Early-season Flames fan overreactions in full swing, Huberdeau and Kadri taking heat

Oct 16, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) prepares to make the game winning save on Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri (91) in a shootout at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) prepares to make the game winning save on Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri (91) in a shootout at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

In yesterday’s article on the importance of finding a lineup fit for Yegor Sharangovich, I referenced the fact that we’re in the midst of overreaction season. Three games into the Flames’ 2023-24 campaign and the pendulum is swinging violently, the pitchforks are out, and I’m just trying to take a slice of advice from Calgary Flames alternate captain Rasmus Andersson: “Embrace the chaos.” At the top of the fan base’s list of concerns are none other than a pair of familiar targets, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.

Three games into an 82-game campaign, the sample size is so small that it’s tough to analyze any aspects of a team’s or a player’s game in a meaningful way. Highlighting the insignificance of early-season analysis is yesterday’s Daily Faceoff NHL power rankings from Scott Maxwell and Mike Gould in which Maxwell applies a statistical model to rank teams, while Gould applies intellect. Some of the outputs are hilarious (not because Maxwell’s model is broken or Gould’s ranks are off): Maxwell has the Winnipeg Jets as the third best team in the league, New Jersey at 20th, Edmonton at 24th, and Tampa Bay at 30th. My point: there’s not enough data to draw meaningful conclusions yet. We all know Winnipeg isn’t a top-three powerhouse in the NHL and that Edmonton, despite back-to-back losses at the hands of the Canucks to open the season, isn’t a bottom-dweller.

It is way too soon to call it a season and spread negativity through the social media cesspool like peanut butter on a bagel. At the same time, though, I will be the first to admit that I’m not willing to provide as long a leash I did last season (in fact, I did mention that in my Darryl Sutter reflection piece).

The Flames have improved at key components of the game throughout each matchup so far this season, Jacob Markstrom has performed better than he did at any point last year, and special teams are looking pretty tasty (the Flames’ power play is clicking at 27.3% for a goal per game while looking far more dynamic than it did under former associate coach Kirk Muller and the penalty kill has been lights out with a 100% success rate, including a clutch 4-on-3 overtime kill last night against Washington).

At the same time, the Calgary Flames are only 1-1-1, a record that consists of a win in a game they arguably should have lost to the Jets, a loss to Pittsburgh in a game Markstrom provided a genuine opportunity to win after 40 minutes, and a shootout loss in a second consecutive blown-lead game to a Capitals team that should miss the playoffs this year. Had the Flames won the past two games, maybe the Huberdeau and Kadri overreactions wouldn’t be as extreme as they are. But missing out on key points in the standings table when two players with a combined $17.5 million in cap space aren’t providing the offence they need to is a surefire way to make those two guys public enemies one and two in the C of Red.

I ran a poll to see who Flames fans are more disappointed in through three games between 10 and 91. While results could change over the next few hours, Kadri seems to be the more disappointing player:

For clarity – even though most folks won’t read this far into the article – I firmly believe it is too early for overblown reactions to the play of the team or any player on the roster.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at some of the main points of criticism fans have for Kadri and Huberdeau. Please note that a lot of this fan feedback is paraphrased/summarized (too many posts contain language I can’t publish here). Please also note that these are not my opinions.

Fan feedback for Jonathan Huberdeau

  • Huberdeau cannot find chemistry with any linemates, including Elias Lindholm.
  • For someone who should be an elite playmaker, Huberdeau’s pass attempts are resulting in giveaways far too often.
  • Because his salary is the highest in Flames’ history, Huberdeau needed to show up far more prepared for a successful season.
  • He is too easy to contain.
  • Huberdeau does not possess “game-breaking” ability.
  • Without Sutter’s system, Huberdeau’s laziness and lack of defensive effort is being exposed.

Jonathan Huberdeau has three points through three games and has looked good in flashes. I’m curious to see how long Huska and Savard stick with the Huberdeau-Lindholm combo on the top line before throwing it in the blender and committing to a forward lineup without a true “stacked” first line, as suggested by @a_barkingcat on Twitter/X:

Fan feedback for Nazem Kadri

  • Kadri needs to hit the net when he shoots, but at the same time, he shoots too often and needs to pass the puck more frequently.
  • Kadri appears unmotivated.
  • Moving Monahan and a first round pick to make space for a seven-year $49 million Kadri deal was stupid.
  • Kadri is relying too heavily on individual efforts.
  • Different linemates could be a good place to start for Nazem Kadri.

On a positive note…

A couple of fans have some opinions that might be the most logical way to approach Flames fandom right now:

The best thing to cool the overreactions would be strong performances from Huberdeau and Kadri in Flames wins as the 0-1-1 road trip continues with three more dates with the Sabres, Blue Jackets, and Red Wings.

Next. Four things to watch on the Calgary Flames’ five-game road trip. dark