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Jonathan Huberdeau was better in 2023-24, but he still has a long way to go

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
If the Calgary Flames were going to succeed in the 2023-24 regular season, it was going to be because the big-name, big-money players stepped up their respective games.
The player that needed to accomplish that goal the most was Jonathan Huberdeau.

The past

Jonathan Huberdeau came into the NHL at the ripe age of 19 following his selection as the third overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and 30 games as the captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, where he scored 45 points.
He was then called up by the Panthers and won the Calder Trophy that same season with 31 points in 48 games, beating out two 20-year-olds, Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Saad. He actually received the same number of first-place votes as Gallagher but 11 more second-place votes and five fewer fifth-place votes.
Huberdeau would go on to play 10 years in Sunrise, amassing a total of 613 points in 671 career games with the Panthers, including a historic 30-goal, 85-assist, 115-point season during their run to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Huberdeau was traded in the blockbuster deal for Matthew Tkachuk alongside his defensive counterpart MacKenzie Weegar, and needless to say, his first season as a Calgary Flame was about as poor as you can get. He had the biggest point drop-off between two consecutive seasons in the NHL’s history.

The present

After a historically bad season in the points department following a historically incredible season in the points department, Huberdeau was looking to find his way back to a normal pace in the box score. At the start of the season, when the Flames were performing poorly, he wasn’t able to do that.
From October to the end of December, Huberdeau scored 16 points in 36 games, which is just as poor production as it had been the previous year. But fast-forward to the beginning of January, and the points started coming in. In the following 36 games, he had 30 points. Tack on the rest of the season (nine games), and he finished the season with 36 points in 45 games.
A point rate of 0.8 still isn’t good enough for the money the Flames are paying him. A point per game would be at least justifiable.
Analytically speaking, Huberdeau’s season wasn’t bad at all. Per Evolving-Hockey’s regularized adjusted plus-minus charts, his expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60), otherwise known as his rate of generating high-danger chances for himself and his teammates, was above average. The same can be said about his Corsi For per 60 (CF/60) — his ability to generate all shot attempts for him and his teammates.
There were also improvements with his creation of offence on the man-advantage as well as his defence.
Huberdeau still didn’t have the best of seasons in the box score, but the analytics suggest that he was performing well and was arguably getting a bit unlucky. His play is still not up to the caliber it needs to be, but under head coach Ryan Huska, it certainly improved.

The future

Huberdeau is not going anywhere. So, the best that the Flames coaching staff, management, his teammates, and the fans can hope for is another step forward like the one he took this previous season. He finished with the second-lowest shooting percentage of his career at 8.4%, and actually finished with fewer points than he did in his first season. But, the underlying numbers were much better this year than the previous one. So, the future outlook is simply hoping that he continues to make improvements over the off-season and comes back to put up better box score numbers over the full 82 games instead of the back half of the 2024-25 season.
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