It’s certainly no secret that Jonathan Huberdeau’s first season with the Calgary Flames didn’t go according to plan.
A blockbuster trade that saw last year’s Art Ross co-runner-up head west alongside MacKenzie Weegar — followed by an eight-year, $84-million contract extension — indicated lofty expectations for the 29-year-old, who was supposed to help Calgary return to the postseason as a bonafide Stanley Cup contender.
That hypothetical couldn’t have been further from what actually played out over the following eight months.
From early season call outs to long dry spells with little production, Huberdeau’s first season in Alberta concluded with an abysmal 55 points — his lowest regular-season total over a full campaign since 2014-15.
Those struggles, combined with several other factors, were ultimately what led to Monday afternoon’s firing of Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, himself just weeks away from having a two-year extension kick in. In Huberdeau’s eyes, the lack of relationship between the star and his coach was a big part of why Year 1 in Calgary will go down as one to forget.
“It really didn't click between me and Darryl last year,” Huberdeau told Bob Hartley on BPM Sports Radio in Quebec, as translated by Yahoo Sports contributor Julian McKenzie. “There were a lot of factors. There was a big difference in points between my last two years. And the style of play he wanted to play, it didn't fit my style of game...
"Having a new coach is going to help my game and my confidence, too."
...Having a new coach is going to help my game and my confidence, too."
Jonathan Huberdeau, en Français, did not hold back there.
— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) May 1, 2023
The sense that Sutter's shelf life had expired, a point reiterated by Flames president Don Maloney as the club announced the dismissal, was ultimately pervasive throughout the afternoon, as Maloney pointed sharply at the veteran bench boss's mishandling of important parts of the club’s future.
That included his much-scrutinized treatment of 2019 first-round selection Jakob Pelletier, who was essentially put on blast following his NHL debut in a seemingly bizarre attempt by Sutter to reaffirm his authority over personnel decisions.
“What number is he?” Sutter asked sarcastically at the time before rhyming off his statistics from that evening’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. “It’s the NHL. Twenty-one years old. Long ways to go.”
In his discussion with Hartley, Huberdeau similarly struggled to understand what was to gain from the poorly timed power move.
"Why say that to the media and then go see the kid to tell him he played well?" Huberdeau said. “We were all disappointed. Especially for a young kid who comes in and doesn't need that as a young player.
“He just wants to play well for himself and the team. In the media, we were all pretty surprised. We were saying 'That's Darryl.'”