Radko Gudas had a poor series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was not his fault.
These statements may seem contradictory, but are in fact both true.
The fall of Radko Gudas from bruising top pair defender to third pair laughing stock came from the person who ultimately needs to be held responsible for the Flyers failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs, head coach Dave Hakstol.
If you watch Radko Gudas play hockey for only a few shifts, it is fairly easy to get a good impression of exactly what his game is, he’s not the most fleet of foot defender, but he will lay big body checks that separate opponents from the puck and be a warrior of a shot blocker.
This is his skill set and he is a limited niche player, and as such it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to find him other players on the roster who can maximize his talents into positive results.
Stats via HockeyViz.com
As the With or Without You chart shows, Travis Sanheim turns Gudas into a massive play driving defender. This makes sense given that Michael Del Zotto did the same in prior seasons. For all of Gudas’s success with a left handed puck mover like Sanheim, putting him with Brandon Manning creates the results seen in the playoffs. Manning and Gudas are just too slow and lack the puck skills needed to drive possession and execute breakouts. Fast teams will feast repeatedly on the lack of speed and put every mistake of theirs in the back of the net.
However, the solution to Gudas is so simple, just pair him with a lefty puck mover, whether it’s Gostisbehere, Provorov or Sanheim, the odds are you will return Radko Gudas to the results that earned him his current contract.
Stats via Hockey Reference
Backing up this theory is that Radko Gudas had a PDO of 98.0 this past season. His bad puck luck will hopefully turn around if he’s played with someone who can cover his weaknesses.
And, if Gudas performs better, the trade options will open up, and rather than selling him for nothing or paying an asset to get rid of him, the Flyers can command a solid return for him, or just let him play out his current contract.
In the long term, Gudas has shown the ability to be useful, it is up to Ron Hextall to take Brandon Manning away from Dave Hakstol so this way Travis Sanheim can get his shot to play with Gudas for a full season, which would give the Flyers a deadly top 4, with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere as the top pair.