Huberdeau: “You Guys Haven’t Seen Anything Yet”
Jonathan Huberdeau signed a long-term deal with the Calgary Flames without experiencing the frenzied Canadian market first-hand.
He’s openly talked about not necessarily wanting to play for the Montreal Canadiens because of the pressure that comes with being a French Canadian.
But he’s quickly finding that Cowtown can be just as critical.
So when Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter critiques arguably his most dynamic offensive weapon, the masses pile on.
“Jonathan has to speed his game up, that’s for sure,” Sutter said following the Flames’ 5-4 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night.
He clarified on Wednesday, telling reporters that was pretty much a literal interpretation. Huberdeau doesn’t need to improve his effort, just his pace.
“I think players like that that are cerebral guys, the way they see the game — you’ve got to do it moving,” Sutter said. “Sometimes you can … paralyze yourself.”
If you think fans and media can be hard on a player, put yourself in that player’s shoes for a minute.
He’s got teammates relying on him. A demanding coach trying to get the best out of him. An $84-million deal that means he’s stuck in this fishbowl for nine seasons.
And Huberdeau doesn’t want to let any single one of the people who brought him here, the guys in the locker room or the scrubs on the streets down.
Nobody will be harder on him than himself.
“I’m way better than what I am right now,” Huberdeau told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do. It hasn’t been easy for me the beginning of the year.
“I think (Sutter is) right. Thinking a little bit too much out there and not moving my feet as I used to last year. I’ve got to start doing that. I want to do it as soon as possible. I’ve just got to relax.”
That part is easier said than done under the scrutiny he will suffer here. It may not be Toronto or Montreal, but any Canadian market comes with an innate pressure.
What the hell else are Canucks focused on when the weather turns cold.
That cold snap happened to hit Calgary on Wednesday but anyone paying attention to social media has felt that icy early narrative around Huberdeau’s start in Calgary Flames silks.
He’s continuously being asked about the differences between the east and west. About the differences between the Florida Panthers’ style, and how hard it is adapting to Sutter’s system.
He must be tired of that. And he knows the best way to silence his critics — and maybe his own inner voices — is to produce.
“I’m not creating nothing out there, so I’ve got to start doing that. That’s why they brought me here,” Huberdeau said. “Offensive guy. I’ve got to play in their zone. I think I’m kind of running after the puck and turning over the puck. I’ve got to be better and that’s what I’ll do.”
But he has to do that the Sutter way. And he knows it.
He spoke about being a 200-foot player, buying into the checking game, adopting a shooter mentality. Playing a more simple game.
“I know I’m a good player; I’ve got to come back to the basics,” Huberdeau said.
“You guys haven’t seen anything yet. I’m not happy with myself right now. Darryl’s been positive with me so I think I’ve just got to stick to it and keep working.”
There’s no reason to doubt that.