Johnny Hockey comes to town
Johnny Gaudreau essentially had his pick of any team in the NHL after his eight-year run in Calgary ended in free agency. His performance there included six All-Star games. Not to mention 609 points in 602 games, the sixth-most points in the NHL in that span. And finally, in the 2021-22 season, a points tally that placed him second-highest in the NHL. Countless teams hoped to slot Gaudreau on to their top line. Ultimately, Gaudreau chose the Columbus Blue Jackets as his new home—and it’s a choice that could make all the difference for the team.
The Blue Jackets have talent on their roster, but it’s evident that the young squad is still in the building phase. Last season’s 10th place finish in the Eastern Conference was better than predicted, but missing the playoffs is never the goal. For a team like the Blue Jackets, to hit its stride, the right talent and leadership can be a powerful thing.
Enter Johnny Hockey. Last season, Gaudreau’s raw talent and his propensity to make a play helped propel Calgary to a Pacific Division title. His experience—including his five playoff appearances—is poised to make an impact on the ice in Columbus.
One place to watch this dynamic play out is the top line, which featured a Gaudreau-Patrik Laine pairing during the preseason. Gaudreau’s playmaking prowess could help unlock the younger Laine’s ability to produce, which has plateaued in recent seasons. Talent often amplifies talent, and that may prove true for the Blue Jackets this season.
The right individual talent on a team can change perceptions within the league—and that goes a long way for a club that’s actively building. Case in point: the Jakob Chychrun chatter.
As the story goes, the Blue Jackets made an informal inquiry on the defenseman to the Phoenix Coyotes that didn’t progress much beyond an exploratory call. However, anecdotal reports suggest Chychrun himself expressed a lack of interest—preferring clubs with clear playoff aspirations. This, of course, was all pre-Johnny Gaudreau. According to some, following the Gaudreau deal, Chychrun suggested to close sources that he might reconsider a hypothetical move to Columbus, given the new context.
Does it mean Chychrun will wind up here? No. There’s no evidence to suggest that today. But there’s no question that star power on the bench can help to alter player and management perceptions around the league. It’s a powerful dynamic.
Elite talent can also change the way players perceive their own team, which is just as important. Psychology is a crucial element when it comes to performance, and bringing in a star like Gaudreau—someone who not only displays high-end skill, but also a positive attitude and willingness to work hard—could supercharge individual excitement, confidence, motivation and inspiration. A new mood and a new season? That feels like a catalyst for growth.
An exciting time for Blue Jackets fans
For a young team that’s shown a lot of promise, the addition of a star like Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau could take them to the next level. Is Gaudreau a silver bullet? No. There aren’t any guarantees here: success also requires hard work, chemistry between players, great coaching and more. But it sure opens doors—and that translates to a lot of fun for Blue Jackets fans.