2023-24 Calgary Flames predictions: Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Huberdeau bounce back
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1 month ago
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We’re in the slow part of the NHL offseason. The hype of the NHL Draft and free agency is over. Most of the big names are off the table, and there isn’t much going on around the hockey world when it comes to trades or other signings. So, I figured it would be fun to start a series of predictions for the Calgary Flames in the upcoming 2023-24 season ranging from simple to bold to even very bold.
I want to preface this series by making sure it’s clear from the outset that I don’t expect to get many of these right if any at all. But the point of this is to have fun, so why not start having fun now?
Prediction: Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Huberdeau bounce back to .910 save percentage and 85 points, respectively
We’re starting off the prediction series on a lighter note but one that I feel strongly about and have felt strongly about since the 2022-23 season ended, as I’m sure most of you that have read my articles know.
Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Huberdeau are two incredibly important pieces to the puzzle that is the Flames’ success, and their disappointing performances last season are directly related to the team missing the postseason. Those weren’t the only things that went wrong, of course, but for the amount of money that the team is shelling out to them in their respective contracts, they needed much better production.
However, with that disappointing season now (mercifully) in the past and a new coaching staff coming into the fold, along with a new general manager, I’m primed to think there will be a bounce back for two players that have proven to be extremely effective in their respective positions.
Markstrom at one point was a Vezina-calibre goaltender. In 2021-22, he came second overall in voting for the award, losing handsomely to New York Rangers goalie, Igor Shesterkin, who had a historic year. Now, I’m not saying he will return to THAT level (if he did, that would be wonderful), but a return to around his career average save percentage of .909 would be a nice place to start and one that I think is very realistic.
Goaltending is a position that is unpredictable, and that is well-documented throughout the existence of the sport. But for the better part of Markstrom’s career, he has had a save percentage of over .900, so I think it’s fair to assume that last season was flukish, and a return to normal is due.
The same could be said for Huberdeau. The likelihood of him scoring 115 points again, even in a system that complements his playstyle, is relatively low. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but lots of things have to go right, and considering his linemates this upcoming season will be of a different skill level than the ones he played with in Florida when he reached those totals, that makes it all the more difficult. However, I believe an expectation of around 85 points isn’t an unreasonable one.
Huberdeau has only reached the 80-point plateau twice in his career (he would have passed the mark in 2019-20 if not for the Covid-19 pandemic beginning in March of that year. He hit 78 points in 69 games played). In 2021-22, he also would have hit 80 points if the NHL had played a full 82-game season that year; he scored 61 points in 55 games.
Huberdeau has appeared to find his place not only on the roster and within the locker room, but it also sounds like he has been able to find himself in the city as well. He feels more at home, which is what the Flames need if they want him to get on track for the upcoming season. If he can find a way to stay healthy and new head coach, Ryan Huska deploys him properly (not throwing him on the wing he’s uncomfortable playing on and then keeping him there for a substantial number of games), then it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to see him bounce back to a mark that he could have easily attained more than two times in his career. Also, a huge piece of this puzzle would be a rejuvenation in the ability to score on the power play. If new assistant coaches Marc Savard and Dan Lambert can help out with that and the team sees results soon after the season begins, the path to success for this prediction and for Huberdeau becomes lots easier.
These two players are key pieces to the upcoming season for the Flames, and if they’re able to find some bounce-back seasons in their bones, the team as a whole could end up doing some damage in the Western Conference.
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