Random Thoughts – Toughness And Monahan



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.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    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.

    • Parallex

      “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.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        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.

        • Parallex

          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”.

          Regardless, the actual effect is pretty meaningless…


          … if people want to be entertained by a couple of guys beating on each other in skates more power to them. Lot’s of people like fights, the popularity of Boxing and the UFC (not to mention the circle that surrounds a schoolyard brawl) is testiment to that. But facts bare out that any actual benefit in hockey terms is incredably marginal at best (and probably negative after you weed out the opportunity cost of keeping a goon on roster/ice). I have no doubt that guys on the ice/bench do feel different after a fight… I’m sure watching got their adenaline going but the other side get’s the same rush so I imagine in terms of “value” it’s a wash.

  • 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…

    • Parallex

      There it is again… why is “Top 9” the bar to set? Why not “top 6” or “top 3” or #1/#2 Center?

      That’s all very arbitrary. I would argue that there is nothing that makes sending him down if he’s the 10-13th forward any more moral then if they were to send him down if he were the 7-9. IN both cases you’re sending an NHL quality player to a league that isn’t the NHL (and costing him significant dough).

      Like it or not there is more to consider then whether just Sean Monahan is good enough to be a #3C.

      • DoubleDIon

        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.

      • DoubleDIon

        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.

        • Parallex

          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.

          • DoubleDIon

            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.

          • Parallex

            …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.

          • Danger

            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.

          • MattyFranchise

            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.

          • piscera.infada

            They can’t give him an AHL contract. It’s CHL or NHL for the kid. Thus, the issue (if he could play in the AHL we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation).

  • thymebalm

    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.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      “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.

      • thymebalm

        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?

  • T&A4Flames

    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.

    • Parallex

      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.

  • Parallex

    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..

    • Parallex

      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.

          • Parallex

            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.”

          • Parallex

            I don’t buy it.

            If it were that meaningful hockey front offices would have weeded out the “mistake making” fighters (they’d replace the fighter who fights at the wrong time with one that elects to fight at the right time). There would be no “momentum changing” fights because eventually fighting would only be able to exist in a momuntum neutral environment

            Strikes me as hokum.

          • CitizenFlame

            “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?

      • piscera.infada

        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.

    • thymebalm

      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

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Keep seeing this argument that I think is totally pointless but seems to be brought up all the time. “Grit”! Well maybe if everyone in the Hockey World can agree to the true definition of “grit” we might one day come up with a consensus & the bean counters at Flames Nation can find a way to incorporate a value for it in their player analyses. Good luck with that.A Flames player who “Grit” was his middle name Ole Stefan Yelle. He didn’t fight, he won faceoffs, he checked opposing players to the ground, he went into the dirty areas & he scored some pretty greasey goals. Now I remember another Flames player that one could categorize as “One Dimensional” Huselius, we used to call him pussylius. He was strictly an offensive player but like Don Cherry would say, he can walk into the corner with eggs in his uniform & come without breaking an egg.

    I’m tired of people calling McGratten a Grit player. He’s one dimensional, he pounds faces, he plays maybe 5 minutes a game & he’s paid accordingly. Most NHL teams have this kind of player/component to their game. Lucic, is the bar of “grit”, he’s a beast. He’ll fight a Mgratten & maybe win & he’ll play powerplay & chances are he’ll be in your top 4-5 scoring leaders. Just saying we need to move on with this debate & maybe define it better so most agree.

    Monohan, I am in the camp if the kid plays well, contributes & carry’s himself well, let him play. ELC’s should have no bearing on that decision. So Carolina shouldn’t have let Skinner stay when he was 19 & win the Calder trophy 2-3 years ago? Who can judge whether a kid is going to be elite or not if you don’t let him play at the pro level. If Monohan were to be a Calder finalist, would that be such a bad thing? Is that bad for his development? Like Jerry Doucette would say, if he proves himself, well “Mamma Let Him Play”

    • ChinookArchYYC

      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.

      • MattyFranchise

        Well if his play is that, that garners 4th line, I totally agree & send him down. I don’t think Knight has been playing better than him & I would rather put him on the #2 line & Stajan on the 3rd line. But only if he plays better than Knight, Horak or Reinhart. I’m not advocating keeping him up just because, he needs to play well enough. Skinner did earned & played top 6 minutes that year, why couldn’t Monahan do the same?

      • EugeneV

        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.

        • piscera.infada

          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.

  • thymebalm

    On Monahan:

    If he is good enough to play 3rd line mins in the NHL and succeed then he deserves to be here.

    What kind of message does that send to the prospects?

    From the start of the ‘rebuild’ they have said opportunity is there for unestablished guys to earn spots.

    As bad as our drafting was in the past, some of the problem was we never gave our prospects enough ample opportunity to make the big club.

    This year we have spots available and I think young players who are NHL ready should not be denied the opportunity to showcase their talents.

    • Parallex

      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?

      • Parallex

        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).

        • Parallex

          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.

          • piscera.infada

            I don’t really agree with this. If Knight and/or Horak beat Monahan out for 3C and Monahan is “ready”, but not “as ready”, you send Monahan back. The point is that we’re trying to properly develop as many prospects as possible – not one at the behest of all the others.

            Oh, and Parallex, the opportunity to send Monahan to the AHL would be music to my ears.

          • Parallex

            Balderdash. Once a players in your system where they were drafted is irrevelant. Also: What piscera.infada said above. Monahan shouldn’t get any special treatment at the expense of other prospects.

          • Parallex

            No. You develop the player according to what the players potential is. You may believe that Horak and Knight have the same potential as Monahan, but you would be close to alone in this.

            If either Horak or Knight plays as 4th line center this year, plays 5 or 7 minutes a night every night then that helps them develop into regular useful bottom 6 NHL players. Because if those guys can eventually fill that role that’s a win for the Flames.

            If Monahan isn’t playing significant minutes, you’re damaging his ability to grow into a top 6 forward: which is the only role he can eventually fill that’s a win for the Flames.

  • Tenbrucelees

    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. .

  • The Last Big Bear

    @Jeff Lebowski

    ” (he makes people better – perhaps in more ways than shots)”

    Woah, woah, woah. Slow down, cowboy.

    Are you new here or something? If it doesn’t show up in shot differential, it doesn’t exist. Period.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    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.

    • Danger

      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).

      • Jeff Lebowski

        Yes. So off the top of my head, teams practice battle drills. One on one board battles or other effort plays. If you tracked individual and team winning percentages ie board battle winning percentage, like with faceoffs, you could see if those change after a fight.

        Moreover, it seems the analysis was to find a difference in shot rate. The analysis presumably shows no change in shot rate. The key being what constitutes a shot.

        What I mean is, a team’s rate or raw number might not change, say it’s 15. However, the quality of the shots that make that number might be vastly different. A fight makes your team play harder, you get to the ‘dirty’ areas more and shoot higher percentage shots (scoring chances). Their goalie still stops those shots so it doesn’t affect goals. Your shot rate is still 15 but it’s composed of high percentage shots compared to low percentage shots.

        So 2 identical shot rates: 15. One with high percentage or scoring chance shots and the other with low percentage. Can you say both games were played the same? You may not score, you may still lose but how you played is night and day.

        A digression about fighting and an illumination about discerning nuance from aggregate stats: A memorable goal in Flames history is the Steve Smith scoring into his own net. Some player X on Calgary got credited with the goal. Looking back at the data and having no knowledge of what happened it would be rational to think player X made a great play, I mean he got credited with a shot and goal. The stats don’t describe what Steve Smith did.

        If that is how you are going to look for something (effect after a fight) you will never see its signal because your method is not discerning enough.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      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.

    • piscera.infada

      “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.]

  • Parallex

    Y’know what I’d like… I’d like a new agreement between the NHL, NHLPA, AHL and CHL that allows one 18 or 19yo player per AHL team to play in the AHL under a Special Player Contract (with the AHL club) that won’t burn a year off their ELC.

    • DoubleDIon

      I agree, that would be ideal. It comes down to CHL clubs wanting stars to put bums in seats unfortunately. It would be a much better system for player development and you could acclimate important draft picks to your clubs system.

  • piscera.infada

    WOW Dropping Latin phrases into a discussion of grit followed by distinctions and clarification of the definition of grit (does not only equal fighting). If UofC wants to save their Philosophy program they should start at Flamesnation! Let me complicate by adding individual grit versus Team grit. Being tough to play against means skill, desire, speed And grit.
    My only Latin phrase is “Semper ubi sub ubi” which I believe is “non-sequitur”.

  • MattyFranchise

    I’m just happy we have some prospects that actually seem to have some real potential so that questions about them playing in the NHL aren’t just fantasy.

  • piscera.infada

    I’d say it’s entirely reasonable to say Backlund, Stajan, and Horak are all currently better than Monahan, and it’s likely that both Reinhart and Knight are more NHL-ready as well.

  • RE: the game against Ottawa tonight.

    OTT just scored short-handed on Berra. Not stoked on that. The Flames just picked up from last season it seems.

    Jarmoe has 2 goals for Boston tonight. He’s playing with Lucic and Krug. I will be very disappointed if he ends up having a 35-40 goal season. We’ll know then that he bombed it in Calgary just to be cut loose.

    • MattyFranchise

      Yeah like he did with the Penguins too… All he ever wanted was to play with the Bruins right… Give up on the iggy bashing already. Done more for calgary and the flames than anyone on this board ever will… sheesh

      • 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:)

          • DoubleDIon

            I’ll more than insinuate. I know it won’t be popular, but Iginla completely ignored his defensive responsibilities for his final 2-3 seasons here. He was a pretty big liability defensively. He basically became a better, nicer version of Dany Heatley.

            That said, I love Iginla and hate JBo. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll miss JBo on the ice this year a lot more than we’ll miss Iginla.

            His final few years Iginla was more concerned about his stat line than he was about the overall success of the club.

          • Danger

            Maybe Iggy did worry more about his personal stats than the success of the club the last few seasons – let’s assume for a moment that this was intentional and not just natural decline with age. Would that have been so wrong? I’m not sure.

            The club was fundamentally not good enough the last few years, and a defensively responsible Iggy wouldn’t have been the difference between success and failure. He wasn’t 26 and able to carry the team on his back anymore.

            He was, on the other hand, still able to pot a decent number of points. So if he chose to focus his energy where he could make a difference (his stat line) instead of where he couldn’t (the team’s fortunes), I can’t really fault him for that.

          • piscera.infada

            I would say it was more an issue of how the “team” became “Iginla”, so not so much Iggy’s fault – although yes, he mailed it in defensively. The problem was (at least in my eyes) that everything became about getting Iggy the puck. He was seen as the only guy on this team worthy or able of putting points up on the board. For example, you bring in Jokinen (twice) – when he first came here, the guy was a goal scorer, Sutter as much as said “he’s here to help Iggy score”. I think that’s why you saw some of these moves fail. Instead of putting a team on the ice, it was “Iggy and the Dudes” (an awesome band name, come to think of it).

            So no, you can’t blame him for cherry-picking and taking needless defensive risk because a) he was told for almost a decade that if this team was going to score, it was on him, and b) he could no longer be responsible for carrying all the mail at his age.

            I think as Flames fans we acknowledge all Iggy did for this city and organization, but it’s still going to be hard to get over – especially because his decline (if you want to call it that) mirrored the team’s decline.

  • calgaryfan

    Monahan should go back to junior and dominate
    the OHL, along with playing at the world junior tournament. Much better to grow his confidence than be a third or fouth liner with the flames.
    Not a fan of just having a goon on the bench that can only fight.

  • Craig

    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.

  • McRib

    Corbin Knight scored last night…. send Sean Monahan down to the OHL!! Hahaha. Joking aside, I noticed Corbin Knight multiple times last Saturday buzzing around the net and then he gets on the sheet last night. Game is really starting to come around for me. Not to mention he always looked very solid defensively even when he wasn’t scoring in the prospect games. Call me crazy, but I wonder if his volunteer efforts in hometown High River took away from his on-ice offseason training focus this summer…. Because he keeps getting better and better the more he has been on the ice.

  • CitizenFlame

    This whole Monahan debate is ridiculous. The guy is intended to be a top 2 center at the NHL level. Can he accomplish that this season? Highly doubtful. So unless he shows in 9 games that he can keep his head above water in all 3 zones, handle the physical and mental grind and look he can definitely put up a minimum of 40 points, send him down.

    Monahan still needs to get stronger and faster and play tons of minutes in all situations. First pp & pk units, first/last minutes of each period, etc. That’s where development comes from, not from being fed to the wolves at 18. The guy is not Crosby. Development comes from playing a lot in all situations, not 3rd line minutes and being sheltered against grown men.

    “His mind.” What a joke. Btw, I’ve known 2 extremely gifted academics in my time and both of them went to public schools and in both cases it didn’t hold them back in any way whatsoever. You know, because they’re brilliant. Instead, it allowed them to mature properly and not become self-entitled snots.

    People are such hypocrites. I’ve read a thousand posts from the exact same people pining for Monahan to stay up this season who have launched a ton of vitriol at the Oilers for bringing up RNH and others too soon. Insult after insult about managing the cap and ELCs, but now that the shoe is on the other foot they go all fanboy.

    And being a fanboy is the only argument for keeping Monahan up. Play him against his peers, let him dominate, build his confidence, gain experience on the international stage, get stronger, apply what he’s learned over the summer, hopefully experience what it’s like to be a winner instead of a loser on the Flames AND save a year on the ELC.

    End of story.

    • piscera.infada

      Agreed. My point was simply that I don’t care about the ELC year. If they send him back it should be based on the need for development only. I’m not going to sit here and say the ELC argument doesn’t matter, I personally just don’t care about it – I just want all our prospects to develop correctly.

    • DoubleDIon

      To compare 6’2″ 195 pound 19 year old Monahan with 6’0″ 160 pound 18 year old RNH is silly. Monahan is built like Taylor Hall, not RNH. I had no problem with the Oilers keeping Hall as he was big enough and his game was rounded out.

      Monahan is big enough and solid defensively. He’s NHL ready as far as size and a two-way game are concerned.

      I genuinely think anyone who says it makes you a “fanboy” to suggest that Monahan should stick with the big club if he earns it is pretty ignorant. Lots of guys like Monahan have developed just fine at the NHL level in a third line center role to begin with. Take a look at Bergeron, O’Reilly, Staal and Richards to name a few. They all have very similar attributes to Monahan and all have been up at the same age or younger than Monahan. Personally, I’d be delighted if Monahan became that type of player.

      People who look at the Detroit model and laud it have never heard Ken Holland speak before. He’s said he’d love to have 18/19 year olds who were good enough to step right in. The reason they develop the way they do is because you don’t get those guys when you move your 1st rounder or pick 25th every year. They have to develop them because it’s difficult to find guys late who can step in.

      • Parallex

        Just like when Billy Beane stood in front of a blue ribbon committee and told them that the Oakland A’s only won by luck. If Detroit has a better way of doing things do you really think they’d encourage the competition to emulate them or do you think they’d tell them something else.

  • Danny Lawson

    “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.”

    Hi Kent, based upon the tenor of paragraph it would appear you’ve awoken from your decade long coma. I’ve got some bad news for you, it’s not 2004. YIKES! Yeah I know its a shock, you better sit down because the news doesn’t get any better, …. sorry buddy. The Flames, the red mile, Iggy, Kipper, “in Sutter we trust” all that stuff…..you’re right Kent, those were great times and the Flames were a great team. Yeah well Kent, here’s the not so great new old buddy. Haha, ….. um, no, no, no Kent I’m not joking ….. we’re not the standard all teams seek to equal. Kent, …… I know its a shock but the Flames are no longer great. Hmmm …. in the 10 years since you’ve been asleep, ….. Kent, … if we have been fortunate enough to make the playoffs, bud, …..we haven’t won a single playoff series, ….. yeah I know, I know it doesn’t seem possible. Yes Kent, …. I know what that means, the Flames have won a playoff series only once in twenty years, ….. yeah I know thats even worse than the much maligned Laffs and Coilers. Hmmmmmmmm ….. Kent ole buddy that is why I thought I might bring to your attention that part of your article that speaks about loser organizations like the Oilers and their feigned attempts at toughness, bringing in all of those useless players ….. Since 2004 when we began slowly circling the bowl ourselves, …..I hate to break it to you Kent, … the Flames list of ankle skating knuckle draggers is just as long as theirs. I know it seems unimaginable but the Flames brought in the likes of Eric Godard, Guillaume Desbiens, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Adam Pardy, Raitis Ivanans, Akim Aliu and of course, our current mouth-breather Brian McGrattan. Kent, please stop sobbing ….no will call you sanctimonious …. How could you have known and of course our record hasn’t been nearly as bad as the Coilers and that’s all that really matters isn’t it Kent …..?
    No Kent, …. no one on FlamesNation will remember your chest pounding or you self righteously pointing at the Oilers failures once the season starts ….. How have the Canucks been doin’ …..? Kent, you’ve had enough shocking and bad news for today, let’s talk about those bums tomorrow maybe ……..

  • Danny Lawson

    Just lobbing a pork chop into the kennel here, but I seem to recall that Owen Nolan spent his first year in the NHL nailed to the Nords’ bench, playing less than 4th line time, yet he turned out OK as a pro.

    Now maybe Monahan isn’t ready for top-6 minutes; but maybe the reason he isn’t relates to his off-ice regimen more than his on-ice skills. In that case, his development would be best served by seeing what it takes, on a day-in, day-out basis, to be a pro. Would Stamkos have turned to Gary Roberts in the off-season if the Lightning sent him back to juniors & he dominated, as opposed to keeping him in the bigs?

    There’s a lot of factors to look at when deciding whether or not a kid should stick with a team. The stats line (positively or negatively) is only one small piece of the puzzle.