Jonathan Huberdeau's first season with the Calgary Flames was one to forget, and his second year in Alberta is off to a similarly disappointing start.
Huberdeau didn't see the ice in the third period of Calgary's 4-2 comeback victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The Flames erupted for three goals (including an empty-netter) in the final frame as Huberdeau watched from the bench.
Flames coach Ryan Huska claims he wasn't trying to send a message to his forward, and that Huberdeau wasn't too distraught by the decision.
“We wanted to try to get a little bit more flow and we went with the guys we felt were going.” - Ryan Huska, on his decision to sit Jonathan Huberdeau in the 3rd period. pic.twitter.com/Ks9g9dtv7S
— JayOnSC (@JayOnSC) November 8, 2023
"I thought Huby had an off night and when we went into the third period, we wanted to try to get a little bit more flow and we went with the guys we felt were going. That's pretty much all it came down to," said Huska. "He's fine. It's not anything anybody wants to go through ever, but at times, it's gonna happen, you're not gonna have an A-plus game every night.
"It was just an off night. It happens."
On Wednesday, Huberdeau spoke on the benching, saying he was disappointed but ready to move on while taking responsibility for his lacklustre play so far.
"It was difficult. As a player, you want to be out there and help your team, but at the end of the day, I sat on the bench. It's 20 minutes of my career. I've just got to move on and we got a win…it's on me to be better," Huberdeau said via TSN's Salim Nadim.
Expectations were high for Huberdeau when he was acquired as the main piece of the Flames' return when they traded Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers two summers ago. He was coming off a 30-goal, 115-point season with the Panthers in 2021-22 and then signed an eight-year, $84-million contract extension shortly after the blockbuster deal.
Huberdeau registered 15 goals and 55 points in 79 games for the Flames last season. The 30-year-old thought getting rid of Darryl Sutter would spark his offence, since things "really didn't click" between the player and coach in 2022-23.
The change from Sutter to Huska hasn't yet unlocked Huberdeau, as the Quebec native has two goals and six points through 12 games this year. Despite his continued scoring struggles, teammate Dillon Dube has no doubt he'll come out of the slump soon and won't take Tuesday's benching to heart.
“Huby's the man, he's good, he's the most positive guy I've been around," said Dube. "He's a hell of a player, he's a hell of a person. It's fine, it's one period of his life, out of his career, it's not a big deal.
“I don't think anyone's too worried about it. I don't think we should be. He works his ass off every day. Give him credit, he'll be here tomorrow with a smile on his face.”
Huberdeau will try to get back on track this weekend as the Flames kick off an Eastern Canadian road trip with a clash in Toronto on Friday.