The Flames were a surprising team this past season. They were also a very, very young one. Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Markus Granlund, and Micheal Ferland all lost their rookie status over the course of the year, playing more than 25 NHL games each.
However, this doesn’t count a couple of the Flames’ other young players. Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne were rookies with the Flames in 2013-14. Colborne’s a bit older and took longer to make it, but Monahan’s been in the NHL since he got drafted.
Two seasons ago, everything was new to them. Even though Colborne had already played 16 games with the Leafs over three seasons, that’s hardly the same as a full season, and the 80 games he played in his rookie year were a whole other monster.
Monahan, meanwhile, stepped right out of junior and into the NHL.
So, how much did they improve after a year’s worth of experience?
Of course, everyone wants rookies to improve. What’s the fun in an exciting newcomer to the NHL if they don’t make progress in their game? And the most evident way to keep track of a player through the seasons is, of course, by his goals and points and such.
In this case, the phenomenon of the “sophomore slump” evaded both Flames sophomores, as they both outscored their rookie selves.
|Season||Goals||Assists||Points||Games||Points per game|
Okay, Colborne didn’t technically outscore his rookie self. Rather, he had the same number of points – his goals and assists remained in a relatively harmonious balance – but it took him 16 fewer games to reach 28 points. He has yet to crack the 30-point mark, and next season will be his 26-year-old one, though, so that’s a bit of a red flag, particularly if you consider him a top-six forward.
He hasn’t even matched a 19-year-old Monahan, although he’s come close. Monahan’s goals-assists ratio was out of whack in his rookie year, but it completely evened out come sophomore time. Over one year and another six games, he had an additional 28 points, aka one Colborne, which is pretty amazing.
Furthermore, in their rookie years, it took Colborne the full 80 games to get his 28 points; and Monahan’s 34 took him 74 games. Their pacing increased, as this past season, Colborne hit 28 points over 61 games; and Monahan, 62 in the full 81.
To further add to Monahan, though: last season, we were all pretty excited when he scored 20 goals. That took him 68 games. He reached that tally in 59 games this season – including starting off the season with an eight-game goalless drought – and scored his 30th in the 78th game.
Now that he’s got set linemates, though, maybe the goals will start coming even faster…
Monahan and Colborne were linemates in their rookie seasons. They played nearly 400 even strength minutes together, and had a CF% of 43.4%. They started in somewhat sheltered circumstances, too, with 47.9% OZS. However, when separated, it was Colborne who put up the better possession numbers – 46.9% CF to Monahan’s solo 44.0% CF – in less sheltered situations – a 52.3% OZS to Monahan’s much higher 59.5%.
As rookies, Monahan was the better scorer, but Colborne was the better fancy stats guy.
That’s really no longer the case.
This past season, the two played about 140 even strength minutes together. While they improved to 47.9% CF together – an asterisk on this because their minutes were significantly cut – Colborne’s solo CF was 41.5%, while Monahan’s was 45.3%.
Monahan had quickly passed Colborne, but he had an easier time at it. While Monahan had steady linemates for most of the season – a Jiri Hudler, a Johnny Gaudreau; you know, real good, high-scoring players – Colborne’s were less consistent, and more of the Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris variety.
Not that Colborne ever really helped his linemates. On the contrary, he brought their possession numbers down. Monahan, on the other hand, not only helped his linemates, but actually wasn’t too far off from their possession paces when away from them.
Mind that when he was away from them, he was most often starting in the defensive zone taking tough minutes, while Gaudreau and Hudler were sheltered throughout the year. Possession-wise, that wasn’t a problem for him.
Context and conclusion
Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne had two very different sophomore seasons.
To sum up Colborne: he didn’t really take a step forward at all. His scoring pace increased, but not by a whole lot, and that’s about it. Otherwise, he had more sheltered zone starts – albeit not by much – and was slightly worse possession-wise. Colborne did not make any noticeable or major improvements to his game, and when it comes to sophomores, he’s an older guy. That’s a bad sign.
To juxtapose him, there’s Monahan. Monahan made incredible leaps between his rookie and sophomore years. While his rookie scoring was pretty good, his possession stats, especially in sheltered circumstances, were incredibly subpar and indicated he may not have been ready for the NHL.
That does not seem to be the case anymore. Monahan improved in every category. His scoring drastically increased, all the while the difficulty of his circumstances was upped. He was no longer sheltered, and instead took several defensive zone starts while facing a significantly higher quality of competition. The Flames were much, much better with him on the ice than off it.
In just one year, Monahan went from floundering rookie to stud sophomore. Colborne, meanwhile, treaded water. While Colborne is getting passed by, Monahan is probably just going to keep getting better. It’s two very different trajectories for two sophomore players. For one, there’s not much to look at; for the other, there’s a great deal of hope for the future.