Radko Gudas: Old School Grit and New School Analytics
Now, there’s no question Gudas has played his game on the line between being within the rules and facing suspensions. In fact, he was suspended last year for three games for a forearm shiver to the head of Mika Zibanejad. The most die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fan can’t deny that he takes some unnecessary penalties, leading the defense with 116 minutes in the sin bin. But, his 6′, 204-pound frame gives him and his defensive partners some space on the ice, and that will be important with the Flyers top blueline prospects slowly making their way into the lineup ala Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Samuel Morin. The former two each posted 65 points making their hay as active defensemen, so the more space they are able to attain, the better.
The 25-year old Gudas is the perfect blend of old school style and new school evaluation. He takes the body, clears the crease, and throws a hip check like he is straight out of the 1990’s. He makes one earn every inch of ice with his rugged play. Players have to think twice when carrying the puck into the offensive zone, and in fact, there was a noticeable difference in the way entries were conducted against the Flyers at the beginning of the year to the All-Star Break when Gudas was on the ice. Teams went from a carry in approach to a dump and chase approach when Gudas was on the ice. There are two glaring examples of why:
- Viktor Stalberg tried to carry the puck into the neutral zone on October 24th, 2015, and was immediately met with a punishing Gudas hit that knocked him out of the game.
- No more than two weeks later Gudas, went on a hitting spree vs. Winnipeg, knocking down Tyler Myers moments after he carried the puck into the zone and then going full steam at Dustin Byfuglien while Byfuglien was going full steam at him, causing a turnover with Winnipeg on the power play.
Not just recognized for big hits, Gudas is also considered a darling of the analytic community. His Corsi-for percentage was 53.02%, and he generated +5.4 shot attempts relative to teammates on the ice versus off, the latter of which ranked eighth among NHL defensemen. He showed a sudden scoring prowess as well in March, scoring all five goals and eight of his points last season in a ten-game span in March when the Flyers were in the middle of clicking on all cylinders. He also has a very underrated shot from the point as shown in the little run he had at the end of the season and finished the season second to Shayne Gostisbehere in shots among Flyer blueliners. His controlled-entry percentage ranked third on the Flyers defense, behind only Gostisbehere and Mark Streit.
The Prague native’s tenacity makes him a fan favorite in Philadelphia, and his analytics keeps him on the team playing a prominent role playing 19:51 per night. He has proved that the old school can work in today’s NHL, it just needs to be tempered. Plus, let’s be serious, he has an amazing beard that would rival Joe Thornton and Brent Burns in terms of playoff growth.