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Can Huberdeau Thrive Under Coach Sutter?



Just in case anyone was wondering if Calgary Flames bench boss Darryl Sutter is still buried in hay bales paying little attention to the epic summer his team has been having off the ice, Jonathan Huberdeau answered the question everyone asks when it comes to the notoriously crusty head coach.

Have you talked to the man yet?

“Yeah we talked a couple of times. He seems like a great person,” Huberdeau said on his call with the media on Friday when CHN asked him if he and his new head coach have connected since the blockbuster NHL trade.

“I haven’t met him in person and he hasn’t coached me yet but, what I heard, he demands the best out of you.

“That’s what I need.”

Huberdeau is a 115-point winger with elite playmaking skills. He led the NHL with 85 assists last season and finished second in scoring – tied with former Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau. Huberdeau will slide right into that spot vacated when Gaudreau signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent this summer.

Sutter is a big reason Gaudreau hit new heights last season. He scored 40 goals and 115 points and finished fourth in the voting for the Hart Trophy after leading the Flames to a Pacific Division title.

But it was the evolution of his checking game that made Gaudreau such an impact player in his finale with the Flames.

Huberdeau has chance to elevate game with Flames

Critiqued for his assist-heavy arsenal and mediocre underlying numbers, Huberdeau may benefit Sutter’s guidance in the same way Gaudreau did.

Fresh off his $84 million signing of the richest deal in Flames history, the 29-year-old who finished fifth in the Hart voting is ready to soak in Sutter’s knowledge.

“He wants you to play defensively, too, 200-feet game. That’s what I want to do,” Huberdeau said. “I learned a lot through the years that that’s how you’re going to win the Stanley Cup. He won Stanley Cups with L.A. That’s what you want, a winning coach. He has a lot of experience.

“I think I’m going to get out there and I’m going to listen to him, and he’s going to push me and I’m ready for it.”

He may want to prepare a little for that. The business side of a Sutter. It isn’t limited to the sarcastic quips in pressers. There’s some sting in the dressing room, too. And then there’s the personal side the players get to see – occasionally, but usually away from the rink.

It was important for Huberdeau to get a feel for his new bench boss before signing up for another eight seasons after this one. The early connection was positive.

“Yeah, obviously he’s excited. I’m excited. In a way he doesn’t know me really — he knows me as a player but as a person, not really. We’re going to get to know each other,” Huberdeau said.

“I’m just excited to work for him. We have a great chance to win and I think that’s the perfect fit for me as coach.”