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Flames’ Huberdeau vows to bounce back next season from lacklustre performance

“Most importantly for me is to get that this summer, get that confidence back.”



Calgary Flames

Great expectations, great letdown.

Jonathan Huberdeau will be the first person to tell Calgary Flames fans and anyone who follows hockey his 2022-23 NHL season was a big disappointment.

"There's a lot of stuff I need to obviously reflect on," Huberdeau said Friday, the day he and his teammates packed up their belongings at the Saddledome following a campaign that saw them miss the playoffs a year after claiming second seed in the Western Conference. "That's why I'm going to take the time to do that the next couple weeks, see what's wrong, what I have to do better. 

"Obviously, it's kind of frustrating, too. It wasn't as easy a year. Offensively, I didn't really help the team and stuff like that."

The 29-year-old winger was acquired by the Flames last summer in a trade with the Florida Panthers for Matthew Tkachuk and signed an eight-year contract extension worth $10.5 million per season that kicks in next year. 

Huberdeau, who finished '22-23 with 15 goals and 55 points — both the fewest totals he's scored over a full season since 2014-15 — said while he "didn't find it this year," he believes he's still capable of scoring at a pace he and the rest of the NHL have come to expect of him.

"I didn't lose my talent in five months. I'm not a different player from what I was last year," said Huberdeau, who finished last season tied with then-Flames top-liner Johnny Gaudreau for second in league scoring with 115 points.

He said playing in a different system under a different coach in Darryl Sutter was a challenge for him. Factors such as playing right-wing instead of left-wing, where he'd played his entire NHL career up until this season, required "an adjustment" on his part. By the end of the season, when the Flames were trying to claw their way into a playoff position, he found chemistry on a line with Mikael Backlund, scoring 13 points over the team's final 16 games. 

"It wasn't working really offensively," Huberdeau said. "Darryl was trying to make it work. That's why I bounced around. It was that kind of year. So just to find some fits, I played with Backs mostly towards the end of the year and it was going well. You need to find a duo, and that's what (Sutter) was trying to do."

In the end, though, Huberdeau admitted he lost his "swagger" this season. 

"You can just tell. You have no confidence," he said. "The way you play, the way you make plays, the way you do it, it's hard because you know you are trying to be there and help your team win and you can't really do it. 

"Most importantly for me is to get that this summer, get that confidence back. I don't think about the past. I just look forward to next year."