Jonathan Huberdeau has perfect response to Flames coaching change

Can he rebound from last year's stunning drop-off in points?



The Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames pulled off a stunning trade last summer, as Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar were shipped to the Flames in exchange for gritty forward Matthew Tkachuk; all three players would then be signed to long-term extensions by their respective new teams. 

However, Huberdeau's first season with the Flames was anything but a success In the 79 games that he played in, Huberdeau only managed 55 points, and in doing so, set the new NHL record of the single biggest drop-off in production with 60. In fact, it was the first time in nearly 20 years that a drop-off that eclipsed 40 points from one season to the next had even occurred.

And it certainly didn't help that Huberdeau publicly traded barbs with old-school bench boss Darryl Sutter throughout the year while also routinely finding himself further down in the lineup. But there's a new head coach behind the bench in former assistant Ryan Huska, and Huberdeau is aiming to bounce back in a major way. 

"I just feel like last year I didn't know what I was coming into, it was different for me," he said. "But it's nice to be finally settled, got a house here, I know what to expect. It's fun. It feels way more comfortable and I'm happy to be here."

The Flames will be looking to Huberdeau for leadership, and it's something that he wants to be able to provide - especially to his younger teammates. 

"I can be a leader and that's one of my strengths", Huberdeau said. "Last year was more tough for me to kind of do it, but this year, I think I'm going to be a leader on and off the ice as well. I want to show that and show my teammates what I can do." 

As far as the departure of Sutter and elevation of Huska to the job, he believes that it's paramount for them to be able to find their identity. 

"It was a weird year last year, I don't think we ever found our identity," Huberdeau said. "We need to find what kind of team we are and be a tough team to play every night. I think that's gonna be our goal to see that with our new coaching staff and GM, and I see the optimism." 

The Flames have several players who are entering the final year of their contracts, including Michael Baklund, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Noah Hanifin. For Huberdeau, what do the Flames need to do in order to ensure those pending free-agents will want to stick around? 

"Every team has guys who are on one-year contract and they have to decide what they're going to do," he said. "But at the end of the day, I think we're going to be a good team and they're going to see that. Hopefully, we want everyone to stay and we have a good fit and room here. It's going to be exciting but it's not our decision. We're not going to think about that, but we're going to go in and try to have a good start to training camp." 

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Source: Twitter