How Jonathan Huberdeau’s recent improvement has impacted the Calgary Flames

Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Raz Devraj
5 months ago
Ever since the Calgary Flames sent Matthew Tkachuk over to the Florida Panthers and acquired Jonathan Huberdeau as part of the return, it hasn’t been pretty. There was a time when Flames fans thought the team got better with Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri in, and Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau out. Fast forward about a season and a half later and it’s clear that this team is far from the same level. 
There are multiple factors as to why that is the case, but a very big one has been because of the poor performance of Huberdeau as well as the rest of the so-called elite players this roster carries. What makes Huberdeau find himself on the radar more is the skill he has shown in the past. That crazy playmaking ability that Flames fans have rarely caught a glimpse of since his arrival.
We could sit here for a while and go through all the things that have been wrong with Huberdeau and all of the issues he has had since becoming a Flame because going from a 115-point player to not even cracking 60 last year speaks volumes as to how massive the decline has been, not to mention based on his performance this season he is on pace to have his worst season yet point production-wise – he currently has six goals and 17 assists. All of that aside, the important thing is that we are seeing some improvement and it has already impacted the team as a whole in a positive way. 
Huberdeau went 12 games without a point after picking up two assists against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 30 and could have gone the entire month of December without registering a point if it wasn’t for Dennis Gilbert burying one against the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Eve. 
That game against the Flyers must have sparked something in Huberdeau because since then he has been on fire. He has had eight points in his last eight games with a plus/minus rating of plus-2 which is significantly better than the minus-4 he had after 12 games in December. 
Out of those eight points, six of them have been assists. Why is that important? Huberdeau has never been known for being a goal scorer; he has always taken pride in his ability to create plays, make ridiculous passes, and put the puck in areas where it could potentially lead to a goal. The point is, he’s a playmaker and he has created a name for himself through his 10 years in the NHL as one of the league’s top playmakers. For him to have been able to pick up six assists in his last eight games indicates that he is feeling more confident with the puck and more confident in his ability to set up plays. 
During Huberdeau’s tough stretch, he was replaced by Connor Zary on the first power play unit. As of late with Zary slowing down a little, Huberdeau has taken his spot on the first power play unit back which shows that the coaching staff has recognized his improvement. (Zary was back on the first unit on Tuesday against Arizona due to Huberdeau missing the game due to illness.)
Scoring and racking up points is great and all for individual stats and confidence but what has Huberdeau’s improvement meant for the team as a whole?
Well, during that month of December before the New Year’s Eve game where Huberdeau was at his worst, the Flames went 4-5-2. Not horrific but below .500 and not the kind of record any team strives to have. Since his hot streak (and ignoring Tuesday’s game, which Huberdeau missed) the Flames have gone 6-2-0, which is a massive improvement. It’s almost unbelievable how the difference in performance from one player can impact the team’s ability to do what is most important, which is win hockey games.
The story of the Flames this season has been the surprising yet great performance from players who don’t have huge expectations. Coleman, Sharangovich, and Zary are the big three who have really over-performed and are a big reason why the Flames are still in the hunt for a playoff spot along with Jacob Markstrom. Mangiapane, Kadri, and Backlund have all been solid as well. With guys like Huberdeau and Lindholm struggling to produce offensively, without the efforts of these players, the Flames would be in a much worse position. 
With these role players still contributing along with the slow resurgence of Huberdeau this team is playing with a different level of confidence and it’s paving the way for the opportunity to climb the standings and contend for a playoff spot. This proves the fact of the importance of star players and how it’s easier for a team to play well and rack up wins when their big guys are going.
The next six games are a very important stretch for this team and if Huberdeau can continue to do what he has as of late, and perhaps even continue to improve, the Flames could have a good shot at being in a playoff spot after their current homestand.

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