Just under two weeks ago, Jonathan Huberdeau was benched for the entire third period as the Calgary Flames mustered a comeback win over the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately for the Flames, it didn’t spark a turnaround for the winger.
That’s what motivated us to dust off our friend from the playoffs, the concern-o-meter™️.
It’s still early in the 2023-24 season, so sounding alarms may be a little dramatic just yet. However, some troubling trends and performances have raised red flags in the early goings of the year.
That brings us back to Huberdeau.
It seemed like the Darryl Sutter Effect crushed a number of Flames last year. Management, it seems, was banking on the idea that the team would rebound under a new coach. That hasn’t happened for Huberdeau, among others in Calgary. And that’s what may point to this being a trend moving forward, and not just an outlier.
At his best, Huberdeau is a star forward who can raise his game to reach the Art Ross Trophy conversation. But even at his best — his 115-point campaign in 2021-22 — there were some holes in his game that should have excluded him from the Hart Trophy race. Sure, he crushed it on the scoresheet, but sometimes those points eclipsed what was going on below the surface. Huberdeau was a quality passer, but wasn’t among the leaders in shot assists even when expanding to the power play where he had a lot of success. Plus there were some defensive concerns.
But even if that season was going to be his peak, flaws and all, the fall has been far more drastic than expected. A stronger commitment to defense weighed down his offense in his first year with the Flames. And so far this season, there hasn’t been much progress reigniting that. Huberdeau has 10 points in 17 games, which shakes out to 2.05 points per 60 when accounting for minutes played. Not only is it a far cry from that career year, but it’s even a dip from last year. It’s not just a matter of poor shooting luck, even though his on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five is somewhat low. It’s a lack of play-driving in his minutes — the Flames aren’t breaking even in expected goals with him on the ice, and much of that has to do with how much quality offense they concede. The offense just isn’t there in his minutes, and for the second straight season, he’s a negative relative to his teammates in expected goal creation. The winger’s primary point production continues to trend down, when Calgary needs him to be the guy.
Maybe the biggest flaw in all of this is that logic: Huberdeau is super gifted offensively, but a team shouldn’t be relying on him to be their No. 1 game-breaker. Maybe he’s better suited to be a secondary star on a team, with a more valuable forward ahead of him (which Aleksander Barkov was for the most part in Florida). It’s not his fault for accepting that hefty of a contract, but management’s for handing that out —…
Read More: NHL concern-o-meter: Troubling trends and performances so far in 2023-24 2023-11-20 14:08:37