logo

‘Not engaged’: Analyzing Calgary Flames forward Jonathan Huberdeau

alt
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Lacoste
5 months ago
I watched 16 games of Jonathan Huberdeau, including 5 hours of Huberdeau shift clips from select games over the past 3 seasons. Using a random number generator I selected 9 games from the past three seasons: three random games from the current 2023-2024 season, three random games from his 2022-2023 season with Calgary, and three random games from the 2021-2022 season (his 115-point season with Florida before the move to Calgary). I also picked three of his best statistical games from his amazing 2021-2022 season and three of his best statistical games from his underwhelming 2022-2023 season, as well as confirmed my findings from scouting a live game following this research.
Furthermore, I put together a stats package that provides key insights from his great years in Florida and sub-par time in Calgary. Using a scouting lens for the shift viewings and an analytical lens for statistical breakdowns, I looked to figure out what Jonathan Huberdeau is as a hockey player and where he can improve. From the 16-game viewing sample, I hope to find both positive and negative trends in Huberdeau’s play to be able to provide suggestions for the forward on how to regain that elite playmaker identity that he once had. Furthermore, I hope to provide a complete statistical picture of Huberdeau’s past 4 seasons as well as the ongoing 2023-24 season to understand where his game has changed from a quantitative angle.

Stats package

The statistical sections of this article contain five-year comparisons of base points, a metric I call “Star Games”, Points Per 60, Shots, Ice Time, Penalties, Hits, Blocks, Takeaways, Giveaways, and Team Stats. The following sites were used to assist in the data collection and data analysis process: QuantHockey.com, HockeyReference.com, and NaturalStatTrick.com. The files I used to formulate my points in this article have been made available here:
‘Games I Watched’ Sheet: Game Info/Links 
Stats Package: Huberdeau Stats Package (Nov 5)
16-Game Scouting Notes: Huberdeau Scouting Notes  

Base points

All Situations
  • 2019-2020 Totals: 23 goals + 55 assists = 78 points in 69 games (1.13 points per game)
  • 2020-2021 Totals: 20 goals + 41 assists = 61 points in 55 games (1.11 points per game)
  • 2021-2022 Totals: 30 goals + 85 assists = 115 points in 80 games (1.44 points per game)
  • 2022-2023 Totals: 15 goals + 40 assists = 55 points in 79 games (0.70 points per game)
  • 2023-2024 Totals: 2 goals + 4 assists = 6 points in 11 games (0.55 points per game)
Even Strength
  • 2019-2020 Totals: 18 goals + 31 assists = 49 points (0.71 points per game)
  • 2020-2021 Totals: 15 goals + 22 assists = 37 points (0.67 points per game)
  • 2021-2022 Totals: 22 goals + 50 assists = 72 points (0.90 points per game)
  • 2022-2023 Totals: 11 goals + 29 assists = 40 points (0.51 points per game)
  • 2023-2024 Totals: 2 goals + 2 assists = 4 points (0.36 points per game)
Power Play
  • 2019-2020 Totals: 5 goals + 24 assists = 29 points (0.42 points per game)
  • 2020-2021 Totals: 5 goals + 19 assists = 24 points (0.44 points per game)
  • 2021-2022 Totals: 5 goals + 33 assists = 38 points (0.48 points per game)
  • 2022-2023 Totals: 4 goals + 11 assists = 15 points (0.19 points per game)
  • 2023-2024 Totals: 0 goals + 2 assists = 0 points (0.18 points per game)
Huberdeau has 6 short-handed points in his NHL career, with 3 goals and 2 assists in 2021-2022, and 1 goal in 2015-2016, so we will not speak much on his penalty-killing and focus our efforts on learning about his offensive tendencies. (He did play a bit on the PK in 2021 as you may notice later.)

Star games (3+ Points)

A big indicator of Huberdeau’s offensive past might be his play while he’s succeeding in an evening, whether that be because of a great supporting cast or the ice time available to continue padding the points. I was curious how many nights he resembled a “star” with 3 or more points and if that would contribute to a possible inflation of point totals in Florida whilst little-to-no opportunity to put up such numbers in Calgary. I was also curious what would happen if we omitted every night that Huberdeau reached 3 or more points; would there be an element of inconsistency in his career meaning that he relied on his “pop-off” 3+ point nights to reach high point totals or would he still be a solid player and produce outside of those great nights (on the nights that the team does poorly, does he become invisible, per se). Here is what I found:
Florida Panthers
  • 2019-2020 Games with 3+ points: 7/69 (10%)
  • 2020-2021 Games with 3+ points: 6/55 (11%)
  • 2021-2022 Games with 3+ points: 13/80 (16%)
  • 2019-2020 Total Season Points in 3+ point games: 25/78 (32%)
  • 2020-2021 Total Season Points in 3+ point games: 22/61 (36%)
  • 2021-2022 Total Season Points in 3+ point games: 47/115 (41%)
  • 2019-2020 3+ point games omitted point total = 53 points in 62 games (0.85 points/game)
  • 2020-2021 3+ point games omitted point total = 39 points in 49 games (0.80 points/game)
  • 2021-2022 3+ point games omitted point total = 68 points in 67 games (1.01 points/game)
Calgary Flames
  • 2022-2023 Games with 3+ points: 1/79 (1%)
  • 2023-2024 Games with 3+ points: 0/11 (0%)
  • 2022-2023 Total Points in 3+ point games: 3/55 (5%)
  • 2022-2023 3+ point games omitted point total = 52 points in 78 games (0.67 points/game)
Possible Conclusions:
We can infer from this data that Florida had a stronger supporting cast and overall team structure than Calgary does today to give Huberdeau 3+ point games more frequently. As well, Huberdeau was relatively consistent outside of those “Star Games” in Florida, but lost all consistency in Calgary where he has more games in Calgary with no positive offensive impact at all (he has a lower gameplay ‘floor’ in Calgary). Being a point-per-game player when we remove Huberdeau’s “Star Games” from 2021 Florida is quite impressive because sometimes certain players’ season totals can be inflated by a series of excellent team nights (e.g. scoring 10 goals against San Jose).

Points per 60 minutes (“Points per 60”)

(min. 20 GP — min. 14 GP for 2020-2021, no min. for 2023-2024)
All Situations
  • 2019-2020 = 3.613 (11th)
  • 2020-2021 = 3.615 (7th)
  • 2021-2022 = 4.441 (2nd)
  • 2022-2023 = 2.477 (111th)
  • 2023-2024 = 1.847 (252nd)
Even Strength
  • 2019-2020 = 2.808 (18th)
  • 2020-2021 = 2.867 (18th)
  • 2021-2022 = 3.885 (2nd)
  • 2022-2023 = 2.193 (111th)
  • 2023-2024 = 1.573 (265th)
Power Play (min 1 minute of PP time per game)
  • 2019-2020 = 7.061 (14th)
  • 2020-2021 = 6.069 (47th)
  • 2021-2022 = 7.725 (16th)
  • 2022-2023 = 3.978 (231st)
  • 2023-2024 = 2.869 (232nd)

Shots

Shot Attempts
  • 2019-2020 Shot Attempts = 376 (5.45 per game)
  • 2020-2021 Shot Attempts = 189 (3.44 per game)
  • 2021-2022 Shot Attempts = 344 (4.30 per game)
  • 2022-2023 Shot Attempts = 233 (2.95 per game)
  • 2023-2024 Shot Attempts = 35 (3.18 per game)
Shots on Goal (SOG)
  • 2019-2020 Shots on Goal = 152 (2.20 per game)
  • 2020-2021 Shots on Goal = 122 (2.22 per game)
  • 2021-2022 Shots on Goal = 222 (2.78 per game)
  • 2022-2023 Shots on Goal = 126 (1.59 per game)
  • 2023-2024 Shots on Goal = 17 (1.55 per game)
Goals
  • 2019-2020 Goals = 23 (0.33 per game)
  • 2020-2021 Goals = 20 (0.36 per game)
  • 2021-2022 Goals = 30 (0.38 per game)
  • 2022-2023 Goals = 15 (0.19 per game)
  • 2023-2024 Goals = 2 (0.18 per game)
Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt
  • 2019-2020 Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt = 0.40
  • 2020-2021 Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt = 0.65
  • 2021-2022 Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt = 0.65
  • 2022-2023 Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt = 0.54
  • 2023-2024 Shots on Goal per Shot Attempt = 0.49
Career Shooting % with Florida (10 years) = 12.6%
Career Shooting % with Calgary (2 years) = 11.9%
Possible Conclusions:
Huberdeau is not currently dealing with unlucky shooting, as his shooting % is relatively the same as it was in his Florida career (94% of what is was in Florida), so this argument can be put to bed for now. The keys to his shooting habits are regarding volume and efficiency issues. Specifically, while in Calgary, Huberdeau has been shooting less often than he did in Florida, with over one shot attempt per game less this year than in 2021. He also gets over one shot on goal less per game than in 2021, is scoring at half the rate per game, and 15% less of his shot attempts reach the net. Overall, this can come down to multiple things, whether it be skating issues preventing him from getting space to shoot high-quality shots on net, team systems that prevent him from being a shooter on his line or having the puck to shoot, individual decision-making where he takes less optimal routes to the net as he used to, etc. The scouting results should give us a clearer insight into this offensive decline.

Opportunity: ice time per game (Forwards only)*

*as of 11/05/2023
All Situations
  • 2019-2020 = 18:46 (57th)
  • 2020-2021 = 18:24 (56th)
  • 2021-2022 = 19:25 (37th)
  • 2022-2023 = 16:51 (147th)
  • 2023-2024 = 17:43 (99th)
Even Strength
  • 2019-2020 = 15:10 (58th)
  • 2020-2021 = 14:04 (123rd)
  • 2021-2022 = 13:54 (155th)
  • 2022-2023 = 13:51 (150th)
  • 2023-2024 = 13:52 (104th)
Power Play
  • 2019-2020 = 3:34 (24th)
  • 2020-2021 = 4:18 (2nd)
  • 2021-2022 = 3:41 (12th)
  • 2022-2023 = 2:51 (105th)
  • 2023-2024 = 3:48 (56th)
Shorthanded (min. 20 GP because it’s interesting)
  • 2019-2020 = 0:01 (>200th)
  • 2020-2021 = 0:01 (>200th)
  • 2021-2022 = 1:49 (60th)
  • 2022-2023 = 0:08 (>200th)
  • 2023-2024 = 0:02 (>200th)
Possible Conclusions:
Huberdeau is in a completely different tier for ice time in 2023 compared to 2021 and is certainly not in the $10.5-million ice time tier anymore. He averages 2 minutes less each game this season than he did in 2021, while his even-strength ice time is relatively consistent from 2021-2023. This leads us to the biggest issue in Huberdeau’s ice time: his power play opportunity. Despite being part of most PP1s in the games I scouted, power play time is clearly not a given for Huberdeau in Calgary compared to lengthy opportunities in Florida because Huberdeau is ranked 56th in power play time per game this year compared to 12th among all NHL forwards in 2021, meaning there are ~2 forwards per team that get more ice time than him, so we should as well consider him close to the 3rd best power play option on an average NHL team. This must correlate with his lack of power play production in Calgary, since he only has 2 PP assists this season, and was operating at roughly half of the PP production per 60 last season than in 2021 (3.978 PP points per 60 in 2022 vs. 7.725 PP points per 60 in 2021). Future research might show that Florida got more power plays per game while Huberdeau was there, but it might only be a marginal difference year-by-year.

Peripherals

The following five sections will be considered “peripheral” statistics that might give us a bit more insight into Huberdeau’s identity as a player, but they should not be considered as the complete representation of Huberdeau’s game or solely considered in suggestions for the forward: PIM per 60, Hits per 60, Blocks per 60, Takeaways per 60, and Giveaways per 60. All of these statistics will be used in “per 60” comparisons to compare between years with varying ice time numbers yet similar game totals (he played ~200 fewer minutes in 2022 but only 1 less game).

PIM per 60

  • 2021-2022 (115 points): 2.08
  • 2022-2023 (55 points): 1.62
  • 2023-2024 (current): 0.62

Hits per 60

  • 2021-2022 (115 points): 3.82
  • 2022-2023 (55 points): 2.93
  • 2023-2024 (current): 1.23

Blocks per 60

  • 2021-2022 (115 points): 1.08
  • 2022-2023 (55 points): 1.22
  • 2023-2024 (current): 2.15

Takeaways per 60

  • 2021-2022 (115 points): 2.43
  • 2022-2023 (55 points): 1.53
  • 2023-2024 (current): 1.23

Giveaways per game

  • 2021-2022 (115 points): 3.28
  • 2022-2023 (55 points): 2.79
  • 2023-2024 (current): 1.23
Possible Conclusions:
As will become evident in the scouting results below and overall findings from the statistics, Huberdeau does not seem as involved in the play as he once was. He has always been a strict winger who plays by the boards in the DZ and cheats the zone for offense, but he was once active in the OZ, moving his feet and using his quick hand to create opportunities. Part of that gameplay involves playing in contact, and the fact that he is down over 2 hits per 60 and over one penalty minute per 60 implies that he makes fewer decisions to chase pucks, challenge the opposition, be F1 on the forecheck, or play the “hard minutes.” Physicality/penalty-taking usually correlate well with each other and Huberdeau seems unwilling in his modern form to challenge others with his stick or body and earn the puck back for himself and his team.
Funnily enough, he is blocking at a career-high rate this season, and I don’t see that staying so high for the rest of the year, as his game revolves around puck possession and he doesn’t play in minutes like the Penalty Kill that offer huge opportunities to accumulate such blocking totals (not an important metric overall in this case). 
You may notice both his takeaway and giveaway stats are down from his amazing season in Florida. This can be attributed to the lack of possession and puck touches from Huberdeau since he came to Calgary. He does not spend enough time with the puck to give it away as much as that big year in Florida, and he does not attack the puck carrier enough on defense to get that takeaway number higher. This reminds me of NBA turnovers. Typically, the best players in the NBA have the most turnovers, as they have the ball most of the game. The best NBA players don’t just turn the ball over, because they provide so much offensively and perhaps defensively as well that they are essentially “forgiven” for turning the ball over every game. I wish that Huberdeau could be back in that territory, but he now falls under the category of low-offense + no-defense, and I’m sure each turnover he makes feels like the only thing that Flames fans see from his game at this point in his Calgary tenure.

Coaches and Team Success

Florida Panthers
  • 2019-2020: Joel Quenneville (35-26-8 — 0.565, 3.30 GF/GP, 3.25 GA/GP, +0.6% S%, 100.2 PDO, 49.6% 5v5 CF, 4th in Atlantic)
  • 2020-2021: Quenneville (37-14-5 — 0.705, 3.36 GF/GP, 2.70 GA/GP, +0.1% S%, 100.1 PDO, 53.7% 5v5 CF, 2nd in Atlantic)
  • 2021-2022: Quenneville Games 1-7, Andrew Brunette Games 8-82 (58-18-6 — 0.744, 4.11 GF/GP, 2.95 GA/GP, +1.2% S%, 100.4 PDO, 56.6% 5v5 CF, 1st in Atlantic)
Calgary Flames
  • 2022-2023: Darryl Sutter (38-27-17 — 0.567, 3.15 GF/GP, 3.01 GA/GP, -1.3% S%, 98.4 PDO, 57.2% 5v5 CF, 5th in Pacific)
  • 2023-2024: Ryan Huska (3-7-1 — 0.318, 2.55 GF/GP, 3.64 GA/GP, -2.2% S%, 94.8 PDO, 54.1% 5v5 CF, 6th in Pacific)
Possible Conclusions:
The Florida teams that Huberdeau was part of were great teams, who scored more than they gave up per game on average, and his 2021 year had exceptional shot metrics while having an average PDO, which is excellent. The past two years in Calgary show a high-shot volume team that doesn’t finish (below-average PDO, below-average shooting %), and one that gives up a high number of goals per game. This is a tough formula to win games and house a player like Jonathan Huberdeau who does not fit the “finisher” role that Calgary desperately needs (Calgary has 54% of the shot share at 5v5 which is excellent).

Scouting Notes

Calgary vs. Florida trends
“It looks like Huberdeau feels he has to be the star of his line and hold onto the puck more in the OZ when other linemates won’t drive the net / high-danger areas instead of playing as a team as he did in Florida and opening up lanes via team play”
“CGY defenders aren’t great playmakers and Huberdeau is waiting for quality passes (not simple passing lanes) — he resorts to crashing the net and sitting net-front when playmaking/passing isn’t going to happen in OZ”
“Huberdeau is not active on defense, and is waiting for others to get the puck (similar to FLA habits)”
“Toffoli has shooting talent / can finish and read plays (catches CAR mid-change) → immediately after they put Coleman-Backlund on with Huberdeau and the rest of the shift is low-danger offense / delayed reactions and mistimed attacks”
“Without repeating what has been said before, Huberdeau should not be criticized for being uninvolved on defense as a winger, nor should he be criticized for making fair offensive plays that linemates are unable to handle/understand in high-speed environments”
“If Huberdeau can be a rush threat again despite the foot speed, this will be a huge bonus for his production (he also needs to play with Lindholm and Mangiapane or someone who can finish like Toffoli)”
“Huberdeau also had confidence skating through the middle of the ice in 2021 with Florida but does not display his puck-carrying abilities while in Calgary”
Link to Full 16-Game Scouting Notes: Huberdeau Scouting Notes 

Other considerations

Injury history

Jonathan Huberdeau has been relatively healthy his entire career, and especially since his 115-point season in 2021. Specifically, he has been “day-to-day” a few times in his career, and the only major injury I could find was a lower-body injury in 2016 where he was out for 3-4 months. However, there has been nothing significant of note since Huberdeau’s best offensive season, meaning that there are few excuses on the physical front for his lack of production.

Linemates

I used NaturalStatTrick’s Line Tool to learn about Huberdeau’s 115-point campaign. When I asked some colleagues about their thoughts on comparing Huberdeau’s time in Florida to Calgary, many said “I bet he misses Barkov.” That got me thinking: who did he play with during that 2021-2022 season? I remember Florida splitting up Huberdeau and Barkov despite both being top-line talents, and I was proven right by NaturalStatTrick. Specifically, Huberdeau played the most at 5v5 with Sam Bennett (607 mins.) and Anthony Duclair (436 mins.) during his 115-point 2021-2022 campaign. Huberdeau only played 204 minutes with Barkov, and NaturalStatTrick shows us that Huberdeau played 629 minutes without Barkov, proving the lack of reliance on the Finnish star. Using NaturalStatTrick’s Line Tool, we can learn more about what made Huberdeau-Bennett-Duclair so successful, despite little name-brand value and star power that one may think would be the co-pilots for Huberdeau’s 115 points. As a trio, in 272 minutes at 5v5 together, they posted a 51% Fenwick For % (unblocked shots), outscored opponents 19-12, were out-matched in Expected Goals (xG) 14.97-15.58, but outscored opponents heavily in High-Danger Goals 14-7. This implies good finishing qualities as a line since they are generally shooting for less value than opponents but they are scoring when they get into high-danger high-value spots. Furthermore, the trio was not dominant on shot attempts which I thought would be the case for Huberdeau’s best offensive year. As well, looking at Huberdeau-Bennett as a duo (since they were a pairing for almost 200 minutes more than Huberdeau-Duclair), the pair dominated at 5v5 with a 56% Fenwick For %, out-scoring opponents 42-27, leading in shot value with a 55% xG %, and they thrived in High-Danger situations with High-Danger goals sitting at 33-15. The tenacity and forechecking threat of Sam Bennett likely played a part in giving Huberdeau space to make passing decisions and have free pucks to be able to deliver to players like the speedy Anthony Duclair, among other players, which was partially present in my viewings, but it really came down to rare combination offensive shot volume and efficiency. Also, if we remember that Huberdeau achieved 38 power play points during this 2021-2022 season, and ended the year with 50 5v5 points, these 5v5 metrics with Sam Bennett can help us understand a huge chunk of his 5v5 production.

NHL Edge 3-year comparison

Using Huberdeau’s NHL Edge profile shows us some interesting points about his tools as a hockey player that can provide further context to Huberdeau’s struggles in recent years. First of all, Huberdeau has been given similar Offensive Zone (OZ) time at Even-Strength (ES) in the past three seasons but the % is gradually declining (94th to 82nd to 76th percentile is a gradual decline but he is still in the top ~25% of the league each year). The areas of concern come from skating and shooting data. Specifically, Huberdeau has a considerably slower Top Skating Speed compared to 2021 (21.99 mph to 20.80 mph). Huberdeau also has fewer speed bursts over 20 mph in Calgary than he did in Florida (62nd percentile in Florida compared to <50th percentile in both Calgary seasons so far). Huberdeau’s Top Shot Speed is considerably slower as well from 2021 to this season (85.67 mph to 82.2 mph), and his shooting percentage is on a gradual decline but still fairly consistent (83rd percentile in 2021, 66th percentile in 2023)
Possible Conclusions:
It is possible that when Huberdeau was given more ice time in Florida, he was able to do the following: skate more miles, get his conditioning/involvement all season long to be its best because of opportunity, get his top skating speed to be high because of the conditioning, get shot speed to be its best because of opportunity/conditioning, and more because of his “star minutes/treatment” in Florida. Now that he has been unsuccessful in Calgary so far offensively, the Calgary line shuffling + him being a secondary option + less ice time + age + other factors might impact these NHL Edge metrics like skating speed and shot speed which I deem critical to a modern hockey player’s toolkit. A wise person once told me that if a baseball pitcher lost a couple miles per hour on his pitches, that could be the difference between being a big-leaguer or a minor-leaguer. Similarly, if Huberdeau’s current form is a couple of miles slower in both shooting and skating, while given similar OZ time at ES, this is troubling and should be looked at further to see if extra conditioning work or even some physical examinations/assessments can be done to uncover the weird performance issues in such a short timeline (2 years with no major injuries is weird, he’s only 30).

Conclusions and areas for future research

In conclusion, I worry that Huberdeau peaked in his 115-point year regarding on-ice opportunities, ES points, PP points, shooting totals, team success, qualitative scouting habits, and more. Now that he has gotten his payday in Calgary, he has seemed to become a completely different athlete with both weaker offensive metrics and worrying physical decline despite only being 30 years of age. This isn’t a “whose fault is it?” scenario, as players should take responsibility for their individual contributions and performance as professional athletes. However, the team environment, including teammates, playstyles, coaching, and off-ice environment will impact hockey players, who are people with emotions and ups and downs in their careers. A key question I ask based on my research is: has Huberdeau ever been an individual creator of chances or is he at his best as a playmaker alongside a finisher or shoot-first linemate like Toffoli? Huberdeau doesn’t hunt pucks, he plays F3 most of the time, he cheats the DZ for offense and isn’t involved in getting his team possession but rather only involved/focussed once his team gets possession. This is all happening while his elite power play metrics from past years are not working while in Calgary as of late. 
Some areas for future research include passing metrics and looking at linemate finishing on different teams. Specifically, if private data owners have access to statistics like “successful passes per 60”, “pass attempts per assist”, “pass attempts per primary assist”, “successful passes per assist”, “successful passes per primary assist”, and more regarding Huberdeau’s biggest trait, then maybe we can learn more about his habits in recent years and see if anything has changed on that front. I am also curious on the cosmetic side if Huberdeau is using a different hockey stick than in 2021, and if there is a specific reason for that and whether that plays a part in the equation for bad performance. 
All in all, Huberdeau’s value is trending downward, and the three major areas that I would want him to focus on first are:
  • Get back to shooting habits from Florida to get more on net per game
  • Find linemates who can bring the puck through the middle of the ice with speed rather than engage in board play/grinder work
  • Figure out why skating speed and shooting speed are down from just two seasons ago.
That is just a start, but I’m sure all Flames fans want to see Huberdeau succeed, just as I do. I wish the very best to Huberdeau this season. 
Links to files used:

The Barn Burner Nation Vacation to Arizona presented by Alberta Blue Cross is HAPPENING from Jan 11-13th, 2024! Join the action for just $1,499/person! Your ticket includes round trip flights from Calgary x Arizona, hotels, transport and hockey game tickets! Get your tickets to the ultimate sports vacation before they sell out!

Check out these posts...