Reasonable Expectations: Sean Monahan

Last year, I took a stab at setting “reasonable”
expectations for Sven Baertschi
and absolutely nailed it… not.

So naturally, I’m the one who will attempt to attach
expectations to the most unpredictable player set to suit up in the Flaming C
this October.

Last year Sean Monahan did what very few have done, and even
fewer expected him to do: score 20 goals as a 19 year old rookie. Since 2000,
there have been just 12 players to score more than 22 goals in a season as a 19
year old, and only 6 of them did so as rookies rookies.

Here are the 6:

Player

Goals In Rookie
Year

Goals the Next Year

Jonathan Toews

24

34

John Tavares

24

29

Taylor Hall

22

27

Gabriel Landeskog

22

23*

Peter Mueller

22

13

Patrick Kane

21

25

*Estimated based off of SH% in Lockout Shortened Season

The company Sean Monahan finds himself in is very
impressive. Outside of Peter Mueller, every player on that list is a cornerstone
for their respective franchise. Looking at the list, we see almost every player
improved on their rookie totals during their sophomore campaigns as well, again
with the exception of Peter Mueller. Gabriel Landeskog’s numbers are estimates
and somewhat skewed by virtue of playing the lockout shortened season, but even
he appeared to be on course to eclipse his rookie campaign goal total.

While we shouldn’t expect a Stamkos-like improvement
(Stamkos went from 23 to 51 from his rookie to sophomore campaign) this season
out of Monahan, superficial evidence at this point would suggest he’ll improve
on his 22 goals in 2014/15.

A Closer Look

However, here at FlamesNation, superficial evidence isn’t
enough to satisfy us. So let’s take a deeper look at each of Monahan’s six best
comparables.

Player

Goals in Rookie
19yo Year

Shots in Rookie
Year

SH% in Rookie Year

Team Rank in RY

Goals in Sophomore
Year/Goal Differential

Shots/ SH% in
Sophomore Year

Team Rank in
Sophomore Year

Jonathan Toews

24

144

16.7

19th

34 / +10

195 / 17.4

 

6th

John Tavares

24

186

12.9

27th

29 / +5

243 / 11.9

27th

Taylor Hall

22

186

11.8

30th

27 / +5

207 / 13.0

29th

Gabriel Landeskog

22

270

8.2

20th

23 (estimated)

279 (estimated) / 8.3

29th

Peter Mueller

22

201

11.0

23rd

13 / -9

138 / 9.4

26th

Patrick Kane

21

191

11.0

19th

25 / +4

254 / 9.8

6th

Sean Monahan

22

140

15.7%

27th

TBD      

TBD

Estimated: 25th-30th

 

Quite a group indeed. Aside from Peter Mueller, that is. I’m
sure Flames fans would be rather ecstatic with Monahan ending up a similar
calibre player as the skaters on that list. Again, aside from Peter Mueller.

I elected to stay away from the advanced metrics game when
compiling these comparables because for a rookie player, I feel
Corsi & Friends™ have very little to offer in terms of analyzing how that specific
player’s rookie campaign actually went. The stats in a rookie’s first season
become flawed by things such as the transitional period they go through at the
beginning of their careers, where their acclimation to the NHL game yields
generally horrendous fancy stat results.

Sean Monahan was criticized for facing some of the easiest
competition on the team yet still getting buried in the possession game. I
would attribute that to stretches of poor play – such as that period after he
returned from injury – that hampered his overall statistical showing. Having
said that, Sean Monahan was never a dominant possession player last year and
having meandered through the advanced metrics of each member of the list, they
all put up similar number, and naturally faced really easy competition.
Throwing a baby-faced skilled rookie to the wolves is a one-way ticket to
Bustville, with stops in Headache Town and the Kris Chucko
Memorial Museum.

Point being, I didn’t feel advanced stats to be prudent in
this situation, and instead stuck with more “meat and potatoes” metrics
to find suitable comparables for the most-loved young player in this town since
Sven Baertschi (although Johnny Hockey could make an argument out of that
statement). (Editor’s Note: We call ourselves Mono-Fans.) Some may disagree with me and throw out big words and fancy math to
prove me wrong on the advanced stat front, but that’s just my opinion on the
matter.

So, back to the chart. Some of you may have noticed right
away there is one player who’s rookie stats seem eerily close to those of
Monahan’s. That being Jonathan Toews. Their goal totals are just two apart
(although Toews played 11 less games) and their shot and SH%’s are very close
as well. Toews too had an inflated SH% in rookie season and unlike most would
expect, did not regress, in fact posted an even higher SH% the following year.
These weren’t anomalies either, as Toews comes into the 2014/15 season with a
career 15.1 SH%. Some players just happen to convert more on their chances than
others. It can’t always be attributed to “luck”. What’s to say
Monahan can’t be of a similar make?

However, before we get all excited about having the next
Jonathan Toews in our lineup, you’ll notice no else really boasts those kinds
of stats. Every shooting percentage is more modest and hangs around the league
average SH% which, depending on the year, is around 9.0-10.0%. Is Toews is the
real anomaly here? Maybe. Only time will tell if Monahan will continue down the
path forged by Hawks captain, but right now it’s just a fun coincidence to
speculate with.

The good news is though, with the exception of good ol’ Pete
Mueller, everyone on that list increased their production from one year to the
next, and did it, for the most part, on rather poor teams. They also all shot more and thus buried more. After all, if you can score 20
plus goals as a rookie, there’s nothing that should stop you from doing it
again. At least you’d think so.

Peter Mueller is the one aberration to that theory. One
would think Sean Monahan should absolutely improve on his 22 goal season because
everyone else did, except for Mueller. So, why Mueller? My theory is simple.
Peter Mueller scored goals by way of skill rather than hockey sense and hard
work. He danced around people and dangled. It was all fine and good in his
rookie year, but come his second season in the show, defences started to zero
in on him, he hadn’t the skill level to answer them and keep up his pace. He
didn’t have an alternative source of goal scoring – he was never a
“drive-the-net” and grind for rebounds kind of guy – and was thus
left a shell of his former self. While the Patrick Kanes and John Tavares’
possessed the skill set to overcome the extra attention and continued their
success, Peter Mueller flamed out.

Sean Monahan didn’t score goals by way of overwhelming skill.
He did it by primarily relying on his hockey IQ and instincts – being in the
right place at the right time. Sure he has an abundant offensive arsenal, but
it’s headed by his head. And intuition is not something easily defended against.

The Reasonable
Expectation

So having said all that, what can we reasonably expect from
the second year saviour, *cough*, centerman? Well, it would be more than fair to
expect a bump up in shots, to somewhere in the 200 realm. Monahan shot
considerably less than most players on the list, but did miss time, so with a
full 82 game schedule ahead of him, an increase in shots should be expected.

His goal output, after much analysis, I will forecast will
increase, if just slightly. He won’t put up 30, but I think the fashion in which
he scores goals allows for sustainability because rebounds and broken plays
will never stop occurring, and if Monahan can get himself in those areas ready
to release, he should visit the back of the net again at a similar clip consistently.
For those eagerly awaiting his SH% to plummet, I wouldn’t hold my breath, for
Monahan strikes me as the type of player who will sustain an inflated
percentage throughout his career. That’s just the way he plays. His shots come
from high percentage areas around the net, and doesn’t take those leg flick
wristers from the top of the circle that kill SH%, with regularity. Now that
I’ve said that, watch him be cursed and shoot 3.0% next year.

I didn’t bother cooking up comparables to Monahan’s assist
production because that, like GAA for goaltenders, depends so much on the team
you’re playing on and the quality of your linemates. Short of the Sedins, who
can turn Anson Carter into a 30 goal scorer, assist production will vary on who
your setting up with passes. Sean Monahan would’ve doubled his assist total if
he was dishing to Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos, but Joe Colborne just isn’t
quite the same trigger to be feeding. Having said that, 12 is a pretty low
number of apples, even with the linemates he had, so I expect an increased role
this year will come with more quality linemates and in turn an increased helper
amount. Using official methods and totally legit estimation algorithms, I’ll forecast
Monahan’s name will be scribbled down as one of the assists on 20 goals this
year.

So, amalgamating everything together, we’ll put our rough
estimate of Monahan’s statistical season next year at 25 goals and 20 assists
with 200 shots and a more “acceptable” 12.5 SH%. I’d peg this as the
optimistic expectation, with anything under 20 goals and 15 assists being
considered a disappointing campaign.

The main theme of Monahan’s 2014/15 season should be
improvement. It’s impetrative he continues to progress and evolve into a better
player in every facet of the game. Say what you want about how Monahan will
regress or whatnot, but any such regression, whether it be on the stat sheet or
otherwise, must be viewed in a negative light and be considered disappointing.
I understand he set himself a high bar this season, but that’s what star
players do. And they continue to raise that bar until they reach extraordinary
heights. If Monahan should continue to be regarded as a budding star, he must adhere
to circumstances of that ilk, and continue to raise that bar.

Improvement, no matter how small, is what should be
reasonably expected out of Sean Monahan, next season.

  • Truculence

    Hypothetically speaking what do people think a team that had the following stats be like, would it contend for a playoff spot?

    line 1: 60 points,50 points, 40 points

    line 2: 45 points, 50 points, 40 points

    line 3: 40 points,40 points, 30 points

    line 4: 35 points, 30 points, 25 points

    top defensive pairing 35 and 30 points
    2nd pairing 20 and 15 points

    third pairing 10 and 10.

    And NHL average goaltending.

    • piscera.infada

      It depends entirely on how many goals this hypothetical team allows. Using a rough conversion factor of 2.675 points per goal (thus, 1.675 assists per goal – yes, I pulled it right out of you know where), you end up with a total number of goals scored totalling 226. That puts you right at the median ‘goals for’ from last season – right below Winnipeg, right above the Islanders. For frame of reference the Flames scored 209 last year.

      You’re missing the other half of the equation here. So it really tells you nothing, except for the fact that you’d have incredible balance throughout your line-up.

      Edit: my number doesn’t appear to be wildly off-base (perhaps a little high).

    • PrairieStew

      Line 1 Hudler- Backlund Glencross CHECK

      Line 2 Byron/JG – Monahan – Colborne qualified CHECK – all improvements

      Line 3 Raymond – Stajan – Jones uhhh OK CHECK – barely

      Line 4 Bollig – Bouma – McGrattan FAIL

      Defense 1 Gio – Brodie CHECK

      Defense 2 Wideman – Russel CHECK

      Defense 3 Engelland – Smid FAIL

      Average goaltending CHECK

      20th overall.

      • PrairieStew

        I did not include any names but as you did this how I would put it together.

        Hudler/Monahan/Colborne

        Johnny/Backs/Jones(playing with these guys he might bounce back)

        Glenx/Stajan/Bouma(a stretch but I think he has more to give)

        Raymond/the Bennett/Byron/Granlund connection/Bollig

        Gio/Brodie
        Wides/Russell
        Engelland(I was suprised to find he had 12 points last year and yes I know we are Pittsburg) and Smid

  • Lordmork

    How many of Monahan’s points were put up in the first nine games of last season? Can we accurately compensate in this projection for what seems like a run of really hot luck?

    I’d be perfectly happy if Monahan managed to run in place and put up the same number of points/goals while being sheltered a little bit less. I’m trying to keep my expectations low. Monahan has a lot of time to develop.

    That said, pleasepleaseplease let us have the next Toews on our hands.

    • SmellOfVictory

      That’s my expectation, as well. Somewhere between 30 and 40 points, but an improvement in terms of gaining and maintaining possession of the puck is entirely reasonable.

    • Greg

      He had 6 goals and 3 assists in the first 9 games. That said, it’s a short enough phase that it doesn’t significantly impact his projection. If you take those 9 games out, his 82 game pace drops from 24 goals to 19, and 37 points to 31. Puts him out of this list of comparables, but its not disheartening drop-off at least (I was actually a little surprised TBH).

  • BurningSensation

    This franchise would take a quantum leap forward if Monahan is anything remotely like Jonathon Toews.

    I am absolutely dying to see how Monahan and Gaudreau fit together, and am fully prepared to make overheated Patrick Kane-Jonathon Towes comparisons the first time they connect.

  • Greg

    Its too bad this article didn’t look further at Corsi, zone starts, etc. I think that would have helped tease out which of those comparables he’s more likely to track.

    Then again, it’s probably too small of a group to draw any reasonable conclusions from anyway. 🙂

  • beloch

    Here’s a bit of extra data on these guys:

    Player —————— GP —- TOI/60—- Sh/60—- CF% —- OZS% — Corsi QoC — Corsi QoT
    Jonathan Toews—— 64 —– 12.9 —– 10.4 —– 0.511 —– 55.7 —–1.054 —– 2.13
    John Tavares———- 82 —– 13.4 —– 10.2 —– 0.484 —– 56.9 —– 0.69 —– -4.133
    Taylor Hall————– 65 —– 15.1 —– 11.4 —– 0.493 —– 52.0 —– 0.532 —– -6.523
    Gabriel Landeskog – 82 —– 14.7 —– 13.4 —– 0.559 —– 54.8 —– 0.295 —– 5.16
    Peter Mueller———- 81 —– 12.7 —– 11.7 —– 0.505 —– 54.1 —– 0.641 —– -1.191
    Patrick Kane———– 82 —– 13.6 —– 10.3 —– 0.537 —– 54.5 —– 0.483 —– 1.716
    Sean Monahan —— 75 —– 13.3 —— 8.4 —— 0.444 —– 55.0 —– 0.725 —– -8.194

    Note: Stats are from behindthenet.ca

    First of all, after accounting for games played and TOI, Monahan took substantially fewer shots than anyone else on that list. However, he faced tougher average competition than all but Toews, had below average offensive zone starts for this group, and had the worst line-mates of the lot. If you look at how Monahan was deployed this season, he received less shelter later in the season than he did earlier in the season.

    In short, Monahan didn’t shoot the puck as much as the other players here and probably needed a little luck to score as many goals as he did, but he was also generally less sheltered than most and had poorer quality linemates than all of them. I’d also like to point out that center is a more demanding position than wing, so it’s especially impressive that Monahan can join a rookie scoring club that includes a fair number of wingers.

    Edit: Updated OZS%. I copied the wrong column. Oops! Also note, table is based on 5v5 stats.

    Edit2: Updated CF%. I really wasn’t paying attention when I initially did this.

    • I think you looked at a few of the wrong columns there beloch…

      Monahan’s ZS was 57% last year, not 50.5 and his relative quality of competition was -0.40, good for the 3rd easiest on the team ahead of only WestGarth and McGrattan amongst regular forwards.

      Not sure why you looked at CF%, but his relative corsi rate was -8.8/60, only better than the fighters and Lance Bouma.

      Toews, by way of comparison, had a poisitive corsi relative corsi rate his first season (+3.3) and Kane was even further ahead of him (+8.6/60). They were both relatively sheltered as well, but they were substantially head of Monahan in terms of pushing the play.

      It also looks like Taylor Hall was worse than Monahan by this comparison, but in fact he led the Oilers in terms of relative possession his rookie year (+10.4/60). And he was facing first liners from day 1.

      • beloch

        Yup. I made a couple of spreadsheet PEBKAC errors. I fixed both the OZS’s and CF% (Accidentally added BSF to CF and BSA to CA instead of vice-versa). Monahan’s 5v5 OZS% is now 55.0%. The average came up to 54.7%, so he’s still almost average in that stat. I’m not precisely sure how behindthenet calculates QoC, but extraskater was down at the time so I couldn’t check, and they don’t have stats going back far enough for some of these guys anyways.

        I prefer CF% to +/- corsi/60 because +/- exaggerates the difference between players on high event teams relative to low event teams. CF% gives you a ratio of offense to defence so you don’t need to account for overall events.

        According to behindthenet, Hall had tougher zone starts than Monahan and the second-worst line-mates, and now that I’ve fixed the CF% calculation you can see that he did do a bit better than Monahan, which isn’t surprising since he was a clear #1 lottery pick and Monahan was a #6 pick. Hall was also significanly better in shots and offensive production. Still, it’s not a bad thing for a center picked #6 to be able to hang on the same chart with a winger picked #1 overall.

      • RexLibris

        I did the same research and came up with a ranking of QualComp/CorsiRel using the Vollman sledgehammer.

        At the top of the list was (surprisingly, at least to me) Landeskog with a relative value of 1 and even ZS, followed by Hall and Tavares at 0.5 and a slight edge in off. ZS, then Kane and Toews at the meridian with a stronger ZS push and Monahan just slightly below with similar ZS to the above.

        I for one expect Monahan’s shooting % to drop a touch because of the larger situation he’ll find himself in this coming season.

        Other teams are going to be aware of his presence on the ice, and whereas Toews had Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith and Seabrook with whom to play, Monahan’s veteran options are Hudler, Glencross, Jones and Raymond. Otherwise he’ll be breaking in a raw rookie in Gaudreau or riding shotgun with another virtual sophomore in Joe Colborne.

        Perhaps he keeps a high shooting %, perhaps not. History suggests you put the money on the regression, even if only slightly.

  • 24% body fat

    All those other elite players had contributed some assists as well.

    You say if Monohan had a trigger man he would have more assists. This is true however he would likely not have as many goals.

    18 goals

    19 assists.

    37 points

    Last year I said Baertshci would get 38 points. Which was pretty close pro-rated, and I got ripped. REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS is the key!

    Nothing wrong with some regression in a sophomore year playing hard competition and zone starts, as well as other teams having scouted you.

  • MattyFranchise

    Everyone on your list except for Mueller were picked 3rd or higher.

    At any rate I’m expecting 15 to 18 goals/~35 points. I think his counting numbers will take a bit of a hit but his fancy stats will improve by quite a bit.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I was reading in Vollman’s hockey abstract that distance from the net on a shot has a significant affect on sh%.

    I think we see some higher sh% from certain players because they take the majority of their shots from within a higher shooting percentage range.

    I think this may be why we saw Monahan with an inflated percentage, as the majority of his shots were within 0-9′ of the net (after I estimated from the “all of Monahan’s goals” video). Basically, he hardly ever shot from outside of that 9′ range that had a higher mean sh%.

    If I had enough time I would do a correlation between shot % and shot distance and how well this relates to players with abnormally higher sh%.

    Ps, if you guys like advanced stats, get Vollman’s Abstract. Its pretty damn good.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Monahan continues to remind me of Neuwendyk, and from that I can buy that he’ll have a higher than normally shooting % over his career. That said, reasonable expectations should include a high weighting for potential regression. He’s still a 19 year old kid that needs a lot of sheltering, on a team that will find it difficult to provide easy minutes all season long, especially as injuries mount and more kids come up from Adirondack.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Both the Herald and the Sun had articles on this subject discussing the pros and cons. So a straw poll props for yes, trashes for no; will the Flames sign Hayes.

      • piscera.infada

        While it would make for a nice, feel-good story, I don’t think he does. I can’t think of any American kid (from the East, nonetheless) saying to themselves “gosh, I really want to play in Calgary someday”. I think the Gaudreau/Arnold relationship is overblown; they played the majority (but not all) of one season together and if they are really that tight, they’ll be friends no matter where each of them end up in their respective careers.

        Almost every team in the league has a dearth of talent at RW, so bidding for his services will be fierce – I just think the allure to play in a big US market will be too great. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see it happen, I really would. That said though, I don’t think he’s an automatic answer to anything (too many question marks in his game), so I’m not going to be too distraught if it doesn’t happen.

  • beloch

    Hard to say, the stats provided show that only Mueller suffered the sophomore jinx. You cannot really compare Toews and Kane to Mueller. Yes they may fall under this category but Toews and Kane’s ceiling are astronomical compared to Mueller. If were saying Monahan is closer to Mueller then there’s probably a very good chance he may regress and score less next season. If he improves offensively and his possession game then that would be a double whammy. If he can’t improve his possession game, stays sheltered and puts up points, then is he really developing properly?

  • RKD

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?

  • beloch

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?

  • RKD

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?

  • RKD

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?

  • RKD

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?

  • RKD

    Hard to say, those figures above except for Mueller disproves the sophomore jinx. Every player improved offensively except for Peter. However, you cannot compare Toews and Kane with Mueller here. The ceiling for Toews and Kane are astronomical compared to Mueller, if Monahan is closer to Mueller than there could be a good chance that he might regress. If he keeps playing sheltered minutes and has trouble with his posession game then the question should be is he developing properly?