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Huberdeau still finding his way in Calgary

Posted on December 7, 2022 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times
cparkinson@tabertimes.com

The biggest trade of the offseason saw former Calgary Flame Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-rounder sent to Florida for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 conditional first-rounder to Calgary. While Tkachuk has taken off with his new team, Huberdeau hasn’t been nearly as dominant in a Flames jersey as of yet.

I don’t think anyone was expecting 115 points like he put up last season, but Huberdeau hasn’t looked like himself much over the first few months of the NHL season. Maybe Tkachuk was able to get off to a great start because he wanted to go there and maybe Huberdeau has struggled because the trade was a shock. That’s purely speculative, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it takes a little longer to acclimate for Huberdeau.

Plus, Calgary saw tons of movement in the offseason and the core saw not only Tkachuk leave, but also Johnny Gaudreau. Adding Nazem Kadri was huge for the Flames and he’s carried some of the offence for Calgary, but overall the Flames are still trying to find their footing. They’re obviously expecting Huberdeau to be a huge part of that puzzle piece and while he hasn’t gotten there yet, I’m sure he will.

He’s surrounded by a great team that has had plenty of ups and downs so far, but there’s still plenty of regular season to kick things into gear. Huberdeau is seeing a lower-than-usual shooting percentage — 10.8 per cent compared to a career 12.5 per cent — so expect that to creep up. It hasn’t been below 11 per cent since the 2014-15 season when he was 21. His points per game is also way lower than what you’d expect of Huberdeau at 0.63 per cent — over his career he’s sitting at 0.91. Over the last four seasons, he’s been above a point per game and with his advance stats looking fairly decent, including getting 61.9 per cent of his starts in the offensive zone, it’s only a matter of time until something clicks.

The good news for the Flames is their offence is fairly deep and their top three lines could go off during any given game. With Huberdeau currently with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, that line doesn’t need to do everything. Kadri alongside Dillon Tube and Andrew Mangiapane is a solid line that can not only score big goals, but also irritate the opponents. And after that, Mikael Backlund centres Adam Ruzicka and Blake Coleman, which is another good line that can bang and crash as well as score some goals. Overall, I think the Flames have tons of room to grow and when big changes happen over the offseason, sometimes it takes a little while to put it all together. So while Huberdeau may be a concern right now, I don’t see much reason to panic. And the fact he’s signed for eight more years after this one, both the Flames and Huberdeau are committed for the long haul. It’s a long deal and it may not age well like any contract that goes into the late 30s, but the Flames have a good team now that can compete.

If Huberdeau can come anywhere close to the MVP-calibre play he had last year, the Flames will be in great shape. I bet by the all-star break the current conversation around the Flames’ star winger will be non-existent because he’ll be back on track.

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