The Calgary Flames are struggling early on this season, not getting scoring from their star players and getting a less than stellar performance from goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. The team signed former Detroit Red Wings winger Jiri Hudler to a $4 -million-per-year deal in the offseason, but should not expect him to contribute much this season.
Hudler missed the first three games of the season on bereavement leave, as the death of his father took him home to the Czech Republic. In his first game back, he saw just over 17 minutes of ice time, considerably less than fellow left wingers Curtis Glencross and Alex Tanguay. A look at Hudler’s past shows that his performance in a contract year is often a poor reflection of his overall skill, as he tends to play a lot better in the season before getting a big payday. Now that he has signed with the Flames, the team shouldn’t expect more than 30 points out of him this season, not exactly what they were looking for when they signed him.
Hudler scored 23 goals and added 34 assists for the Red Wings during the 2008-09 season, then took the team to salary arbitration before ultimately leaving for the KHL. He put up close to the same offensive production in Russia that season, before returning to the Wings on a two-year deal. With a contract on the line, he once again had a great season, scoring 25 goals and notching 50 points for Detroit. He has managed 10-15 fewer points in season when he isn’t playing for a contract, so the Flames should be worried they won’t get their money’s worth out of him until the 2015-16 season.
The 2008 Stanley Cup champion has a lot of skill and top-line potential, and it’s too bad he often doesn’t play up to it.