SAINT-JEAN, N.-B. – Jonathan Huberdeau isn’t disappointed that the Florida Panthers have gone back to the old guard by hiring Paul Maurice as head coach.
On the contrary, Huberdeau sees similarities between Maurice and the coach who most recently helped the team to two consecutive playoff appearances: Joel Quenneville. However, the latter was fired earlier last season for his role in the Kyle Beach affair, a decade earlier when he captained the Chicago Blackhawks.
Quenneville had a solid record in the NHL, and so did Maurice.
“He’s got experience and he’s gained a lot,” Huberdeau said between two thirds at Saturday’s Memorial Cup. I can’t wait to see the adjustments it will make. I don’t know his system.
“I’ve heard him speak a lot and he expresses himself well. I also met him during a World Cup and he was nice. He wants to win and is a passionate ice hockey player. »
Andrew Brunette took over as head coach after Quenneville’s departure. He held this position for the first time in the NHL.
The Panthers went 51-18-6 under Brunette but fell a bit short of their goals. They were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.
“You’ve got to learn. We had a good team and we thought we’d get through,” admitted Huberdeau, who posted a career-high 115 regular-season points. Losing in four games, especially to Tampa, isn’t easy. But we are have a good team. We will come back strong next season. »
Huberdeau is one of many former Sea Dogs players who have returned to Saint John these days during the Memorial Cup presentation.
He helped the Sea Dogs win the President’s Trophy twice as a QMJHL champion and once the Memorial Cup in 2011.
“It was really something special. We had teams that had over 50 wins each season. We had fun. We knew we had a good team. We had a good coach in Gerard Gallant,” said Huberdeau, who was drafted third overall by the Panthers in 2011.
“Even though we were in junior hockey, he treated us like we were in the pro ranks,” he added. He wanted to help us get to the next level and he made us better. He could be hard on us at times and even get angry, but he moved on quickly. »
Huberdeau said he’s stayed in touch with some of his Sea Dogs teammates over the years, including Nathan Beaulieu, Zack Phillips, Mike Thomas and Stephen MacAulay.
He also noted that he tries to return to Saint John every summer.
“I come to visit my retiree family and friends. It’s like my second home for me. I’ve had some great years of my life there,” he concluded.