Both Flames, Gaudreau must look in the mirror as off-season changes swirl

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) juggles a puck with his stick during warm top before taking on the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL qualifying round game action. (Jason Franson/CP)

CALGARY – Asked about the possibility of being traded, Johnny Gaudreau said all the right things about wanting to stay in Calgary.

Asked how he felt about his playoff performance, Gaudreau picked up where he left off against Dallas:

By missing the mark.

“I thought our line did well and we were happy with the way we played,” said Gaudreau, with a lack of ownership sure to be scrutinized every bit as much as his play. “Unfortunately, some of the chances we had didn’t go in.”

Wow.

“Defensively I thought we were really good in our own zone with our line,” he continued. “That was important to [head coach Geoff Ward] – being smart in the defensive zone and not being a liability on the ice. Offensively I thought we had some looks throughout the two series. I thought the power play was really good. Had some good looks in (Game 4) to win in overtime, to take a 3-1 series lead, but the goalie made some good saves.”

It’s a similar refrain from a year earlier when Gaudreau also said he had some “good looks” in a five-game faceplant against Colorado in which he had one assist.

This year his production was limited entirely to the power play, where the 27-year-old winger had six of his seven points.

The other came on an empty net goal.

Not enough, and he should know that — especially since his annual playoff disappearance was once again the talk of the NHL.

Yet, when asked about being in the crosshairs of off-season trade talk for a troubling trend of post-season shortcomings, Gaudreau made an impassioned case for wanting to stay.

“Calgary has been a second home to me – I love playing there,” said the Jersey native. “I love my teammates there, I love the city, the fans are awesome. It’s a team I could see myself playing for for the remainder of my career, and I’ve always said that. I know a lot of people have speculations of me wanting to go back east. But I just feel really comfortable where I’m at with the teammates there, the coaching staff, with [GM] Brad [Treliving], the management team and the owners.

“Throughout my whole time there I’ve been treated really well and love the city. It’s been a blast playing there the past six years. You just know how passionate the fans are about our team. That’s the kind of market you want to be in.”

Suffice it to say, the feeling in this marketplace isn’t necessarily mutual, as frustration surrounding the former 99-point player mounts.

There are plenty of observers who see Gaudreau’s struggles in the post-season as something the generously listed 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger can’t adapt to.

When the intensity ratchets up and time and space are at a premium, the dynamic playmaker tends to fall far from his regular season offensive levels and effectiveness.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that had Gaudreau’s line with Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm been able to score a goal or two while playing 5-on-5 in the Dallas series, it might have kept the Flames in the bubble for Round 2.

Surely, after first-round exits in each of their last three playoff appearances, the Flames need to make changes.

Gaudreau seems one of the most obvious ones for a team that just can’t seem to get over the playoff hump.

“I’m sure there will be changes – hopefully you don’t want to hear your own name with changes like that because it’s tough to go to a different team, especially when you played with a lot of players on that team for a while now,” said Gaudreau, who has two years left on a deal paying him $6.75 million annually. “But it’s part of the business.

“If I had a chance we’d bring our whole group back. But at the end of the day it doesn’t happen like that sometimes.”

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It never does. Nor should it in Calgary where the GM agreed the talented team fell short of expectations once again.

Typically one to stand up for his players when being criticized, Treliving tread carefully when asked if he was happy with Gaudreau’s playoff performance.

“I’ve never really used this platform to go at players individually or air my thoughts on individual performance – I would generally say as a group we needed to do more,” said Treliving, who said he’d spoken to “over a dozen” GMs in the last 72 hours, for what it’s worth.

“When you’re a top player, what comes with that is a lot of responsibility. This guy wants to win as badly as anybody does. He wants to win here in Calgary and I think even his game took some steps. But at the end of the day we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve so we are open to criticism.”

Treliving did reveal that in Game 2 against Winnipeg Sam Bennett tore a triceps and Rasmus Andersson broke his foot. He confirmed Matthew Tkachuk suffered from a concussion.

What he wouldn’t do was shed any light on is where this organization goes from here, and who will remain with it, including coach Ward. He never does on garbage bag day.

“I understand why fans are upset sometimes – I feel like sometimes we’ve been in the same situation over the past few years, getting knocked out in the first or second round,” said Gaudreau. “I’m sure they’re not happy and our team is not happy either.

“The only thing we can do, I guess is take an account of ourselves, look in the mirror, have a real good off-season, work out hard and come prepared and come back to Calgary and hopefully have [most of] the guys from this season there next season, because we had a really solid team this year and I think we could have went a little deeper.”

A mirror is a good start.

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