After a season full of pain, Monday’s news that the Calgary Flames had relieved Darryl Sutter of his coaching duties came as almost a sign of relief.
Fans were wishing for Sutter’s removal from his position for months now, and their wish finally came true.
Although fans were notably excited, no one could be more excited than the current crop of Flames players linked to long-term deals. Safe to say that the top of that list would be Jonathan Huberdeau.
A year removed from setting an NHL record for most assists by a left wing in a single season, Huberdeau would go on to set the biggest season-to-season point drop in NHL history under Sutter. Spent most of his season on his off-wing, including just a handful of games with players that complemented his playing style, Huberdeau and Sutter did not get along.
It most likely started with Sutter’s uncomfortable comments regarding Huberdeau’s absence from the bench earlier this season.
Safe to say based on Huberdeau’s interview on BPM Sports—with former Flames coach Bob Hartley we may add—just a few hours after Sutter’s firing was just the perfect way to rub salt in the wound.
Translated from French thanks to the one and only Julian McKenzie, Huberdeau was clear in terms of his thoughts on Sutter:
“You’re supposed to put your players in a position to succeed and I think this season he didn’t do that, they gave me a big contract… Gave (Nazem) Kadri one too, but I was disappointed that I wasn’t put in situations where I could have as much success as possible.
“It really didn’t click between me and Darryl last year. There were a lot of factors. There was a big difference in points between my last two years. And the style of play he wanted to play, it didn’t fit my style of game. Having a new coach is going to help my game and my confidence, too.”
No love lost. It was clear to everyone, except for Sutter, that Huberdeau’s style of play did not fit the typical Sutter system. Huberdeau evidently did not enjoy playing hockey much last season and Sutter’s decision making clearly was the root cause.
He didn’t stop there though as he took particular insult towards the handling of fellow French Canadian, and Flames rookie, Jakob Pelletier. Referencing Sutter’s “what number is he?” comment during the post-game press conference of Pelletier’s debut.
“Why say that to the media and then go see the kid to tell him he played well?
“We were all disappointed. Especially for a young kid who comes in and doesn’t need that as a young player. He just wants to play well for himself and the team. In the media, we were all pretty surprised. We were saying: ‘That’s Darryl.’
“I think he didn’t want to talk about it in the media, he wanted to turn the page… but after he went to see Jakob and told him he played well and that he was happy for him, but then why are you saying this stuff to the media and then you go see the kid to tell him he played well? I don’t think you needed to do that, but that’s Darryl.”
Not a single soul liked how that was handled, but based on their budding bromance it was clear that Huberdeau took great offense to it.
Huberdeau for Captain
It was clear early in the season that lots of players were praising Huberdeau’s leadership. His performance on the ice was not up to his own standards, but he still was an assistant captain with a large voice in the room.
Based on how he is looked at by his younger teammates, and his direct comments about Sutter, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Huberdeau wear the “C” next season.
After that interview, he should get it by default.