Could Jonathan Huberdeau bounce back in 2023-24?
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
For Calgary Flames fans, the season coming to an end felt merciful. For Jonathan Huberdeau, I’m sure that feeling resonates as well.
Since coming way north to Calgary after the trade from the Florida Panthers and signing a huge deal for $10.5 million over the next eight seasons (it kicks in next season), he has faced an immense amount of pressure from the outside. It’s not a surprise either, given the piece that went the other way in the trade. Matthew Tkachuk was a staple of the Flames lineup, and everyone knew the kind of production he could put up, so a player that was coming off a record-breaking season for a left-winger and who just got signed to a new, very lucrative deal was expected to perform.
He did not, and Flames faithful had to watch as their soon-to-be $10.5 million man had the biggest point drop ever from one season to the next while Tkachuk had a Hart Trophy-level season in Sunrise, Florida.
One of the biggest questions revolving around the team next year isn’t just about the roster but about Huberdeau himself. Can he bounce back from the objectively bad season he had in 2022-23? What is it going to take?
I think the answer is yes, but it’s going to take some things to go right and a coaching change to happen.
First, let’s go over what he did in 2022-23. In 79 games, Huberdeau tallied 15 goals and 40 assists for 55 points while averaging 16:52 of time on ice, which was the second-lowest of his career by 5 seconds. He also shot 11.9 percent on 233 shots, which was the third-lowest percentage of his career. He didn’t generate much from the slot and the middle of the ice like he did last season with Florida, and that was evident in the numbers as well.
But what caused this dip in production? To begin, we all know that Darryl Sutter played him for a significant amount of time on the right side instead of the left, and considering the amount of time Huberdeau had played on the right wing before this season (virtually zero), the decision was baffling. Even Huberdeau made comments about it during the season after he was returned to the left side.
“I’ve always played left wing. It just makes sense. I like to open up my hips so I can see the ice way more than when I’m on my backhand. I feel I close my shoulder, and I can’t see the ice as much (on the right),” Huberdeau said.
And as far as his performance this season goes and whether or not he will be able to regain what he had in Florida, Huberdeau is confident in that too.
“I didn’t lose my talent in five months. I’m not a different player than what I was last year,” Huberdeau said.
That quote is the one that stands out the most, as well as multiple regarding his calmness going into this off-season and not having to deal with the hassle of moving from the south of one country and across the border to the one above it. Frankly, it’s the truth. No matter how much Huberdeau is being paid, he’s still an extremely talented hockey player that suffered from bad head coaching decisions and some bad luck as well. Since it doesn’t seem like the head coach is on his way out, it may be harder than he anticipates to get back on track, but hopefully, things will get sorted out as the off-season moves along.
The Flames need Huberdeau to get closer to where he was with the Panthers. The likelihood of him reaching 115 points in a Sutter system is close to zero, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a threat on offence again. There were plenty of times this season where he showcased his elite passing abilities, and the guys who were on the receiving end of said passes failed to convert. That isn’t on Huberdeau. But what happens over the off-season is, and it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he makes if the current head coach is still around.
Overall grade: C
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