Huberdeau lifts lid on last season’s struggles: ‘I didn’t have fun’

Huberdeau lifts lid on last season's struggles: 'I didn't have fun'

Jonathan Huberdeau is certain of one thing ahead of his second season in Calgary: Flames fans haven’t seen the real him just yet.

“I didn’t have fun last year,” he said during a recent appearance on the “Frankly Speaking” podcast. “I think that’s the first time in my career I kinda lost the passion, a little bit, to come to the rink and stuff like that. The way I was playing on the ice, it wasn’t me. It kinda frustrated me.

“I wasn’t myself in the room, too, with the guys, and I know I can be a funny guy and be good to be around the guys. I think this year, I’m more myself. I tried just to learn from last year … and come back this year and be me, be a leader in this room.”

Huberdeau’s struggles in 2022-23 were well-documented. When the Flames acquired him as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers, Huberdeau was coming off a career-high 115-point campaign. He wasn’t the same player during his first season north of the border, chipping in with just 55 points in 79 outings.

When Huberdeau is at his best, he said he feels lighter on the ice.

“Last year was heavy all the time and stuff like that,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not as in shape – I think it’s just mentally it drains you, and then it gets to your body. I think it’s just to be free mentally and just go out there, have fun.”

The 30-year-old revealed in early May that he and then-Flames head coach Darryl Sutter “really didn’t click” and that the typically hard-nosed bench boss’ game plan “didn’t fit” Huberdeau’s style. The Flames parted ways with Sutter after missing the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs by two points and replaced him with Ryan Huska.

Huberdeau told the “Frankly Speaking” podcast that he believes his new head coach will give him “every chance to be successful” and that there’s a “different” feel around camp this time around.

“You can feel everybody’s excited. Obviously, last year, we had a lot of expectations on our team,” he said. “This year, I don’t think that we have many. I think it’s a good thing – we’re going to be the underdog.”

Huberdeau is about to enter the first season of an eight-year, $84-million extension he signed with the Flames in August 2022.

Calgary’s 2023-24 campaign begins Oct. 11 against the Winnipeg Jets.

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