1. The World Junior decision and what it means
So the Flames aren’t allowing Sean Monahan to go to World Junior, and it’s something about which I am of two minds.
On the one hand it’s probably nice for a 19-year-old kid to get a crack at playing in a tournament like that. But moreover I think it gets back to that whole argument of what’s best for a player’s development; at this point we know what he’s going to get in Calgary: 16 minutes a night and power play time.
The argument against sending him back to Ottawa for another season of major junior is one thing, and I get the argument that he’s better off playing against third-line NHLers on a bad team than first-line OHLers on a worse team, to an extent. But with respect to World Junior, where he’d be going against the best 18- to 20-year-old kids in the world, and probably getting top-line duty, you wonder how much better it is for his development to not take the month or so off and just go have fun in Sweden, and probably put up a ton of points.
The Flames, of course, talked about what’s best for the organization and what the fans want and so on, which was summarized thusly (and hilariously) in the Calgary Sun by Randy Sportak: “In Monahan’s case, it would mean missing a bunch of games — around a dozen — and the Flames do have a duty to their ticket-buying fans to ice the best possible team night-in, night-out while chasing a playoff spot.”
Sportak later acknowledged that the team’s playoff chances are a “pipe-dream,” but nonetheless this seems to be the club’s thinking in real life. If you’re paying for Flames tickets just to see Monahan play 16 minutes a night, you deserve to be parted from that money. You’re as delusional as the Flames.
It’s only a few weeks. What’s the difference?
2. Calling out Hartley
Saw where Scott Parker felt he was being disrespected by Bob Hartley because he wasn’t fighting to Hartley’s credit. Thought that was interesting.
Mainly because — and I’m not sure Parker’s use of the term “bully” really applies in this situation — you see that a lot with how Hartley handles the Flames. He has his favorites and lets them do more or less whatever they want, while the guys he clearly doesn’t like very much get short shrift no matter how well they play. For example, he clearly loves Reto Berra despite the fact that Berra is a dumpster fire in the crease. He’s awful, and yet he was getting so many starts before he was injured that you’d have thought Karri Ramo dropped off the face of the earth. The same is true of scratching Sven Baertschi or Mikael Backlund for not scoring, but also not putting them in a position to score.
Again, I don’t think that Parker can go around saying that Hartley’s the reason he had 25 concussions or whatever, and I think probably this is all a little bit overblown. But with that having been said, I think it’s pretty clear that he has His Guys and if you’re not one of His Guys, you’re going to pay for it.
3. Giordano almost back?
Mark Giordano has been cleared for contact for a little more than a week now. By the time you read this, they might have even put him into the lineup for last night’s Phoenix game (yup, they did – ed.).
That’s good news for anyone hoping to see a little bit more aesthetically pleasing hockey, because Giordano was playing 25ish minutes a night before he got hurt in late October. When the Flames’ defense is as thin as this, and especially with Dennis Wideman now out for as long as two months, things could have gotten very bad indeed in terms of the kind of discombobulated own-zone play one might have been able to expect from the Flames.
Let’s be honest here, only giving up 22 shots on goal and winning in Los Angeles without either of their top two defensemen in the lineup was sheer and blind and screaming luck, and you can praise TJ Brodie up and down forever, but he’s not a guy you want playing nearly 30 minutes a night. This is also true of Kris Russell playing 26:32.
This comes none too soon for Ramo and Berra. Can you imagine what four or five games like that would have ended up looking like?
4. Something I’ve been wondering about with Gaudreau
I suppose on some level every team’s fans get way too geared up about the chances that some of their top prospects become high-quality NHLers. Of course they do. But with that having been said, I wonder if the furor over Johnny Gaudreau, transcendent and game-breaking in a way I’ve rarely seen at the college level, might be getting to be just a bit too much.
The Calgary Herald recently dispatched George Johnson to Boston to see Gaudreau play and talk to him about how much he’d like to be a Flame and all that. And look, again, the kid is phenomenal, but there’s a big difference between being phenomenal in college and an even marginally effective player in the professional ranks. You can ask approximately one million former NCAA All-Americans about it.
Do I think he can be of a fairly high quality in the NHL? Sure I do. I think that’s the potential he has. Everyone I’ve talked to says the exact same thing. But this is a kid who’s probably two years away at a minimum, and everyone is losing their minds over him.
Be excited all you want, but keep your expectations in check. He’s undersized even for the NHL standard for “undersized,” and honestly, we don’t know how he’ll be able to respond to physical play because no one in college has been able to effectively check him more than once or twice in a game. That obviously speaks to how good he is, but players in the NHL are bigger and meaner and stronger and better than those in the NCAA, obviously, and they’re not going to be quite so easily evaded.
There’s a reason I can’t stop raving about seeing him, every time I do it. And I’m making a point to go do it again on Friday, as a matter of fact. But nonetheless, everyone might want to chill out just a little bit. Give him even one game as a professional player before we go making any major proclamations about him being The Next (Anyone). He’s almost certainly going to leave school after this season. You can talk about it then.