Johnny's back. In more ways than one.
We all know about Johnny Gaudreau missing 10 games with that fractured finger. We also know the team went 6-3-1 in his absence. And who will forget his dazzling display against the Ducks in his two-point return - where he scored the first goal in and 8-3 rout of their California rivals.
But there has been a real shift on and off the ice for #13 since his team returned home from that six games in nine nights road trip. He's a different man.
For the first time in Gaudreau's career, he was a part of and honestly affected by, the business side of pro hockey. A contract negotiation that lingered took an emotional toll. The star forward would miss training camp. Suddenly, he was behind the 8-ball when it came to learning coach Glen Gulutzan's new system.
Granted, it wasn't the start the team or individuals were hoping for as they all adjusted. No one was happy, including Johnny, and you could see it.
Then came the injury, adding to the frustration. When Gaudreau got hurt it was used as a rallying point. And the team bought in. Having to rehab on his own while the team was out east, in his own backyard no less, helped the New Jersey native realize how much he missed it.
The games, the teammates and the fun.
When they returned, so did the Johnny of old. You could see it in his play, you could see it on his face, and you could feel it watching him play. He was healthy and he was playing for the first time this season - like Johnny Hockey.
In the latest podcast, I sit down with Gaudreau over breakfast to discuss a promise to his family, how he wouldn't be in the NHL today if not for his dad and we also touch on playing in a big man's game despite his stature.
Gaudreau is back and no one is happier about it than him.