Coleman speaking this highly of Gaudreau speaks volumes about just how incredible of a talent he is. After all, not only did Coleman spend time with both Kucherov and Hall, but he also played with several other superstars during his time in Tampa Bay, such as Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Brayden Point.

Another player who was disappointed to see him left off the list was Chris Tanev. The 32-year-old has spent the last two seasons with Gaudreau yet is still in awe of both the talent and work ethic he brings to the arena each and every day.

“John’s a warrior,” Tanev said. “He comes to work every day and works his behind off. He does as much as anyone on the team. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.

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“Obviously, he’s been so good for us, so, in our mind, he is [a Hart Trophy candidate] for sure. He’s done whatever’s asked of him and gone above and beyond to help this team get to where we are right now. I don’t think he’s too worried about it, he wants to win. We’re gonna need him to continue to play as he’s doing and continue to get better over the next few games.”

While these were the two players asked directly about the situation, you can guarantee everyone else in that locker room is feeling the exact same way. After all, this is a team that missed the playoffs entirely last year and was able to bounce back in a big way, winning the Pacific Division this season. While it wasn’t the sole reason, Gaudreau’s outstanding year played a huge part in his team’s turnaround.

Sutter Proud of Gaudreau’s Growth

Less than a week ago, Sutter made it clear that he wasn’t happy with Gaudreau after he missed a breakaway opportunity late in Game 3 versus the Dallas Stars. While some thought the criticism was unwarranted, it is the tough love approach the Flames’ bench boss has brought since being hired during the 2020-21 campaign. Gaudreau didn’t take it personally, and if anything, he seemed to let it motivate him, as he has responded with three points in two games since.

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames scores on a penalty shot in the playoffs against Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Speaking with reporters on Thursday morning, Sutter didn’t get into the specifics on whether or not he believed Gaudreau should have been a Hart finalist. Instead, he wanted to make it clear just how proud he is of the winger’s growth as a player this year.

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“Johnny has been really good in the playoffs,” Sutter said. “For me, he’s taken that step. You could see it during the season and now during the playoffs. I’m proud of Johnny.”

It isn’t often that Sutter compliments his players like this to the media, so that in itself has to feel very good for Gaudreau. The two seem to have developed a very good relationship with one another, something not many predicted back when general manager Brad Treliving chose to bring Sutter back into the fold last year.


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Colton Pankiw

Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.

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