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

  • 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.

  • Willi P

    Don’t think he can develop the things he needs to work in Junior. He would simply dominate against kids. In this case I think it may hurt his development going back to junior.

    • piscera.infada

      Agreed. If what he needed to work on was “offensive confidence” (the one thing people were saying since we drafted him) then sending him down would be far more palatable, from my perspective. I just feel that he needs to work on aspects of his game that would likely better better worked on at his endpoint (the NHL), as opposed to against weaker competition – those things being: speed, strength, defensive zone coverage, and faceoffs.

      That said, I agree with the premise in this article that if there’s any indication his mental make-up wont allow him to deal with the lows this season is bound to give the team, then he must be sent down. Everything I’ve heard seems to indicate that wont be an issue, but if it is, you’re better seeing what you have in other young guys.

      I also agree that it is a no-brainer that if he is still on the big club come boxing day, the organization should – and will – let him go to the WJHC. That is invaluable experience, and not letting him go is the only decision that could really hurt his development.

  • 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.

  • @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.

  • Gange

    The burning question really is:

    What will keep Monahan’s development on the upward trend? Does sending him to Ottawa do that? I’m not sure. There’s a great deal we don’t know about the kid so “we” can’t make that determination.

    It seems like he can handle the sheltered minutes at the pro level, but is that best for him?

    Ultimately “we” need to learn to expect less than we’ve seen so far. His results currently, are not sustainable.

    It’s GREAT to see though.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • One aspect of Monahan’s staying or going that no one has really brought up or discussed is how he effects those around him.

    I will label this The Monahan or Monyhands effect.

    What I am referring to here is how his emergence with the team has made his team mates around him better. Stempniak was already pretty good last year but playing on a line with Monahan and Baertschi it seems almost rejuvinated him. He has been flying the first 6 games and finding ice that he hasn’t seen in the past. Monahan’s ability to read the situation and make the right pass has allowed Stempniak and Baertschi to play more to a style that suits them in the offensive zone. The responsibility Hudler has had living with Monahan has made Hudler more of a leader on the team and he has looked like a man on an offensive mission lately.

    Next the effect all the Monahan talk has had on Baertschi has been very noticeable. Monahan has instantly become a role model for Sven. Ever since Monahan started making head waves and Burke called him out while praising Monahan. Sven has gone out of his way to use his body more in the offensive zone on the forecheck, to get his arse back on the back check. In just the last 3 games I’ve seen a side of Sven we’ve never seen. If Sven plays like that all year and realizes that this is how he needs to play he is going to become a very good all around NHL player. It took Backlund 3 seasons to figure out what Sven seems to have figured out in 1 season. And I realize it might be a little bit premature and it also may be speculative but I attribute that success to him playing with and competing for coaches attention with Monahan. Healthy competition within in the young core is a huge motivator.

    If Monahan’s development isn’t hindered playing with the Flames this year. I don’t think there’s even a question of whether he should stay or go. If he’s not a liability the mere thought that he makes his teammates better is reason enough for me why he should stay on the team ELC be damned.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • @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.

  • 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.

  • piscera.infada

    Well I guess if we are going to beat this horses head one more swing cant hurt. In my view, this is a no brainer, it’s a matter of circumstance. OHL & having Monahan dominate using half the effort is pointless & will not enhance his development. In fact, that is something we don’t want the kid to learn, achieving success with 1/2 the effort. If he were eligible for Abby, then I am all for it. It worked wonders for Brodie & I see it as being the perfect scenario for Monahan. But we don’t have that option, so get over it. Having the kid here playing his butt off under the scrutiny of Flames coaches is the best case here. If worst case he really starts to struggle by the end of November, then lend him to the WJC team.
    Right now, he is learning to play the big game & he’s learning to play it with our other big blue chip in Sven. Well you really can smell what the “Rock” is cooking with these two players & it smells good.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • RedMan

    Worrying about the cap implications for 2017 is kind of ‘cart before the horse’, no?

    What the Flames brass believe is best for his long term development should be priority #1. Priority #1 should not be worrying about how his 2nd contract will effect the Flames cap situation in 2017.

  • 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.

  • 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.