Flames need Jonathan Huberdeau, Buffalo gets bold, and Jack Campbell has concerning start
Continuing with the NHL 15 season and a look at Jonathan Huberdeau, and some thoughts on Owen Power, Jack Campbell and more.
Here is what is ahead today for Thursday.
Nobody needs a bigger bounce back season in the NHL than Calgary’s Jonathan Huberdeau.
The Buffalo Sabres locked in another key part of their young core to a monster contract.
Jack Campbell did exactly what the Edmonton Oilers did not need him to do.
The NHL 15: Jonathan Huberdeau needs a big year for the Flames
Continuing my look at 15 of the most fascinating and interesting players in the NHL this season with look at Calgary’s Jonathan Huberdeau.
I do not think there is a player in the NHL that is going to be under more pressure to have a big, bounce back year this season than Huberdeau. Everything is stacked against him after a truly disappointing debut season in Calgary last year, and he has to do something to change the mindset around him.
He was the main piece acquired in the trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers before the start of the 2022-23 season, giving the Flames what they hoped would be a big-time offensive threat to help replace the duo of Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau that departed in the same offseason.
Given how productive Huberdeau had been in Florida, it was a reasonable expectation
The Flames acted quickly and re-signed him to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension that kicks in this season and makes him the new focal point of the franchise.
What followed was his worst offensive performance in eight years and some questions and concerns as to whether or not it was a fluke, or a sign of things to come for him in the future. Tkachuk’s MVP caliber season in Florida and playoff performance to help lead the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final only made the situation look worse for Calgary.
The first big concern with Huberdeau comes from the fact he is the type of player that *needs* to score to be useful. He is not the greatest defensive player and almost all of his value is connected to him being an elite playmaker and producer. If he’s not giving you that, he’s not giving you what you need from him.
The other is the contract.
That eight-year contract with the $10.5 million salary cap hit per season starts this year in his age 30 season. Meaning the Flames are going to be paying the bulk of it to Huberdeau when he is almost certainly going to be on the decline in his career. The Flames had to know that when they signed him to that deal, but they probably assumed they still had at least three, four or maybe even five years of big-time play before his production really started to cliff dive. They probably were not anticipating it happening before the extension even started.
So the question is whether or not the 2022-23 season was a fluke, or if it a sign of what is ahead for him and the Flames. If it is the latter, that would make his deal one of the worst in the NHL.
I tend to think the reality is somewhere in the middle, but still closer to being a fluke. I am not completely ready to give up on him as a top-tier scorer. At age 30 it probably is likely that Huberdeau will start to see his production slow down a bit. It is a normal aging curve in the NHL and no matter how many fierce competitors he get Father Time is always going to win.
But it was also pretty clear that there were some deep problems in Calgary last year, mostly revolving around the head coach (Darryl Sutter), his system, player usage and style.
Nobody was happy and nobody succeeded.
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