After last season, the Florida Panthers were hoping to get an on-the-rise superstar after Jonathan Huberdeau’s Calder-winning performance last season. However, as many top rookies experience, the second year in the NHL seems to be a step backwards for many players.
The skill is inarguable, but consistent production is what separates the top NHL players from the second liners and role-players. Huberdeau is now counted on to not only bring some offense to the table, but help bring along future rookies who start out in Florida.
Currently, Aleksander Barkov is outscoring Huberdeau by two points, two assists to be exact. Even though at the start of the season it was Huberdeau who was showing Barkov the ropes, it seems Huberdeau could use some guidance as he tries to turn around his second year in the league.
Bringing in players like Scott Gomez and Brad Boyes will help Huberdeau find his place on the team, but he will need to show similar skills as last season and do it on a consistent basis. The current scorers on the Panthers are aging and could very likely be traded at the deadline for picks and prospects. This would only emphasize how important Barkov and Huberdeau are to the future of the franchise and it will be on his shoulders to produce.
His three goals and two assists are by no means horrible for the first 12 games, but the fact remains that Huberdeau came into this season with high expectations, both form himself and from the organization. The fact remains that, without his consistent offensive contributions, the Panthers chances at a playoff spot are slim to none. The team is still very young in the defensive zone and Tim Thomas is doing his best steal games. Nevertheless, it is up to players like Huberdeau to help his team win, at least in the offensize zone. Without that production, getting two points for the team is much harder.
Last season, Huberdeau played through a hip injury and was forced to get surgery during the offseason. While he remains reluctant in blaming anything for his lack of production, getting back to full strength on the ice versus recovering from the surgery are two different things. If he continues to play below his normally expected production, doubts will continue to circulate regarding his health this season.
A 12 game sample size is small, and with 80 games remaining, anything is possible. With the streaks Huberdeau experienced last season, he could change things around at any point of the season. Furthermore, he was a slow starter last season as well, garnering limited Calder attention behind the impeccable start of Vladimir Tarasenko. Slow starters are not unheard of in the NHL, even with superstars, but it is still too early to consider this a career long trend.
Huberdeau is an elite level talent but it remains to be seen when he will turn things around.
Maybe he should spend less time on the track test driving Shelby Cobra Mustangs for his good buddies at Ford?
Well, you only live once, and Huberdeau should be able to turn things around soon. Otherwise, the Panthers will surely suffer in the process.