‘It’s nothing on him, and who knows what it will look like the next game’: Flames head coach Ryan Huska on Kuzmenko’s demotion against Winnipeg Jets

Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
3 months ago
Along with being happy for Oliver Kylington, which I wrote about in another article here at FlamesNation, Calgary Flames head coach Ryan Huska made the decision to demote Andrei Kuzmenko to the fourth line in the game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Kuzmenko, who has 24 points in 49 total games this season and three points (all goals) in six games with the Flames so far, started out hot but has cooled off recently, with three of his last five games going without a point. He started this game against the Winnipeg Jets on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Martin Pospisil but was demoted to the fourth line in favour of Dryden Hunt to start the third period.
Huska made it a point after being asked about it to say it wasn’t a reflection of what Kuzmenko was doing and more that he didn’t like the way the results were coming in.
“It’s not even really a message,” Huska said in his post-game address (available on the Flames’ social channels). “We’re trying to find a little bit more rhythm, and the way we started the game with Connor [Zary] in the middle of the ice just didn’t seem for me like it was working. I feel like [Kuzmenko] has been effective with Naz and Marty, and I guess I just didn’t like the way it was shaking out for him more so than anybody. So it’s just one of the switches that we felt like we had to make in that area, but it’s nothing on him, and who knows what it will look like the next game.”
However, actions will always speak louder than words, and just as FlamesNation’s own Ryan Pinder said on the AfterBurner show, “This was not a Dryden Hunt promotion so much as this was Kuzmenko not doing his job. If Kuzmenko is himself, Dryden Hunt does not usurp that position on the roster.”
Kuzmenko’s average ice time with the Flames before the game tonight was 15:06, which ranks eighth on the team among forwards who are still on the roster. However, in the contest against the Jets, he only ended up playing 11:49, which was the third-lowest on the team, only ahead of Walker Duehr (8:00) and Kevin Rooney (11:16). He simply was not good enough.
Of course, it’s only one game, and the hope is that Kuzmenko will take this “demotion,” or whatever the head coach wants to call it, to heart and use it as motivation. We’ve seen how dynamic he can be in his first six games alone, but now, just as it is with the team in general, it’s about the consistency with which you show you can be an offensive threat. One shot on goal is not going to persuade any coach to keep you in the top six, especially not when you’re turning the puck over as well.
Kuzmenko is an objectively talented hockey player who has helped the Flames win games and brought a new dynamic to the top half of the roster. Obviously, there will be bumps along the way, as there are for any player on a new team in a new system. But keeping the train on the tracks, even with those bumps, is hugely important, and continuing to push forward and showcase why you’re a valuable member of the team is what the Russian goal-scorer needs to do at this juncture.
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