The Calgary Flames 2023–24 NHL season is nearly here with very little business remaining to get done before the puck drops. They have to finalize their opening night roster for sure, but they don’t look to be making a number of moves before that happens.
That means the last major piece of business to be finalized for the team is naming a new captain, something that both general manager Craig Conroy and head coach Ryan Huska will want done sooner rather than later.
We had previously taken a look at the case for MacKenzie Weegar as the next captain for the Flames, but over the next few days we are going to be looking at a wealth of other players on the team that could fill the mantle. \
First up on that list is the team’s most high profile player for a number of reasons: Jonathan Huberdeau
What makes Huberdeau an enticing captain candidate
The headliner acquisition for the Flames last season, Huberdeau entered the season with the most hype and excitement for a player. Coming off a 115-point season with the Florida Panthers and signing a Flames franchise record eight-year, $10.5M AAV contract in the summer, Huberdeau had all of the eyes on him last year.
For a number of reasons, things didn’t go his way and at times it was hard to watch.
Now what’s important to note is that last season for Huberdeau is already in the past, and based on his career performance was the clear outlier. A rebound is imminent.
When Huberdeau first joined the team, there was a lot of talk that he would be the next player to inherit the “C”. Elias Lindholm was hyping up his leadership during training camp, he came in talking the right points, and with a long term commitment it seemed likely.
Darryl Sutter threw water on those flames early saying it was hard to play in a Canadian market and be the captain of a team in Canada, something he didn’t think Huberdeau was ready for. Whether the “C” would have impacted his on ice performance would be pure speculation at this stage.
Now looking forward, his path to captaincy makes a wealth of sense.
Huberdeau is committed as a long-term player
For better or for worse, the Flames and Huberdeau are committed long-term to each other. The team will go as far as he is able to take them. They put full faith in him with his eight-year contract that starts this season, which means they should be putting faith in him to lead this team.
He was given an “A” last season, something he had held with the Panthers for his previous four seasons. Add in two seasons as the captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, Huberdeau has the experience.
What was most intriguing news in the summertime on Huberdeau was when Elliotte Friedman reported during the playoffs that Huberdeau had started getting back to being himself. In Florida he was referred to as the “organizer” and was a real glue guy for the team. This year he started being more of the organizer for the team, even reaching out to new Flames draft picks and being that leader behind the scenes.
Add in his community engagement in his first season with the team, and Huberdeau looks to be the betting favourite.
Oh captain, my captain
The “obvious” choice for many, Huberdeau being given the “C” would make a wealth of sense for the franchise. If you are looking for a new direction and new leadership style, Huberdeau makes sense to be driving the bus. Others may make sense based on their tenure with the team, but if they were the perfect candidate they would have been captain by now.
The new Flames need a new on ice leader, and Huberdeau may be their man.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire