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Jonathan Huberdeau taking initiative by asking for more ice time (and a coach that will give it to him)

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
9 months ago
So many different things go into hiring an NHL coach. Prior experience is considered (but not required), how the person performs in interviews with the team conducting the search, and the track record of the potential hire relative to where the team currently sits as a whole. For the Calgary Flames, they thought it was best to bring in Ryan Huska to do the job, so he will be the bench boss for the 2023-24 season.
Last season was a well-documented disappointment for the Flames and full of chaos both on and off the ice, missing out on the playoffs by just two points with a boatload of overtime losses to their name. Former head coach Darryl Sutter left his mark with plenty of reports about controversy and arguments happening in the locker room, healthy scratching a player like Jakob Pelletier, who brought a different energy to the roster, and even not making comments on him other than his stat line after his NHL debut.
However, probably the biggest narrative was the disappointing production from Jonathan Huberdeau. Former general manager Brad Treliving brought him and MacKenzie Weegar in from the Matthew Tkachuk trade, and after just scoring 115 points with the Florida Panthers, it was expected that he could come in and post around 90 points again, or at the very least, be a dynamic part of the offense.
Well, Huberdeau did occasionally look like himself and play a dynamic part in the offense, and it looked like he started settling in as the season continued, but he only scored 55 points in 79 games, which is the biggest drop off from one season to the next in NHL history.
Even though it’s reasonable to be upset with how Huberdeau performed last season, I think it’s also important to remember that it was just one season under a coach that is stereotypically more defensive-focused. Huberdeau told reporters that he’s still the same player and that he never lost his skill, and according to new general manager Craig Conroy, the importance of hiring a coach that their star player felt comfortable with was at the top of the list:
The fact that Huberdeau was so included in this coaching search and even asked for more ice time (and a coach that was willing to give that to him) shows that he’s committed to righting this ship. Is he overpaid? Maybe. There’s only one season under his belt in Calgary, and that one was full of unnecessary drama. But, nonetheless, he wants to do well here because he knows that his performance in 2022-23 was a major disappointment and the fans deserve better.
Being frustrated with last season, especially now that Tkachuk helped lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final, is understandable to the highest degree. However, I’d urge caution at writing Huberdeau’s career in Calgary off just yet. He has shown he wants to get better here, and he’s going to do everything he can to reach that goal. The best thing we can hope for is he comes out next season under the guidance of Huska and turns on the jets.
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