Random Thoughts - Toughness And Monahan

Kent Wilson
September 16 2013 10:55AM

 

 

Usually my random thoughts missives feature a number of items, but this one is on just two that have cropped up recently: the value of toughness or "grit" in hockey and whether or not Sean Monahan should spend the year with the Flames.

First we'll take on toughness. This issue was brought to my attention by frequent commenter (and antagonist of mine) Clyde when he said this after a Michael Ferland fight during the young stars tournament:

But, you can't measure the impact Ferland's grit made so it isn't useful. Lol

Two things, but I'll be particular first - attributing the Flames resurgence in the Canucks prospect game specifically to the Ferland fight is post hoc ergo propter hoc, or "after this therefore because of this". It's tempting to applaud fights when good things happen after them, but to be honest one should keep a tab of how often that actually happens in order to derive a true effect from fisticuffs.

This has been looked at - from a number of angles - and overall the effect is not quite nothing for winning a fight, but it's as close as nothing as to be generally unimportant.

Which is the reason that most fights in hockey occur when the score is out of reach. To be sure, if fighting guaranteed a significant swing in shots and scoring chances, goons would be some of the most valuable players on any given club, rather than minimum wage, 4th line guys.

Secondly, and more generally, my position in regard to grit overall isn't that it's worthless, but rather, that it's grossly overvalued and weighted incorrectly in traditional hockey terms. Like any other physical tool, grit is a boon if it leads to positive outcomes for the player and team on the ice, but not terribly useful otherwise. Just like skating, shooting and hockey sense, grit is potentially a means to and end but not an end unto itself.

Unfortunately, toughness seems to be the lone ability that can keep a guy in the show, absent any other NHL level qualities. You'll usually see highly skilled but defensively disinterested forwards smeared as "one dimensional", but the truly one dimensional creatures in this league are the guys who are only around to crash and bang or chuck fists; the guys who are gross liabilities under almost any circumstance, who bleed shots and goals against and take more penalties than they draw, because the only NHL level skill they have is to absorb and dish out pain. As a result, they are eaten for breakfast by the actual NHLers they face each and every shift.

There are plenty of good hockey payers who count grit or toughness as a primary tool: Dustin Brown, David Backes, Milan Lucic, etc., etc. And there's not doubt that every potential NHLer needs a certain threshold of "toughness" to make it into the show given the size, strength of the players and the inherent violence in the game. But grit as a stand-alone asset - toughness for toughness sake - is an inherently self-defeating strategy. The point of the game is to score more goals than the other guys, not merely prove you have the biggest balls.

It's interesting to see how this misconception plays out across the league, particularly on bad teams whom convince themselves that at least some portion of their struggles can be attributed to not being gritty enough. This idea has afflicted the Oilers for years during their rebuild, resulting in the fruitless churn of relatively useless players through their bottom-6 rotation (Zack Stortini, Steve MacIntyre, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Mike Brown), ironically making their club worse and extending their stay at the bottom of the league.

A metaphor for that style of management, I think, is making a stew and then adding rocks for texture: while it might be entirely true that your stew is rather mushy and that rocks are indeed "crunchy", the addition does nothing to actually improve the meal.

Send Monahan Back to Junior

As of this writing Sean Monahan has had a strong training camp, which means the number of fans agitating for him to stay with the parent club all season has increased. I've gone on record before about this topic, but it bears repeating: burning a year of Monahan's ELC at this point would be a mistake.

Firstly, because the chances of Monahan actually helping the Flames do anything meaningful this year is almost zero. The kid is too young and the team is too far away from competing for that to be realistic. Since the lock-out, only 29 forwards between the ages of 18-19 have played 65 games or more in their rookie season. Only 10 of them scored more than 50 points.

Secondly, as mentioned, it would be a poor allocation of a precious, limited resource. Entry level contracts are artificially capped by the league and the best potential value deals a team has. Most kids aren't good enough during their first 3 pro years for that to matter much, but when potential stars come along, it makes sense to horde their 3 ELC seasons as long as possible - or least try to position them closer to a time when the team will be competitive in order to leverage those deals as much as possible.

Let's put it this way - would a season of cheap Sean Monahan be more useful to the Flames now? Or to the Flames in 2016-17, which would be the last year of his ELC if Calgary were to send him back to junior this season? Because that's the trade-off you make if Monahan sticks as an 18-19 year old.

It's true that rebuilding clubs have a habit of keeping their recent high draft picks around even as teens, and sometimes it might be warranted on merit, but mostly it seems to be a PR and marketing tool used to mollify a fanbase eager for something to cheer about. And although I'm personally excited to see Monahan strut his stuff in the NHL, it strikes me as short-sighted at best to toss him head first into year 1 of the Flames probably lengthy rebuild effort.

I'm in this for the long haul, the bigger payoff, so I'm willing to suppress the wish for instant gratification so the team has a better chance of winning later.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 Parallex
September 16 2013, 11:46AM
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Christian Roatis wrote:

I'm in the keep him if he's ready, send him if he's not camp. Makes the most sense IMO.

Why? What sense (or tangible benefit) is there in having the team burn an artificially cheap year off of his contract in order to have him play in what is almost assuredly a gap year regardless of his presense?

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#52 DoubleDIon
September 16 2013, 11:57AM
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@Parallex

I generally agree that Monahan should be sent down, but if he looks like he belongs in the top 9 I keep him up. I'd be upset if I was the 7th best player at camp and was sent down so a team could save an entry level year. The goodwill of your players is worth something and if he's good enough to play a top 9 role in the NHL then he'll develop best at that level.

I'd hate to see us use him 5 minutes a game on the 4th line like they did with Bartschi. Total waste if that's the case. Make it clear to him that he'll stick if he's a top 9 forward and let the chips fall where they may.

I love the statistical analysis on this site. But players are people, and good organizations treat their people as people, not just assets.

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#53 icedawg_42
September 16 2013, 12:01PM
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@Parallex

Good points - For me - the only way he's going to learn any more at the CHL level, is if he's traded to a legit league contender, with potential to play for the mem cup.

in other words...sending him specifically to the '67's isn't going to do much for him (IMO)

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#54 Justin Azevedo
September 16 2013, 12:04PM
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@Demetric

nevermind it was his ankle

http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/02/11/flames-blair-jones-out-with-broken-ankle

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#55 Demetric
September 16 2013, 12:09PM
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Justin Azevedo wrote:

nevermind it was his ankle

http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/02/11/flames-blair-jones-out-with-broken-ankle

thanks, and I thought you meant in Saturdays game originally, lol

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#56 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
September 16 2013, 12:23PM
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I don't really buy the ELC argument when a player like Monahan is relatively over-aged for his draft crop. For all intents and purposes, he will be playing the entire season as a 19 year old, and already has 3 seasons of junior under his belt. Hence, he will be 22 once his new contract kicks in, which is pretty average for top-ten forward picks. Secondly, I am very skeptical that 4 years in junior will somehow accelerate his development curve or make him a better player in the long run.

If someone made the same remark about Mackinnon or Drouin or others with late-birthdates, I would probably concur, but not in Monahan's case.

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#57 DoubleDIon
September 16 2013, 12:24PM
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@Parallex

I don't think anyone has said anything about keeping him around so we can say "Yay Youth." That would be stupid. I think people are saying they'd like for the Flames to be an "earn it" organization. I don't want to see players treated just like a commodity. If he's clearly better than other top 9 options then he deserves to be here. I would be upset (so would you, so would Kent) if I was held back at work so that the company could save some cash on me down the line when I deserved the promotion over someone else. Asset thinking is one thing, being blatantly cheap is another. If I was Monahan and the organization sent me back to Junior to save 500k down the line I'd make sure they paid more than they saved when I was a UFA or I'd walk.

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#58 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
September 16 2013, 12:31PM
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seve927 wrote:

The other side of the argument on Monahan would be, with the tendency toward bridge deals, the value contract is getting extended to 5 years before the big payoff. Delaying him a year makes it more likely that he demands a big payday at the expiry of his ELC, meaning that you actually get less value at what might be the most critical time: 2016-2018.

I think you just do what's right for the player. I'd personally rather not see him play this year. I have no idea what will be better for his development (I'd guess junior), but I think the Flames do, and I'd rather see them do what's right for him, than try to get cute to squeeze out an extra year of cheap labour. That to me seems shortsighted. Just do whatever you can to allow him to be the best player he can.

I also concur with this! Very good counter-point.

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#59 Reidja
September 16 2013, 12:47PM
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Re Monahan, I completely agree even though it sucks that we will have to wait to see him in the lineup.

In fact (quoth Wilson):

"Firstly, because the chances of Monahan actually helping the Flames do anything meaningful this year is almost zero. The kid is too young and the team is too far away from competing for that to be realistic."

Replace Monahan with Baertschi in this statemet and I think it still stands. I hope Sven can survive this season without either 1) getting badly injured or 2) sent to the minors with more ego-crushing disappointment.

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#60 BitGeek
September 16 2013, 12:50PM
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Loved the "Rock Stew" metaphor.

Good reading once again. Plus I love reading the comments for the alternate viewpoints too.

I definitely agree on the points made about toughness for toughness sake. If a guy isn't skilled at something else beyond being a face puncher, then he's just taking minutes away from a contributor.

I'm not sold either way on keeping Monahan in the minors though.

I understand the value from saving his ELC years but I also get the potential risk of a player holding out for more if they're held back too long.

Plus like many people have stated already, these players are people and it helps to have an organization that treats them as such (beyond their strict monetary value). It certainly might influence someone like Gaudreau to stick around or leave based on how they treat assets like Monahan.

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#61 ChinookArch
September 16 2013, 12:53PM
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It makes no sense rushing an 18 year old into the NHL, and potentially ruining his development warming the bench waiting for 4th line minutes. Presently, Monahan is not better than either Backlund or Stajan, and likely no better than Knight. Read: NO BENEFIT to Monahan's development, and probably a detriment. He will undoubtably get top minutes in the OHL, and play on the national team with and against other top talents. Why rob him of the chance to improve?

The Flames will get a PASS this year from the fans precisely because the rebuild is on, so trying to sell Monohan as a saviour is premature at this point. In my view, the Flames can sell that dribble next season, or the one after that. Fans will continue to buy the product and occupy seats, and hopefully patience will embrace us all.

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#62 the-wolf
September 16 2013, 01:14PM
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Bravo! Great article.

But I still believe in chemsitry.

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#63 TRAV
September 16 2013, 02:27PM
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I'm in the camp of if he has earned a position on the team (top 9) it would be wrong to send him down. I believe that sends the wrong message to him, his teammates and quite frankly the fans. I also totally agree that if he does not look like he can play top minutes then it is best for his development to send him down. (been great discussion already on this point)

In terms of toughness this is a hard one for me. I would agree that having a one dimensional player who hurts the team when he is on the ice likely is a net loss for the team. Having said that I also know that it is a great feeling when the toughest guy in the league is sitting next to you on the bench. You walk taller, you finish a check that you otherwise might not have and you play with increased confidence. I remember trying out for a team in Moose Jaw and my line mate was a tough guy. The tough guy... The game was getting chippy and the other teams vets were starting to run our show. Literally guys on our team were making quick passes, taking quick shifts and were generally intimidated. My linemate looks over at me and says, "anything happens out there I got it..." I line up on left wing and a twenty yr old starts popping off. (I'm 16 and not tough:) My linemate points at me to switch wings and he proceeds to tune this vet. The game, the mementum, the energy on our bench immediately changes. I am not saying that this one incident proves a point, I will say though that I always prefer playing on teams where I know we have a tough guy who can settle things down. I bet most guys who play rec would echo the same sentiment. I play better when some of our tougher guys walk in the room.

What I would really like to know is what guys who have played in the NHL think. If a survey was done would most guys rather play on a team with a tough guy or is it irrelevant. I may be wrong but I think that the tough guy is usually one of the most respected guys and best loved guys on the team. Does this result in more wins? Can this be measured? Perhaps not but I know what my experience has been...

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#64 Parallex
September 16 2013, 02:33PM
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@Jeff Lebowski

"it matters not if you win a fight, it matters that you are willing to compete that way"

Which means that in terms of comparative value it's worthless because in order for a fight to happen you require two participants. Meaning that any effect (however marginal or otherwise) gleaned is shared equally (if winning doesn't matter).

If people like the sideshow (are entertained by it) I'm happy for them but there is all sorts of evidence to suggest that there is little to be gained by it.

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#65 T&A4Flames
September 16 2013, 03:14PM
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Kent, I think you're leaving the psychological side out of this. If players, including prospects, are told reward by meritocracy, and they, by all accounts earn the right to play, but are not rewarded with a roster spot, what does that do to the long term psyche of a player? Especially a young kid? Do thoughts of no faith creep in?

Don't get me wrong, I would rather see Monahan returned to junior for 1 more year. I really want to see him at the WJC. I would like to see the Flames retain that year on his ELC. But I think you have to consider his long term psyche as well as the possible affect on his progress.

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#66 Parallex
September 16 2013, 03:49PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

Kent, I think you're leaving the psychological side out of this. If players, including prospects, are told reward by meritocracy, and they, by all accounts earn the right to play, but are not rewarded with a roster spot, what does that do to the long term psyche of a player? Especially a young kid? Do thoughts of no faith creep in?

Don't get me wrong, I would rather see Monahan returned to junior for 1 more year. I really want to see him at the WJC. I would like to see the Flames retain that year on his ELC. But I think you have to consider his long term psyche as well as the possible affect on his progress.

Who are the accounts that determined "earned"?

What if Monahan & Knight & Horak think they earned the right to continue playing? There's a limited number of spots you can't put everyone that thinks they should have a spot on the team because most likely they all think they earned a spot.

Someone/s going to end up playing for a team they think they shouldn't be playing on and ultimately they'll be fine with it because they all know they have to pay their dues on the way up.

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#67 SeanCharles
September 16 2013, 03:59PM
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Fighting is like a goal to get within one, like a bit hit, like a huge penalty kill, like a PP goal when you need it most.

Its something that shifts momentum in a game.

It most certainly injects emotion into teammates and in turn has on ice effects.

Fighting, and grit in general is a useful tool in hockey..

Grit doesnt mean we gotta have a bunch of guys who cant play the game. There are gritty superstars and gritty top 6 forwards and top 4 dman in the league.

Just because management wants to get grittier doesnt mean more fourth line players will be on the team.

Players like Galiardi, Cundari, Kanzig, Sieloff, Porier, Ferland, Agostino, Glencross and Gio are players that have grit in their game and they are good upside youngsters or our core vets.

Teams like LA, NYR, PHI, BOS, CHI all have gritty players up and down the lineup. They are some of the better teams in the league also.

Managements mandate to get bigger and grittier doeesnt mean they will compromise skill just to acheive it.

Skill and Grit are not two totally remote attributes in hockey. Players can have both..

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#68 Clyde
September 16 2013, 04:08PM
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SeanCharles wrote:

Fighting is like a goal to get within one, like a bit hit, like a huge penalty kill, like a PP goal when you need it most.

Its something that shifts momentum in a game.

It most certainly injects emotion into teammates and in turn has on ice effects.

Fighting, and grit in general is a useful tool in hockey..

Grit doesnt mean we gotta have a bunch of guys who cant play the game. There are gritty superstars and gritty top 6 forwards and top 4 dman in the league.

Just because management wants to get grittier doesnt mean more fourth line players will be on the team.

Players like Galiardi, Cundari, Kanzig, Sieloff, Porier, Ferland, Agostino, Glencross and Gio are players that have grit in their game and they are good upside youngsters or our core vets.

Teams like LA, NYR, PHI, BOS, CHI all have gritty players up and down the lineup. They are some of the better teams in the league also.

Managements mandate to get bigger and grittier doeesnt mean they will compromise skill just to acheive it.

Skill and Grit are not two totally remote attributes in hockey. Players can have both..

Well said. Verbeek, Simpson, holmstrom, tocchet etc were great goal scorers because they went to the hard areas to get the goals. That is grit. I hope Ferland develops into that type of player. We need guys in those greasy areas battling as it will make our skill players that much more effective

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#69 FireOnIce
September 16 2013, 04:22PM
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Question:

Where does Monahan rate on the #gritchart? I only care if he's truculent, and able to take PIMs.

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#70 ChinookArch
September 16 2013, 04:34PM
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@Kevin R

Skinner earned and played top 6 minutes all season long, in his rookie year. Monahan will be a 4th liner behind Backlund, Stajan and Knight. Calgary isn't winning anything but a lottery pick this year. Let him develop with more playing time.

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#71 Parallex
September 16 2013, 04:55PM
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@DoubleDIon

...and the year before they played 9:30ish and in 08-09 Glencross played 14:40 almost exclusively on the third line. Like everything it varies year to year.

I'm still waiting to hear what people think ought to happen if all three of Knight, Horak, and Monahan all play well enough to credable hold the 3C spot.

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#72 jai kiran
September 16 2013, 05:32PM
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Parallex wrote:

So Monahan would be hurt playing fourth line but nobody else would?

Uh huh, If this arbitrary "#3C or higher" bar applies to Monahan then I don't see why it shouldn't apply to Knight and Horak. Neither of them are muckers (they actually both have the same basic profile as Monahan... 2-way north/south Centers) neither of them strike me as finished products.

Yeah, there's a difference between the way you develop a 6th overall pick and the way you develop two 5th rounders.

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#73 exsanguinator
September 16 2013, 06:04PM
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Parallex wrote:

5 Minutes a night I figure. 4th liners of Jackman's ilk play 8-9 minutes a night and 3rd liners 13-14.

In the CHL he'll be playing probably 20-25M in all situations. He'll probably be served developmentally just as well if not better by playing in the CHL as he would the NHL.

If he's playing 13-14 minutes a night on a third line that is deployed as defensibly responsible and drives play he's going to develop a lot better than playing 20-25 minutes against opponents that he's going to run roughshod over.

I think that the more time spent at a higher level with the expectation of being a competent 2 way center will do a lot more for his development than the CHL would.

At the very least give him an AHL contract. Troy Ward will work wonders with this kid.

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#74 Iggy pop
September 16 2013, 09:32PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Boo hoo, we get it, Iginla was your man god. Get over yourself. Don't put words in my mouth.

Are you saying that I'm not allowed to have an opinion until I make millions of dollars and give it all to the City of Calgary? How about I just do things like show up to flood-damaged areas, help people clean their houses, and donate food/clothing/other goods? Or perhaps I could list off a bunch of other volunteering I've done for various groups in the city.

I've had all sorts of praise for him and I wear my Iginla jersey proudly. He looks good playing with Lucic and Krug, and he scored 2 goals. I'm going to be disappointed if he plays awesome this season, because I would prefer him to do that on the Flames.

Buddy you insinuated that Iginila threw in the towel on the flames... Read your post again incase you don't remember. Say something like that and you are bound to get called on it. You lost this one fire better luck next time. And thanks for volunteering:)

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#75 EugeneV
September 17 2013, 01:25AM
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@ChinookArch

Skinner played on the wing. Vastly different situation wouldn't you say?

If Monahan is to make the team it should be in the role he should be playing in the NHL from the start.

First or second line center.

No use him playing on the wing. He needs to be playing what he should be.

1st or 2nd line.

NHL or OHL.

Even if he is in the NHL the Flames owe it to him to release him to the WJHC over christmas.

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#76 piscera.infada
September 17 2013, 08:16AM
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EugeneV wrote:

Skinner played on the wing. Vastly different situation wouldn't you say?

If Monahan is to make the team it should be in the role he should be playing in the NHL from the start.

First or second line center.

No use him playing on the wing. He needs to be playing what he should be.

1st or 2nd line.

NHL or OHL.

Even if he is in the NHL the Flames owe it to him to release him to the WJHC over christmas.

Skinner playing the wing is vastly different.

That said, I don't think that because Monahan's a centre you have to start him where you want him to finish. In fact, that's futile and irresponsible. Centre is likely the one position (aside from goalie and 1/2 D) where you would be better served seeing how they stack up in a lower role, and then increasing that.

With a winger, you don't have to be as defensively responsible as you do as a centre. Now, if we factor in Monahan's documented "two-way" style of play, why would you want to throw him to the wolves in his first season (whether it be as an 18 year old or 20 year old)? One of the better up and coming centres in the game today (Couture) developed that way.

So I agree with you on not playing Monahan on the wing, and I agree he needs to play a central role in the WJHC this year - but I don't think that if he does stick, he needs to play 1C or 2C.

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#77 Craig
September 17 2013, 08:45AM
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On the topic of fighting, I think looking at last nights game in Saskatoon puts forth a nice example of the opposite.

In the game against the Canucks in which the Ferland fight sparked the team enough to win, we saw a fight tip the scales and create momentum.

In the game last night we saw four fights, and tons of "Grit" that didn't translate into a win or really into a significant push back.

If these guys need to see a fight every game to get them sparked and excited and ready to go, then that effect will wear off pretty quickly.

It seems like there are a ton of players fighting and being gritty to make this team, but there aren't a lot of guys scoring goals to make this team...

Which one means more.

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#78 CitizenFlame
September 18 2013, 01:24AM
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@Parallex

"So in other words he'll do it because he's an idiot?"

No he acts because he is in the heat of the moment. What are you, a Vulcan? Nobody acts solely based on logic, especially when they have the blades laced on, and some dude is chopping you in the calf.

Fighting as a holistic metric probably has little value, but I'd be curious to see if there is better statistical analysis based on situational examples. Fighting in the third period vs. the first; after a goal; after a big hit; staged vs. spontaneous. Does anyone know if that sort of analysis has ever been attempted or published? Maybe Biznasty can do some in his spare time?

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#79 Parallex
September 16 2013, 12:37PM
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@icedawg_42

I would assume that so long as the 67's front office isn't composed of raging lunatics that they will trade him. They probably won't get a 20yo season out of him and as a 19yo star center he'd be the most valuable 1 year rental player in the OHL since he won't eat an overage slot.

My guess would be that he'd go to Barrie. I figure that Barrie is probably losing Scheifele but they still have Ekblad so I imagine they'll want to go for a run while he's on roster. I think that's the case to since they bid to be the Memorial Cup host city (losing out to London). They'll need a replacement for Scheifele and Monahan would slide right in.

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#80 Parallex
September 16 2013, 01:50PM
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@Purple Hazze

What? Of course it would have an effect on the competitiveness. That dollar amount is probably the difference between being able to have a couple of legit 2nd line guys playing on your 3rd or just having typical middle depth guys (if for just a little while).

That's the kind of difference between being a powerhouse and being a run-of-the-mill club. It's the kind of money that allows you to make a Campbell sized mistake (Which isn't that easy to be rid of... see Lacavalier/Dipetro) and remain competative.

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#81 Jeff Lebowski
September 16 2013, 01:50PM
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Oh, and about toughness. I'm not a fan of goons but I do like competitiveness.

Perhaps I'm not grasping the point you're making about toughness and grit but what I do know is that during a fight (be it hockey or elsewhere) there is a change in 'feeling' after watching (or doing haha). One on one confrontations stoke the competitive juices. They do for me.

There is an increase in primal 'willingness'. So it matters not if you win a fight, it matters that you are willing to compete that way. And if that willingness is then inspired in your team mates then it means things like taking a hit to make a play, pushing back. Essentially your overall play picks up. The effects are temporal and you still might ultimately lose the game (and the fights) but denying this fight or flight impact within intense competition (hockey, warfare) is looking at the forest before the trees. Little things matter and can have huge effects on performance.

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#82 cccsberg
September 16 2013, 02:24PM
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Jeff Lebowski wrote:

Keeping Monahan for PR reasons OR sending him down for future 'cost savings' are two terrible, and IMO, laughable justifications.

The outcome is not how many wins will Monahan add to Calgary this year. The desired outcome is for Sean to play in the place that allows him to grow the most.

If you look at this through the rather myopic lens of on ice growth only you could easily convince yourself that junior is best. However, think of EVERYTHING that goes into maximizing human potential (how do you make an elite athlete)?

Take it out of the context of hockey and examine it a different way:

If you had a child that demonstrated 'giftedness', what would you do? Keep him/her in a regular school and expose them to convention or find an environment that accelerates their learning? Will cost win out, especially when you can afford it but in the lifetime of your child you would prefer to save money for a few years.

Now, if you can't look at Monahan and IMMEDIATELY see his giftedness then this is a pointless exercise. To me, it's gob smackingly obvious. Just watch him. I'm not saying he's Crosby or that he flashes obvious skills. What I see is an 18 year old who can control the play (sometimes that means making a routine play or an amazing play - what is the quality of your decision making?) at the NHL level. His mind is his gift.

Another point I think about is the young players who are no longer prospects but established but still growing NHLers like Brodie, Backlund, Sven and the WOWY stat. When I watch Monahan play he just screams WOWY monster (he makes people better - perhaps in more ways than shots). I think it serves the Flames better to have that happen with Flames' assets rather than unaffiliated players (junior).

Finally, in terms of organizational behaviour/psychology what impact does telling employees that we need to see A,B,C progressions, your employee does them and you tell them it's not good enough (because you're thinking of future earnings reports). You will never get greatness that way.

This idea that tomorrow will be a better time is garbage in the realm of professional sports. Maximize now. Do what's best now (for growth) and the transactional details will get sorted. Especially if you (Flames) can be disciplined and show integrity by acting in the best interests of your players.

Of course, my assessment could be wrong and he's not that player...yet. Then by all means send him down but if the decision is pre determined on cost savings?? Bad.

Excellent comments Jeff. Do what is in the best interests of the person, and if he's good enough and accomplishes what they ask of him he should stay. It will further inspire him and others around him. If you go back on your word (meritocracy) you're sending a message to far more than that single player...

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#83 thymebalm
September 16 2013, 02:32PM
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I really don't think this is an issue at all. Monahan will likely be on the team for the majority of his career. After his ELC is over, he will have a few years of RFA status contracts that will curtail spending, and this is while the cap continues to rise.

Can you name 4 better centers playing for the Flames? I can name two.

Stajan and Backlund.

Why would we dress less than our best roster? Just because we are going to lose anyway? Would anyone actually in charge of a hockey team think this way? I doubt it.

edit: I know you have a real issue with toughness. But my god. If you watched Vancouver play Boston in the finals, you can't deny that toughness makes a difference. That Chicago team that won the cup the first time was pretty frickin tough too.

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#84 TRAV
September 16 2013, 02:59PM
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@Parallex

Hmm.. Fair enough. The reason that I suggested that the third line is a logical bar is because of playing time. For Monahan to improve and help the team, he needs to see the ice. Perhaps if we dress a fourth line with increased skill they will play more, in which case I would be okay with him playing fourth line. What I think we can agree on is if Monahan is spending his time watching from the press box, this will hurt his development. (and in no way help the team)

If I were to bet I would suggest that Monahan breaks camp with the big squad, plays in a variety of situations and the decision is made after nine games. It is really difficult for me to know if a fourth year of junior or time in the NHL will be the best. I actually don't think that anyone can say with absolute certainty what will be the best for the team and Monahan's development.

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#85 DoubleDIon
September 16 2013, 03:03PM
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@Parallex

The reason top 9 is the bar is because top 9 forwards play significant minutes and 4th liners don't. It's a development thing. I want our best prospects playing quality minutes at the highest level they're capable of playing quality minutes. Also, I still say it doesn't cost you anywhere close to 5-6 million. It's a pretty simple concept. If his QO is 2 million and a best case scenario is we have a Bergeron type player on our hands he gets 4.5 million. Meaning it costs you 2.5 million for one year MAX. Odds are very much against him being that good that soon too. In the most wildly optimistic scenario it's 2.5, not 5-6. Also to be fair, if he develops into Patrice Bergeron we would be ecstatic and have a franchise cornerstone to build with.

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#86 Jeff Lebowski
September 16 2013, 03:16PM
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Parallex wrote:

"it matters not if you win a fight, it matters that you are willing to compete that way"

Which means that in terms of comparative value it's worthless because in order for a fight to happen you require two participants. Meaning that any effect (however marginal or otherwise) gleaned is shared equally (if winning doesn't matter).

If people like the sideshow (are entertained by it) I'm happy for them but there is all sorts of evidence to suggest that there is little to be gained by it.

Why would the effect be shared equally? The impact is observed after the event. The point was how the fight makes other players play their games better by injecting 'willingness'.

I've never implied this distribution of willingness will be symmetrical and you would be hard pressed to show that it is.

Entertainment has nothing to do with it in my view.

A fight is like a PED for some. It may not show up in the winslosses but it's felt/observed.

Temporal effects etc etc.

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#87 jai kiran
September 16 2013, 04:24PM
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Parallex wrote:

But it doesn't (shift momentum in a game). League wide scoring rates in the aftermath of a fight don't vary to a significant degree.

Think about it... if a fight could change the momentum of a game (beyond some measure of random variation) why would the member of the team that already had momentum agree to engage in one? It doesn't make any sense for him to do that.

Why? Because he's been goaded into it. Because he thinks he'll look gutless if he doesn't. Because he's right into the moment and not thinking about logic and consequence.

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#88 Tenbrucelees
September 16 2013, 04:28PM
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Instead of thinking about a player who has grit and doesn't offer much else, consider the reverse when a player and the collective team do not have the ability to respond to physical play.

Remember the little ball of hate punching Daniel Sedin. For me that wasn't only a turning point in the game, it was arguably when the Canucks lost the cup. The entire team were humiliated by their lack of response. By their lack of grit if you will.

Therefore while I fully agree that grit, toughness or whatever you wish to call 'it' is a slippery and difficult element to quantify, ignoring it can have very profound effects, especially when looked at in a team wide context. .

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#89 Parallex
September 16 2013, 04:29PM
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@SeanCharles

What if we have three guys (not including Backlund and Stajan) who are good enough to play 3rd line mins in the NHL?

Say Horak, Knight, and Monahan all meet that bar, what then?

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#90 thymebalm
September 16 2013, 04:39PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

"Can you name 4 better centers playing for the Flames? I can name two."

I expect Corbin Knight will be better if not the same.

Fighting for 3rd or 4th line minutes will not do him any good, playing will. In my view, many young players are ruined by clubs rushing them into the NHL.

Is it rushing him if that's where he fits? I don't think so. Corbin Knight has not been better this preseason. Jooris and Knight have looked like they could be on the 4th line, but that's about it.

This whole concept that if an awesome young kid plays in the NHL it will ruin him is dramatic and I don't believe that it's true. Where is the list of top 10 picks ruined by playing as a teenager?

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#91 SeanCharles
September 16 2013, 04:41PM
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Parallex wrote:

But it doesn't (shift momentum in a game). League wide scoring rates in the aftermath of a fight don't vary to a significant degree.

Think about it... if a fight could change the momentum of a game (beyond some measure of random variation) why would the member of the team that already had momentum agree to engage in one? It doesn't make any sense for him to do that.

Ive watched enough hockey to know it has an effect on players compete level. Im not saying every fight results in a huge sway in momentum and thus goals. But sometimes it definately does sway this.

A spirited fight, along with abig hit, can spark the fans and manufacture an emotional boost within teamates.

Hockey is a competative game and sometimes in the heat of the moment players fight even though it might not be in the best interest of the team.

Im sure in close, physical, scrappy games when the game is on the line the coach has instructed players to under no circumstance fight.

You can see in some games losing teams try to manufacture a fight but to no avail. Usually in blow out games. Thus sometimes teams choose not to fight because they know it can change the complexion of the game.

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#92 DoubleDIon
September 16 2013, 04:43PM
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@Parallex

Our 4th liners last year played 7:30 a game. Our third line center played 15+ or 17+ a night depending on whether you considered Stajan or Backlund the 3rd line center. So more than double the ice time. It's significant, not minor. He could probably play 40 minutes a game in Junior B, so really it come down to which league is he going to get better coaching, ice time and competition in. I think two of those elements are obvious wins at the NHL level. If he's good enough to play 15-17 minutes a night then I want his development to continue at the NHL level. If he's not, send him down to junior.

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#93 jai kiran
September 16 2013, 04:55PM
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Parallex wrote:

So in other words he'll do it because he's an idiot?

Well, he's definitely making a mistake: but, you know, athletes make mistakes. Like SeanCharles says "Hockey is a competitive game and sometimes in the heat of the moment players fight even though it might not be in the best interest of the team."

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#94 SeanCharles
September 16 2013, 05:00PM
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Parallex wrote:

What if we have three guys (not including Backlund and Stajan) who are good enough to play 3rd line mins in the NHL?

Say Horak, Knight, and Monahan all meet that bar, what then?

Well I would say there are a couple centre spots open and Knight wouldnt be hurt by playing 4th line mins. Throwing Horak into the mix makes it more difficult.

Well your not gonna keep Monahan as an extra forward so either make room for him and Horak or send him back.

I dont see him playing in the NHL this season as a waste so long he gets playing time(If he is indeed ready).

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#95 Jeff Lebowski
September 16 2013, 05:07PM
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Because... "it matters not if you win a fight, it matters that you are willing to compete that way"... if willingness to compete that way is all that's required then by the nature of two participants in the fight would imply that both teams get "what matters".

Sure. But if I'm understanding you correctly, it means both teams get it 50/50. What about 60/40 (or any other unsymmetrical ratio) ? If you can accept that then is it fair to say there can be an advantage gained?

Why would an opponent give you the opportunity to gain an advantage? They don't always do (guys turn down fights all the time) and it's an emotional and intense game.

I understand that in terms of the outcomes of games, something more predictive would be goals so therefore shots. Once a goal is scored it's put on the board and never comes off. The effect is felt throughout the entire game after.

Fights and importantly the after effects, are felt for short moments in indirect areas. Take for example, beating out an icing after a fight that you wouldn't have if the fight never happened. You changed the outcome because of that willingness advantage or injection. After beating out the icing you need to make a bunch of other plays to get a shot and goal. What do you track to explain why the goal happened, the shot or the beating the icing (after effect of fight)?

I think it's difficult to 'see' in the data because of how temporal the effects are in order to make enough successive plays to change momentum. It doesn't change momentum on it's own always but it can if a team capitalizes on the advantage. You then look less at the fight after effects and more on what gets capitalized (ultimately shots). You don't always score so it never gets immortalized on the scoreboard.

Retrospectively the new context the fight produced is lost. You don't remember the beat icing (and all the other plays), you remember the shot.

The other team wants to win too so there are constant battles for momentum that can completely destroy any advantage gained from a fight. However saying a fight is always a wash is not understanding the nuance of what unfolds in a game. I very humbly state this because I am not an expert and could very well be wrong but to me stats don't describe the moment to moment nuance, they describe aggregates over time.

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#96 Danger
September 16 2013, 05:11PM
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Parallex wrote:

...and the year before they played 9:30ish and in 08-09 Glencross played 14:40 almost exclusively on the third line. Like everything it varies year to year.

I'm still waiting to hear what people think ought to happen if all three of Knight, Horak, and Monahan all play well enough to credable hold the 3C spot.

Interesting question (what if all three play well enough to stick). I think the likely result in that scenario, all else being equal, is Knight and Horak take turns playing 3C with the other guy playing on the wing in Calgary or 1C in Abby, and Monahan goes down. I think this is likely because Monahan is the youngest and furthest away from free agency.

As for what ought to happen, I think the best player should stick, regardless of who that turns out to be.

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#97 Parallex
September 16 2013, 05:18PM
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I just think that if we're going to adapt a model I'd rather ours resemble Detroit (ripen and over-ripen prospects) over Edmonton (eat'um green).

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#98 Danger
September 16 2013, 05:22PM
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@Jeff Lebowski

Great post. Now I finally get your point, wasn't quite following you before. So you're saying that fighting has an effect but it's a smaller effect - we'd need much more fine-grained statistics to be able to observe it. I don't know if your theory is right, but is interesting and it sounds like the sort of thing that could be tested (at least in principle).

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#99 chillout
September 16 2013, 05:28PM
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@Parallex

The difference is we're using a "meritocracy" so if Monahan earns the spot that means he will be playing 3rd line or better. They've been preaching the meritocracy big time so they better follow through.

I've competed at the highest levels of sport myself and also coached so I've seen and experienced it that when you're physically and mentally ready you are better served to step into a challenge rather than mess around with something easy. wasting a year on easy hockey I think would hurt him more than being forced to elevate his game. a thinker like him will see whole new ways to play and improve.

If he earns it he stays! Besides his bridge contract as a younger guy will be cheaper than the bigger payday if he was a year or two older.

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#100 piscera.infada
September 16 2013, 05:28PM
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@Parallex

"Who are the accounts that determined "earned"?"

This would be the management and coaching staff - not the fans, not the player 'feeling' he's ready. I really think this is fairly cut and dry. Management and the coaches know what's at stake here, likewise they've spent much more time around the likes of Monahan, Knight, and Horak - one could almost say they would know their games intimately well. As such, I don't think it's right to question their decision either way simply on the business aspect of the game (ie. ELC years)*.

I would like to see him go back to junior (assuming he is "ready") only because of the WJHC. That said, I have a hard time believing Monahan would get to stay with the big club as a bench-warmer - seeing as how we've heard all offseason that the management group sees that scenario as extremely counter-intuitive.

*[Read: simply on the business aspect. If, in fact, there are maturity, physical, emotional, etc. issues, and they choose to keep any of them up, by all means question.]

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