Monahan – Should he Stay or Should he Go?



Only one thing is certain as debate continues over whether Sean Monahan stays with the Flames past his ninth game or heads back to junior to resume his role as captain of the Ottawa 67s – whatever the Calgary Flames braintrust decides, it will be based on Monahan’s development as a hockey player, and not the team’s financial bottom line. It will have nothing to do with a contract that is at least three years away from being negotiated.

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All this talk about sending him back to junior just to avoid burning the first year of his entry-level deal is utter nonsense.

The Flames ownership group is willing to spend to the salary cap ceiling every season. They have only two contracts costing more than $5 million at the moment, and one of those comes off the books this summer.

There’s no reason to look at Monahan as anything but a future cornerstone for the franchise. If the team keeps him and has to shell out big money three years from now instead of four, five, or six, they’ll do it happily — the same way they’ll gladly pay top dollar for T.J. Brodie’s services in two years after inking him to a more affordable bridge deal this offseason.

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Money is not an issue. A member of the organization confirmed as much to me this week.

Monahan becoming a money player is the only concern. Hockey is the sole factor in the club’s consideration of what to do with their impressive asset. They will do whatever they believe to be in the best interests of Monahan’s continued development as a key piece of the franchise’s future.

That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to stick around this year, though. If general manager Jay Feaster and president of hockey operations Brian Burke — in consultation with their coaching staff — decide that another year dominating at the junior level is better for Monahan in the long run, they won’t hesitate to ship him back to the nation’s capital despite his early success on the scoresheet in the NHL so far.

Early Season Returns

There’s no doubt the sixth-overall draft pick is a long-term keeper. He already looks the part of a professional.

Earning points in the first five games and netting goals in his last four prior to both of those streaks coming to an end in Anaheim Wednesday night, Monahan’s hot start to the season seems to indicate that he can contribute.

Advanced stats don’t necessarily support sustainability right away, but history dictates the kid is pretty clutch when needed most. However, some doubts may finally be creeping in.

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The thrill of making the roster out of training camp is wearing off, the travel is getting tougher, and so are the opponents — which means Monahan’s production is bound to level off.

He played a little more than 15 minutes against the Ducks and didn’t take a single faceoff in the dying minutes of the third period with his team trailing by a goal. It was clear head coach Bob Hartley decided to shelter his prospect. That’s all normal for a teenager trying to jump to the NHL from the junior ranks.

These are valuable teaching opportunities at the game’s highest level. There will be plenty more to come this week as we approach the nine-game threshold.

The Ingredients for Success as a Young Player

Strength, intelligence, maturity, skill, mental toughness. physical endurance. Each of these assets contributes to the evaluation of whether or not a young player can hack it in the NHL early on.

At 6-foot-2, 185 lb., Monahan has the physical attributes to withstand a yearlong beating with the big boys. His skill and on-ice intelligence are obvious, as is the maturity he displays in front of and away from the media. He is a young leader in the making.

If he sticks, there will be some serious ups and downs in both his play and the team’s performance. The organization has to decide quickly whether or not he has the mental toughness to withstand the highs and lows of a full season on a potentially struggling squad, without having his confidence and development affected.

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There’s also the Sven Baertschi Syndrome to consider. His early success in a brief appearance two seasons ago led to a sense of entitlement for the young Swiss playmaker, and he didn’t work hard enough to duplicate the results last year. He’s come around a little more recently, in part because of his pairing with Monahan. If you chalk up Baertschi’s struggles to mild immaturity, you probably don’t believe that will be an issue with Monahan.

The Decision Within the Decision

If the Flames do keep Monahan for the duration of the season, it doesn’t mean he won’t have a chance to wear the Maple Leaf across his chest at the world junior tournament come Christmas.

Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Brett Connolly, and the Ducks’ Devante Smith-Pelly are a couple of the most recent players to be loaned toe the world junior cause by their NHL clubs.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman didn’t see it as a step back for Connolly.

"It’s important for these young guys to play in these big events in pressure games. They make you better,” Yzerman told the St. Petersburg Times at the time. “We still want him here, but what’s best for Brett Connolly in the long run is best for us all. I’m confident this is the right thing for him."

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The Flames will do the same thing for Monahan’s development, regardless of how it affects the business side of things.

Around the Nation

  • @TACOcurt

    seriously people stop worrying about his stupid contract. He should play where he should play and that’s that.

    ohhhh but he’s playing sheltered minutes here….

    ummm no kidding people he’s a rookie, pretty damn rare for a rookie not to be. If his development is better served being here then he should stay.

    also it’s not the same thing for his development going down to jr. playing against kids is great and all but playing against a higher level often brings athletes to a level they didn’t know they had (been there done that).

    if he’s got the smarts and the ability and maturity he should stay crying about contracts is stupid, it’s not mismanagement to play someone who deserves it. It’s mismanagement to pay someone for future production like our friends to the north. that’s just stupid and feaster has already shown he won’t do that. Brodie would be making 4.5 mill a year at least right now if he played for the oilers.

  • piscera.infada

    The Chicago comparisons about having low salary stars in order to win seem to be leaving out that the Hawks also won the cup last year with a normal salary cap. Kind of diminishes the argument about the contract being the most important consideration.

    Good players make good teams more than good accounting. It isn’t like paying Monahan at 22 or 23 will be the difference between a good and bad team.

  • MichaelD

    I haven’t read every single comment here, but judging on the 23 trashes on the Kent’s first comment (second of the thread) as well as a few of the last articles regarding Monahan. I think I can confidently say this, plus I just wannna say my piece.

    It’s pretty funny how the general perspective has changed around here on Monahan. A few months ago it was Kent who wrote an article explaining the ELC deal and how it would be more financially efficient to send him down no matter what, and everyone bought in. Everyone who opposed this was ripped apart and people cited every possible worst case scenario (Gagner). A few games in Monahan has a few points, and now someone who says he should still get sent down gets trashed and ripped apart. These people are disregarding the statistics, that not too long ago based their argument on.

    So can we throw away the small sample sizes stuff, advanced statistics stuff, and the people saying stupid hockey knowledge stuff (I know must of us have played hockey and know the dynamic of a dressing room) away, and all agree that we wanna see Monahan play on Calgary for the season because it gives some excitement and its fun too watch.

    By the way I don’t mind the advanced statistics stuff I don’t mind reading about it in articles on here, It just bugs me when someone quotes that stuff too prove something like maturity.

  • BitGeek

    When the time comes for the Flames to add some quality pieces to the team, they’ll need cap space to work with. If they chew up cap space needlessly at this point in the rebuild, it will only handcuff the team later on when they’ll need more of it.

    If the Flames are stupid enough to spend to the cap every year throughout the rebuild, then that’s another thing altogether.

    So far they’ve shown fiscal restraint and haven’t needlessly spent to the cap this year. This tells me they do care about money and only adding value when necessary.

    If you think the owners could care less how their money is spent, then give your head a shake. They might say they are a “spend to the cap space” team, but they only mean it if it makes them money somehow. They want the most money they can make from this team and if that means more fans in the seats now, then they’ll probably keep Monahan up.

    It’s likely they don’t want to waste a year of Monahan’s ELC if they don’t think it will make a difference to their bottom line now.

    Monahan’s development is only important to the point that it makes the Calgary Flames product more sellable to the fan base. Winning games and having something to cheer for are what the fans want and that’s why they buy tickets. End of story.

    If the Flames aren’t going to win a ton more games with Monahan in the lineup or if he is no longer exciting to watch, then the ownership won’t be too pleased about burning a year of his ELC early.

  • Bigfatflamesfan

    This decision cant be made on saving a year of his contract. Not for this team. If he is playing well enough to stay, then they should make the room for him to stay.

    The biggest issue I see with him is his face-offs. And that isn’t going to get fixed playing in the OHL.

    So far, keep him up. He deserves it.

  • RedMan

    Will there be less vets to mentor Monahan next year? (Quality mentoring is good).

    Will bringing him up next year mean he plays and develops with more Jr. skilled players and less NHL caliber players next year when you bring him up? (If so, this can create it’s own mess)

    Will playing his first year now mean his first non-entry level contract will come during a time when he is less dominant (or to ask that in reverse – if he waits another year to start his ELC, does this mean he will be better when signing his first non-ELC and actually cost more?) in other-words, do we pay later for saving now?

    Does ELC-money/contract management matter AS MUCH as player development, and does it help to manage and limit the number of pure rookies being developed at any given time?

    If he gets better this year in the NHL, does this speed up the time frame for contending again, if we wait, does this make the rebuild take longer?

    OK – here is the thing – is ELC consideration the ONLY real thing that makes people want to send him back? or is it ELC + “__?__”

    • Parallex

      It`s not the only thing, it`s the main thing but not the only thing. He is not a fully formed adult NHL player… there are things he should get better at and he`s just as able to work on those things at the OHL level on someone else`s dime. He`s not going to be hurt by being sent down but we might be hurt by keeping him up.

      I`m not a kid who opens his presents before Christmas for lack of patience. Good things come to those who wait and we`re all better served waiting.

  • loudogYYC

    90% of the season has yet to be played, Monahan was drafted just 4 months ago and we’re in year 1 of a rebuild.

    If the Flames can’t be patient now, it doesn’t bode well for the future when Monahan, Beartschi and all other prospects become established pros with above average NHL salaries. He would probably do ok if he stayed up, but there’s no sense in putting 1 players interest ahead of the teams. They already did that with Iginla and it didn’t work as wanted. I say send him down after 9.

    • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

      Agree. We have very small sample size, high shooting pctg, low Corsi and sheltered minutes. I love what I see and am excited for the future but really think he needs one more year in junior.

      • RedMan

        my guess is that he (&every other rookie) will have sheltered minutes his first full year or 2, or 3.

        his minutes will be sheltered this year and if he goes back to jr his minutes will be sheltered next year.

        will anotther year in jrs mean he doesnt need sheltering his rookie year? if so send him now dont let him play anymore!!!! 😀

    • RedMan

      why send him down? not surei understand you on the why part.
      is it because of ELC management? or
      you think it will delay or hurt his development? or
      he will develop better over the next year in the CHL??
      he brings no value in the nhl this year?

      I am just trying to wrap my head around the send him back idea… seems the two main arguments to send him back are
      1 – ELC wizzardry
      2 – his development suffers in the NHL

      please help me better grasp this send him back ideas…


      • loudogYYC

        I talked about being patient, that’s basically my argument. So far he has shown promise, not dominance. Actually he’s never shown dominance at any level yet, so why are we in a rush to keep him in the NHL when he has a chance of becoming dominant in the OHL/WJC/Memorial Cup.

        ELC management is important, as we can’t predict who will earn what in the future, but by now it’s pretty clear that cap flexibility is as important as having the money to spend in the first place. Have a look at Philadelphia, Toronto and shortly Edmonton. They have the cash to spend, but not the permission per se, they shot themselves in the foot by not being patient and it reeks of poor management.

        Make more sense?

    • Parallex

      Just saying what? Nobody is saying that the Flames won’t be able to pay him whenever he starts getting paid the big bucks. Eventually the Flames will be a cap team again and it’s better for the team to have as many options as possible and they’ll have less options sooner if Monahan doesn’t go down.

      Seriously, he’s not Crosby… there is nothing bad about sending him back to junior for his age 19 year.

  • seve927

    To me, it’s about opportunity for Monahan. If he continues to play 15 minutes a night, then great. But, I feel that is starting to be outplayed by the other Centres on the team. Once Stajan is back, then Stajan, Backlund, debatably (i dont know if that’s a word) Colborne, with Street better filling the 4th line role.
    I say send him back to Jr so he can dominate down there, get bigger and faster and come back next year and win the calder.

  • WestmountWailer

    To completely brush off the possible effects of sliding or not sliding a year of the ELC right off the bat is what’s “utter nonsense”.

    The fact you then go on to say that you think management believes this is a short rebuild is actually another point for saving a cheap ELC year.

    Money does, in fact, matter… due to the silly little salary cap. Decisions made now will affect what happens years down the road when the team intends to compete. Development of the player IS the most important thing, just as you said, but to ignore the possible cap implications? I’d describe that as the Sutter method and ask how that worked out.

    • Steve Macfarlane

      Money matters when you have none. The Flames are second last in spending at the moment and have plenty of room now and in the future.
      If Monahan is your big-money player in three years or four, what’s the difference? There really are no cap implications.

      • Greg

        Personally I’m very glad to hear that’s what the org is basing the decision on: what’s best for his development. You do gotta keep an eye on future cap implications, but we’re a long ways off from needing to worry about that. I’d say the greater concern at this point should be how to avoid the “perpetual rebuild trap” and that starts with putting development first.

        You can worry about how to fit his $6M contract into your cap structure after you’ve figured out how to develop him into a $6M player! 🙂

        I also think if an org puts a players best interest first, he’ll tend to treat them in kind when it’s time to talk home town discounts. If you jerk your players around solely for your own interests, they won’t have any reason to want to stay here vs play elsewhere, and it’s true for your ability to attract other players as well.

        • Steve Macfarlane

          “You can worry about how to fit his $6M contract into your cap structure after you’ve figured out how to develop him into a $6M player! :)”

          Personally I’m actually indifferent as to how they make their decision, but this is very well said.

        • Parallex

          But that’s the thing… we’re not a long way from having to worry about that, we’re just three games away from having to make a choice that may affect it.

  • NHL93

    I’m in the camp of sending him back however, Hartley is not an idiot. Keeping him up probably won’t hurt his development in the long run as I doubt the coach is going to ruin this kid.

  • I see this team by 2015/16 having a lot of similarities to Chicago in 2008. If they can get a proper shutdown #1/2 defenseman, a nhl ready 4/5 depth defensman. And replace the 4th line with a more NHL elite 4th line like a 4th line that can skate, play defense kill penalties and play hard minutes. They will give every team in the PAC a run for their money.

    However, this is of course contingent upon some of our college prospects actualizing the talent they’ve shown at the NHL level.

    Not saying they are exact matches but there’s a lot of similarities here.

    Monahan – Towes
    Gaudreau – Kane
    Arnold – Sharp

    All we need now is a Keith and Seabrook on D.
    Maybe Brodie is our Keith/Seabrook
    Throw Seiloff, Ramage, Wotherspoon in to the mix I feel that’s a pretty decent drafted Dcore if they can add those I previously mentioned.

    • piscera.infada

      I partially agree. I think we can see the start of a very nice core (sans elite prospects? maybe? yes? I don’t care too much), but as fans, we need to stop comparing this team to anything and everything. This core isn’t the ‘Hawks, Pens, Oil, or Panthers – we should really stop looking for similarities.

      The biggest thing that will hold any rebuild back is getting complacent that we’ve drafted ‘x’ amount of ‘y’ type players, and now just need to find ‘z’ type player(s) (which is easy… or hard… or whatever). The goal is to always be improving, always be developing our prospects, always draft well, and always be developing our own identity.

      • For sure, mate. I completely agree. I am not saying we should clone ourselves after the hawks. Just making the observation that we have sort of similar type players coming through our system. Mainly in the forward Ranks.

        I don’t necessarily mean we need to go out and buy a Keith clone player or a Seabrook clone type player per se. What I mean is that if we do our trading/drafting/buying right we will see similarities there. Why, because a good team has certain elements that are needed to win a cup.

        Does that mean we’re going to be Blackhawks 2.0. No of course not. But there’s nothing wrong with having prospects that compare to that Blackhawks team. They’re about as well rounded a team as you can have in the new NHL. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

        ED *I guess I should have been a bit clearer in my original post* Instead of saying needing a x or y (Chicago player’s name) we need a shutdown defenseman who is capable of playing against other teams elite talent without getting trunced offensively.

        • piscera.infada

          I got you. It was more of a general comment then a direct response to you.

          I wanted to respond more to those who say; “we need ‘x’ number of elite players, thus we need the functional equivalent of ‘x’ number of high draft picks.”

          I know I’ll catch some flak of it, but I just don’t subscribe to the idea that we need to be picking top 3 for a number of years to correctly rebuild (or top 10, for that matter). I would love me some Ekblad this summer, but the chances of that are slim to none even if we have the worst of seasons.

          As such, I think we just need to be open minded to what happens, instead of immediately penciling players in as “coke machines”, “reaches”, “low-ceiling players”, etc.

          There isn’t one cure-all just as sure as there aren’t any assurances with development, or draft picks.

          • Exactly. I completely agree. Some kids develop slower than others too. Like Gio. Who knows Keegan Kanzig could turn into the next big deal defenseman or he could turn into the next over sized WHL drafted defenceman that is a typical product of the “meat market” that it is.

            but you don’t really know until you give the kid a chance.

  • beloch

    The question for Feaster et al is whether staying merely helps Monahan reach his potential sooner or if it actually expands his potential. Not an easy prediction to make!

  • seve927

    Ramo to start, the deck up front reshuffled, Butler still to dress.(ahh)I guess we need to have patience. Heat lost last night 4-3, Hankowski had another goal playing with Grandlund and Furland.

    I really hope there is some plan for development. maybe every 16 games we need to see a shuffle of those guys we can move. Most of us are pretty sure what Street is a utility center with a replacement ceiling. We still need to see Colborne a bit more but at some point we will need to how Knight, Horak, Rhino and Jooris are developing.

  • seve927

    There is almost no way Monahan’s ELC could possibly be an issue. Unless the rebuild goes horribly wrong and none of the guys we draft in the next two or three years are playing within four years (not to mention recent draft picks Poirier, Klimchuk, Roy, Gillies, Jankowski, Sieloff, Kanzig, Gilmour), they will have plenty of guys on ELCs. I defy anyone to lay out a realistic scenario where it could actually become an issue and make a difference. Or unless of course you think the rebuild is complete and we don’t need to draft anyone else to be playing in 4 years time.

    Because bonuses now don’t count against the cap, the ELC’s are cheaper than they’ve ever been, so it’s going to be awfully hard for a team starting a rebuild to have a cap problem within 3 years. The only way it becomes an issue is if they have to abandon the rebuild and try to build completely around Monahan, Baertschi, Brodie, Backlund and a bunch of high priced UFAs.

  • Parallex

    Of course money is an issue, but Monahan is going to get paid either way. If he does stay up, then the team will budget around his increase a year earlier. And with the cap always going up, it shouldn’t matter too much.

    development is most important to the team. Where can Monahan grow the most. He has shown he can play in the NHL, but it is also early. His minutes are increasing since game 1, but also there has been injuries. How much ice time will he get when Stajan comes back, as well as Cammy and D.Jones.

    What is better, 10-15 sheltered minutes in the NHL, or top line minutes in the OHL where he can be put in situations to succeed.

    With pretty much a trade in place, Monahan will likely be on a team that will compete for the memorial cup. That experience along with the world juniors is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Playing at a high level on a big stage is something Monahan won’t get with the Flames this year.

    Sent him back!

  • What’s best for his development? Playing in the OHL where he will likely dominate and have stats that are out of this world or playing and practicing everyday against men; for my money the later. Also the Flames could and should release him for the WJC’s so they can compare him.

  • Greg

    One other thought: the 9 game decision isn’t the only point you have to make the call of what’s best for his development. If they go past 9 games and burn an ELC year, there’s nothing stopping them from sending him back to junior should the next ~10 games go horribly wrong. You just have to think through what that says to the player and how it impacts his development (although I suspect they’d react to that better than just getting held back by a 9 game rule).

    I’d read somewhere there’s another “40 game” clause where the season then counts as an “accrued year” towards FA eligibility? So maybe you burn a cheap ELC year, but you still retain his rights longer? Can anyone comment on that?

    • Yes. If a player plays 40 games it means that it counts as a full accrued season and therefore one year off those required for him to play and become a UFA.

      SO a RFA at 18 year old playing 40+ games can become a UFA at 25 versus a RFA at 20/21 cannot become a UFA until 27. I believe it’s 7 “accrued seasons” in order to be considered a UFA.

    • No. the agreement with the CHL is that because he was drafted into the OHL he has to go back to his junior team I believe. The reason being that the CHL doesn’t want the NHL poaching their talent and progressively weakening their league and thus the development of the junior aged players.

      Whereas in Pat Sieloff’s case. He was not drafted by Windsor, instead he played USHL hockey prior to going there. So the Flames could put him right into the AHL.

      • AF

        Seiloff was actually a 6th round pick of the sault greyhounds, however expressed he would not show. windsor executed a lopsided deal with the hounds in which jack campbell was traded for the rights to seiloff as well as numerous numerous picks. a huge coup for boogie,jonesy and staff as seiloff was poised to play ncaa puck. this trade and other impropreities lead to the spits being investigated and found guilty of violations. the london knights rule the ohl, the hunters must have pics of commiss branche doin something. examine the london rosters it would be the only place for monzie to develop. without my old buddie brian kilrea coaching the 67s sending the kid back is a step backwards.

        • I stand corrected. Thanks!

          How is it that Sieloff is able to go to the AHL this season and Monahan is not then? I thought it was something to do with how CHL players are drafted or not drafted.

          Are you sure about Sault Greyhounds? According to HockeyDB he played for the USHL dev team? It doesnt’ say anything about him being drafted by Sault. And if that is the case say he was drafted never reported and instead played USHL hockey for 2 years. He still goes down as being a Free agent, no?

          This sport is so CONFUSING!! 🙂

          • seiloff refused to report and was committed to playing ncaa hockey, toiled in the ushl until the windsor spitfires pulled off a mega deal. he suddenly wanted to develop in the windsor system under bobby boughner. it is amazing how 3 franchises in the o, winsor,london and kitchener seem to skirt the chl rules every year. the exception being the spits were caught after back to back mem cup appearances. seiloff was 6th round, 171 th overall to sault ste marie.

  • @TACOcurt

    I have flip flopped a few times on which direction Monahan should go. I am now back to sending him down. sure he won’t be playing against nhl caliber competition but we kind of have an idea at what we have. A-the benefit is he will (should) be bigger and stronger as a starter next year. B-he will get to be on gold medal junior team and maybe build some chemistry with poirer.C- it will save his elc (frankly I don’t care when we pay him) D- most importantly we are not making the playoffs with or without Monahan so with him out of the line up this gives the organization to let colburne play better minutes, bring up some of the kids fromm abby and actually see what knight or horack or Reinhardt actually have and what they can contribute to the team.

  • RedMan

    The other factor not discussed much at this point is how close is Stajan to returning and will this factor into the decision? As it sits it could be argued that Monahan is our second best center behind Backs.Do we envision Street, Backs,Colborne and one of Horak/Knight/Jooris or Rhino as our centers for an extended period? For me I have to say he stays.

    What about what else is going on in Flames land. The Heat play tonight and Granlund is going to play. Lots of college kids playing to, I was looking at the NCAA schedule and if our college kids perform to expectations then we won’t see to many as Flames this year as the Frozen 4 is April 10-12th and the Flames season ends soon after unless there is a miracle.

    I’m hoping there is some plan to see some of the other prospects up in Calgary. Who on the big club would not have to clear waivers to make room? After looking at the NHL agreement I think the only ones are Sven and Colborne.