The Calgary Flames have struggled to start their season, and with another loss Sunday night at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the Flames saw Detroit’s star players doing all the damage for them. Calgary hasn’t gotten star performances from their star players as of yet. It is now time to probably hit the panic button on a player that we all thought might have a resurgence of a year, and that player is Jonathan Huberdeau.
Nothing has changed for Huberdeau
We all know about the struggle that was last year for Huberdeau. We all know about the antics of Darryl Sutter, the time spent with Milan Lucic, playing on his off-wing, the challenge of living up to the biggest contract in franchise history, and we knew about the struggle of being traded in one of the biggest trades in NHL history. The list is extensive. However, that still does not change the fact that Huberdeau has shown no signs of improvement to start this season, and we talked about it all summer, the only way the Flames would be competitive was if Huberdeau bounced back.
Huberdeau has still not been the player early on this year that we were promised when he was brought over in the trade in the summer of 2022 from the Florida Panthers. The player who had been one of the most prolific point scorers in the league has yet to show up since being moved to the Flames. As I mentioned above, the issues last year on why Huberdeau struggled were real—mostly due to the old bench boss—but it’s no longer excusable. Since Ryan Huska has taken over the reigns, Huberdeau has still looked like the same player that he was last season.
The drive has not been there, the high-end skill has not been there, the ability to take over a hockey game has not been there, and everything that we thought might have been neutered last year is all still present in Huberdeau’s game. He has struggled to make simple passes, he is still looking off open shots and looking for a low-percentage pass that is not there, and he has yet to come through in a big moment when the Flames have needed it most. He has been the biggest disappointment (along with Nazem Kadri) to start this season, after all the hype, he has fallen flat on his face.
A deep dive into Huberdeau’s numbers
The eye test has proven early that Huberdeau’s game is not where it should be, but when you look deeper into his statistical numbers, they are not helping his case. On the surface, four points in his first six games is not too bad, and two of those points are goals. He didn’t get his second goal until mid-November last year.
When you look at his on-ice metrics though, that’s where the story begins to unfold a little bit. According to hockey-reference.com, at 5v5, Huberdeau ranks 13th on the team for CF% and 53.5 and a relative CF% of -1.7, which puts him 12th on the team—not great when you are making $10.5 million per year. In all of the major statistical categories, Huberdeau ranks mid-pack or lower. This is a pretty quick turnaround from when Huberdeau was ranking decently high mere days ago.
As a player who should be a consistent leader in every offensive category, it is a major letdown to see him undergo these ebbs and flows. It’s simply not what anyone expected from him.
Just to put into perspective, in Calgary’s 6–2 loss to Detroit on Sunday, Huberdeau made as little impact on a game as you can. He played only 13:58 (mainly due to the Flames’ penalty troubles), he had zero shots on goal, a goals above expected of -0.019, one shot attempt, no hits, no takeaways, and finished the game a horrendous -4. If you just look at how Detroit’s top trio of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Larkin, and Lucas Raymond, they controlled the game against the Flames. That is how top players need to be every single night and the game against the Red Wings really showed that maybe Darryl Sutter was right after all, the Flames have zero impact players.
Can Huberdeau turn the season around?
Look, the Flames are only six games into the season. Are things being blown out of the water this early in the year for Huberdeau—and Kadri, too? Maybe, but the sample size of all of last season gives us very good reason to be upset and nervous about how these next eight-years for Huberdeau might go.
Anything can happen, maybe Huberdeau gets back on track to being the guy he was when he was in Florida, or maybe this is the player we will be getting for the entirety of his deal here in Calgary. For right now though, the Flames are in major trouble, and it is on Huberdeau alone to change that narrative moving forward.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire