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On the Bubble: Freddie Gauthier

I guess you could say I’m a little surprised that Gauthier is still here. There hasn’t been a lot in the past three seasons that should really believe us to think that he’ll be anything more than a 3rd or 4th line center in the AHL. That should be something that GMs are very comfortable walking away from when an entry level contract ends.

Yet here we are, once again debating if Gauthier will be the Leafs 4th line center this season. The circumstances are different this year. No one is looking for Gauthier to play a lot. He’ll really only be there to take the odd face-off when Tavares, Matthews, and Kadri are too gassed. He might see some penalty kill time, but I’m not sure in what world that’s a good idea. Or there is the other, more realistic option. Gauthier returns to the Marlies and does his 4th line ice time at the Ricoh for the next two seasons instead of the Scotiabank Arena.

The Story on Freddie Gauthier

Let’s start by saying the 2013 NHL Entry draft was a miserable one. Not too many teams are going to look back fondly on who they took away from this, and the Leafs salvaging the weekend by selecting Andreas Johnsson in the seventh round more than makes up for the rest of it. If there was a draft where it was worth losing a 2nd round pick for Dave Bolland, this was it.

Gauthier was selected 21st overall in this draft. One spot after Anthony Mantha, who was arguably the last good option available who was projected to go around where the Leafs picked. Gauthier was deemed a safe pick, a guy who was going to be a defensive specialist who took a lot of faceoffs and killed penalties. “Experts” were certain he’d easily achieve this. So far he hasn’t.

Gauthier put up solid numbers in the QMJHL, as one often does if you are in anyway worth getting drafted out of the QMJHL. I swear they must start the season point totals at 50, or have multipliers for certain types of assists or something. This and Gauthier’s ill-advised appearances in the World Juniors seemed to help his stock and comfort most Leafs fans that he could be a 3C for the Leafs at some point.

That brings us to Freddie’s time with the Marlies/Leafs. With the Marlies, he’s yet to crack 20 points in a season, although he hasn’t played a schedule of games for them in any of the three years either. And as for his time with the Leafs. Well, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have any time with the Leafs if he didn’t have that former first round pick label attached to him, and considering that number of players who have passed him by in the promotion department, it is getting dangerously close to time to cut the losses.

Numbers

It seems like the number that matters most with Gauthier is 6’5. That’s what can’t be taught, and that’s what is most intriguing about him to a team that hasn’t had a lot of size to it, and no size up the middle until Matthews was drafted. The problem even with that number is that it is misleading. Gauthier doesn’t have the weight to match the height, and doesn’t have the physical edge that would make him intimidating opposition. He does have reach, so there’s that.

Gauthier’s NHL career is 37 games deep. He has a .14 ppg total, which is pretty much exactly as advertised. The numbers start looking a bit better when you look at P/60, where he has a respectable .75, which is manageable for a bottom line center. It does raise the important question, do you feel comfortable playing Gauthier more than seven or eight sheltered minutes a night he gets though?

His Goals For % should answer that question, as it currently sits at 32.14%. Considering the primary reason you have Gauthier is to let your better players get a minute of rest and hopefully avoid being scored on during that time, Gauthier is getting scored on a lot. The 42.99 Corsi For % also makes it seem as if he’s getting shot at a lot, although he hasn’t been done any favours by his faceoff specialist reputation, which sees him starting in the offensive end only 31.75% of the time.

I had mentioned previous there is a certain “why is he still here” feel to Gauthier, and that is probably best demonstrated in his AHL stats…

via prospect-stats.com

I don’t know how anyone can be feeling good about this, especially while considering him for a NHL job. As a point of reference, it looks like Gauthier has already fallen behind Adam Brooks when it comes to usage, and compared to outputs, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to make a case for Adam Brooks being the Leafs fourth line center, this season or next.

Adam Brooks via prospect-stats.com

I don’t want to beat up on Freddie Gauthier, who by most accounts seems to be well like by the media and his teammates, and I’m probably a jerk for pointing out that his hockey career probably shouldn’t advance beyond its present role, but the story so far says it’s odd that he’s still here.

Best Case Scenario For Gauthier

I’m wrong. The numbers are wrong. Gauthier is in the best shape of his life, packed on muscle, and has been skating with Barb Underhill all offseason and not only is Gauthier ready to take the fourth line job, but he’s going to kill some penalties too.

This really only happens if there is skating improvement and new mean streak to his game. That or Par Lindholm and Josh Jooris really can’t handle the fourth line and Gauthier gets it by default until remedied through waivers or a trade. I’d really like to believe in Gauthier since having a 4th line center at $675k for the next two years could really help the Leafs, but there is also a reason why Gauthier is at $675k for the next two years.

And the Worst Case Scenario?

Well…Gauthier is under contract for the Leafs, so he bottoms out as a Marlies health scratch. It seems that depth wise the Marlies have Mueller, Jooris, and Brooks who hold the other center jobs, but guys like Elynuik and Estephan are going to push hard for icetime, and they may have the greater upside at this point too.

I’m doing this section for all these on the bubble posts, but really we all know it doesn’t apply here.

What’s Likely To Happen

Gauthier will spend the next two years making $100k/yr on the Marlies, and establish himself as a leader on the Marlies. He’ll get the option at the end of the deal to stick around and be a Marlies veteran since the team likes him so much. There will probably be a letter on his shirt, and that’s fine.

Unless something has drastically changed this summer, I don’t know how Gauthier can be considered for the Leafs, even as the 13th forward, but given that some have mentioned him for the role, we included him in the On the Bubble series.



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