Darryl Sutter made an extremely weird decision earlier this season: putting Jonathan Huberdeau on his off-wing. In his ten-year NHL career before this season, Jonathan Huberdeau had not played right wing at all. This move was first made for Game 33 against the San Jose Sharks, where Huberdeau lined up next to Milan Lucic on the left side and Nazem Kadri down the middle. That combo stayed together for fourteen straight games before finally being split up.
Later, Huberdeau was put back on the right wing for Game 50 against the Seattle Kraken, this time with Jakob Pelletier slotting on the left side, and Kadri remaining up the middle. This combo also lasted fourteen straight games, before the newly acquired Nick Ritchie took Pelletier’s spot. The Ritchie-Kadri-Huberdeau line stayed together for three games, before Huberdeau was finally placed back on his natural left side.
In total, Huberdeau has played thirty-one games on his off-side. I really can’t understand how the coach decided on that for so long, given the results I am about to show. Mind-boggling decision from Darryl Sutter.
Huberdeau’s comments in the media
Huberdeau was no doubt very happy to be placed back on the left side, given his comments made to the media:
A breakdown of the two wings
Note: The data is shown up to April 7. Huberdeau has gotten into 76 contests with the Flames so far this season, notching 15 goals and 39 assists for 54 points.
|Position||Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points||Points Per Game|
|Huberdeau playing RW||31||4||11||15||.484|
|Huberdeau playing LW||45||11||28||39||.867|
Focusing specifically on the recent thirteen games since he returned to his normal wing, Huberdeau has twelve points. That is very close to being a point-per-game player, and the player we expected to see this season.
Comparing Huberdeau’s counting stats on either wing, it is frankly hilarious to see the difference. Huberdeau is not too far off from a point-per-game pace in the season when playing on the left wing. When he plays on the right—which he never did before this season—he’s not even a half-point-per-game player.
What an unjustifiable decision by Darryl Sutter. I would assume this played a part in Huberdeau’s agent, Allan Walsh, criticizing Sutter earlier this season.
Flames record with Huberdeau on the two different wings
|Position||Flames Record||Points Percentage|
|Huberdeau playing RW||15–12–6||0.581|
|Huberdeau returning to LW||8–3–2||0.692|
Not only do Huberdeau’s counting stats get better with him on the left wing, but the Flames record has also gotten much better since Huberdeau moved back to his natural wing. Now, a lot of the Flames recent games have been against struggling opponents. But, the Flames finally won more than three games in a row, and completed their first third period comebacks of the entire season.
With that recent record, the Flames are tied with the Winnipeg Jets in the playoff race. Winnipeg does hold the regulation wins tiebreaker and has a game at hand. While their playoff chances remain weak, it is still a massive improvement over where they were a month ago. It has given fans a lot of hope.
Who knows where the Flames might be if Sutter doesn’t shift Huberdeau to the right side. This could add up to one of the many reasons why the Flames missed the playoffs if the final week of the regular season doesn’t go their way.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire