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Struggles Continue for Flames’ Jonathan Huberdeau

Jonathan Huberdeau’s struggles have continued ever since arriving in Calgary. When will the Flames lose patience with the former star?

Jonathan Huberdeau has now finished his second season with the Calgary Flames and his struggles continue. Huberdeau was one of the biggest pieces acquired by Calgary via the Matthew Tkachuk trade and his arrival came with high expectations. Coming off 115 points in the 2021-2022 season, it was expected that Huberdeau would continue to be the elite playmaker he’s known to be and soften the blow that was the loss of Johnny Gaudreau. Huberdeau’s amazing season in 2022 allowed him to set an NHL record for the most assists for a left winger ever. Following additional moves, Calgary was expected to be right back in the contention window despite major losses in star power.

Fast forward to today and the exact opposite has occurred. The Flames have missed the playoffs for the second straight season and Huberdeau has struggled immensely. Throughout his first two seasons in Calgary, Huberdeau has recorded fewer points in both seasons combined than his 85 assist season in 2021-2022.

Jonathan Huberdeau has struggled with the Calgary Flames

That Huberdeau is severely underperforming with his current contract paying him a whopping $10.5 million for seven more seasons isn’t helping matters. The Flames signed Huberdeau to this deal before he even suited up in a Flames uniform, which just showed the level of expectations he had coming into a prominent Canadian market.

The Flames have made it a priority to help Huberdeau get back to star status. Huberdeau has had various linemate experiments with underwhelming results. He has also bounced around all four forward lines hoping chemistry would be found. If the Flames have aspirations to be competitive in the future, getting Huberdeau his game back is an absolute must, as he’s not getting any younger as the years go by.

Flames Coaching Changes Don’t Result in Bounce Back

It was assumed by many throughout the 2022-23 season, that Huberdeau’s struggles had a lot to do with Darryl Sutter‘s coaching style. Sutter demanded a tight defensive game where offensive freedom was limited. Meanwhile, Huberdeau played under a more offensively-minded style in Florida under coach Andrew Brunette before he arrived in Calgary. Playmakers like Huberdeau tend to thrive more in a system where players have more freedom to generate offensive chances through 5-on-5 play and special teams. It was assumed Sutter and Huberdeau weren’t a fit.

The Flames hoped that a coaching change would result in Huberdeau having the chance to unlock his offensive abilities. Flames’ Head Coach Ryan Huska emphasized more freedom and creativity to generate offensive plays. The Flames also hired former NHLer Marc Savard as their new powerplay coach. Savard is known to be an offensive specialist throughout his playing and coaching career. The plan was for Savard to revive the Flames’ powerplay and boost Huberdeau’s productivity.

Jonathan Huberdeau benched
Jonathan Huberdeau benched

Unfortunately, these changes have not paved a successful path for Huberdeau. The Flames’ powerplay has been one of the worst in the entire league.

Huberdeau’s Future With the Flames

In 81 games this season, Huberdeau recorded 12 goals and 52 points. In his first season in Calgary, he recorded 15 goals and 55 points in 79 games. With his current contract, a Huberdeau trade is pretty much impossible.

Frustration among the fanbase in Calgary is obvious. Many dread the idea that Huberdeau’s struggles with stay with the team for years to come. He’s also 30 years of age and not getting any younger, which is another factor that is looked down upon.

The point is that Huberdeau is going nowhere anytime soon. With his struggles still being apparent, the Flames have to make it a priority to help him get his game back; easier said than done. The source of his struggles is certainly a mystery, with some believing it’s a mental game while others suggest it’s the beginning of a steep decline.

Huberdeau is still a very talented player and was a star not too long ago. His struggles are certainly a huge concern and it brings up the question of how long the Flames are giving themselves before they lose their patience.

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