Calgary Flames

Jonathan Huberdeau’s late-game benching signals a larger issue for the Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames put forth one of their best efforts of the season against the Dallas Stars, but unfortunately came up just short in a 4–3 loss. In what felt like a game page ripped out of last season’s storybook, the Flames were the better team and probably deserved the win but just made a few defensive errors that cost them in the long run. It’s a story that we know all too well.

But what was different this go around is at the end of the game the Flames had about two solid scoring chances (that should have gone in) with the goaltender pulled. The team’s top players laid it out on the line and gave them a chance at extra time.

That is, of course, aside from Jonathan Huberdeau.

Huberdeau stapled to the bench

At the end of regulation, the Flames had put the pressure on the Stars and after a scoring chance, Ryan Huska decided to take a timeout. Pretty standard. 

Once that was over though, the team decided to ice Connor Zary instead of Jonathan Huberdeau to go for the tying goal. Nazem Kadri, Elias Lindholm, and Andrew Mangiapane were still on the ice with the forward group, but Huberdeau was left stapled to the bench to watch his team.

Now Huberdeau was coming off a shift before this so it’s not as if he was absent for the complete time, but the timeout is meant for the coach to rest his key players and draft up a set play.

Excluding Huberdeau from that clearly meant more. 

Sending a message

Many were joking online that the Flames should scratch Jonathan Huberdeau for Connor Zary, but now that doesn’t seem too far-fetched. The coaching staff virtually did that in a critical moment of the game. 

Huberdeau didn’t even have an awful game when looking at the numbers. He generated scoring chances, held possession more than his opponents, and his line was one of the better ones in the game. I wouldn’t say he passed the eye test, but he also didn’t negatively impact the team.

It’s more how he is perceived in the eyes of his staff. Not many teams around the NHL would have a $10M-plus player sitting on the bench in a one-goal deficit with their goalie pulled. Regardless of how his season may be going, you pay your best players to put yourself in a position to win.

Clearly the coaching staff doesn’t think this way, and that is a massive problem. Huberdeau has a long way to go to earn back his trust from the coaching staff.

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