Gaudreau ahead of Calgary return: I 'get it' if Flames fans are upset
Johnny Gaudreau says he understands if Calgary Flames fans are upset about his departure ahead of his first game back in the city with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
"Sports is awesome," Gaudreau told NHL.com's Craig Merz on Friday. "It brings people together, and I got to play there for 10 years, nine years, and I had some great memories, and they're probably a little upset that I'm not there anymore. I get it."
Even though the skilled winger isn't expecting a warm welcome, he's looking forward to suiting up at the Saddledome again.
"They love their team, and that's why I loved playing there so much, and I loved being part of that organization for 12, 13 years," he said. "It's going to be fun going back."
Gaudreau's current teammates had some fun with him at Monday's morning skate, perhaps preparing him for what's to come in the evening.
Gaudreau stunned the hockey world when he signed with the Blue Jackets as an unrestricted free agent in July. His departure wasn't necessarily shocking, as many expected him to land with either his hometown Philadelphia Flyers, the New Jersey Devils, or the New York Islanders. But Flames fans can be forgiven if they still feel a little bitter about Gaudreau's exit.
The American played eight seasons with the Flames after debuting with the club for a single contest in 2013-14. Gaudreau ranks fifth in assists and points, as well as ninth in goals in franchise history. Last season, the 29-year-old set career highs in goals (40), assists (75), and points to finish fourth in Hart Trophy voting for the second time.
Gaudreau said in December his intent during free agency wasn't to string the Flames along. A few weeks earlier, he mentioned he didn't regret his decision to join the Jackets, noting he wouldn't change it "for the world."
The Blue Jackets have disappointed this season, entering Monday sitting last in the NHL at 14-30-2. Gaudreau isn't producing at last season's elite clip, but he's posting nearly a point per game with 44 in 46 contests. The dynamic forward has scored 12 of his 13 goals in 2022-23 at even strength.