Sutter Experiment Over? Huberdeau Happy To Return To Left Side with Flames
Calgary Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau was happy to be back on the left wing after spending half a season on the right, where he never got comfortable. Did Darryl Sutter figure it out too late for the NHL playoffs?
Jonathan Huberdeau’s scrum on Saturday likely inadvertently exposed the meaning behind his agent’s cryptic poke at the Calgary Flames last month.
You may remember the tweet that Allan Walsh fired out after another disappointing Flames loss in mid-February. It set the hockey world on fire for a few days.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result,” Walsh tweeted after another disappointing Flames loss.
He tagged the Calgary Flames’ official Twitter account, and then took a parting shot everyone assumed was directed at head coach Darryl Sutter, too.
“Also, negativity sucks the joy right out of players.”
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Also, negativity sucks the joy right out of players. cc: @NHLFlames
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) February 17, 2023
Sutter isn’t known for his fun-loving personality. But that jab was far less damning than the first half of the tweet.
Joy was written all over Huberdeau’s face on Saturday after Sutter mixed up his lines.
The reason? After spending more than half of his disastrous season on the right wing — a position he never played professionally until this year — Huberdeau saw he was back on the left flank when he arrived for practice.
Watch the video. He lit up when he was asked about it after skating alongside Nazem Kadri and Dillon Dube.
“Yeah, really nice to be back,” he said, barely waiting for the end of the reporter’s question.
Huberdeau laughed and joyously answered every question that followed with smiles and a look of relief. Maybe disbelief for how long the experiment lasted.
“I don’t know. When you see the ice for like 10-plus years on the left, it’s like, different to get on the right,” Huberdeau said. “I was happy.”
He used the word happy at least three times. There hasn't been a lot of that this year.
He said he never asked for it. There aren’t a lot of requests made from player to coach. “No, I didn’t. You probably saw it, at some point,” he said.
What we saw, was a guy who last year put up 115 points — including the most assists ever by a left-winger in the NHL — and this year is on pace for the league’s largest point regression in history.
“I always played left wing, so, that just makes sense.”
I think that line meant the position makes sense to him, where he was thinking too much on the right side. I don’t think he was in any way trying to publicly throw shade at his coach.
But Walsh certainly was.
And Huberdeau was, again, happy to explain the particulars of what makes him better on the left side.
“I like to open up my hips so I can see the ice way more than when I’m on my backhand. I feel I close my shoulders and I can’t see the ice as much (on the right),” Huberdeau said.
Sutter moved Matthew Tkachuk to the right side from his natural left position last season and had incredible results, with Tkachuk putting up career highs across the board.
But the 25-year-old is a very different player than Huberdeau, and being a more natural shooter may have had something to do with the successful transition.
“I’m not (that) big of a shooter. I think when you play right wing, when you’re a shooter it’s easier to get some one-time pass and stuff like that,” Huberdeau said. “For me it’s not my type of game.”
Huberdeau is a passer. As pure as they come. Maybe the return to his favourite spot will lead to more of those passes he’s known for. Kadri and Dube are two pretty good triggermen.
We’ve heard Sutter say relatively frequently that it’s up to them to utilize their individual skill-sets to the best of their abilities to help the team win games.
Maybe this move will allow Huberdeau to do that.
Hopefully it’s not too late.