How far did Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne come in their sophomore seasons?

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.

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So, how much did they improve after a year’s worth of experience?

Improved offence

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.

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Season Goals Assists Points Games Points per game
Sean Monahan 2013-14 22 12 34 75 .45
2014-15 31 31 62 81 .78
Joe Colborne 2013-14 10 18 28 80 .35
2014-15 8 20 28 64 .44

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…

New linemates

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%.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • Burnward

    I know you have never liked Colborne so that would explain why you would use Monahan to exaggerate his shortcomings. Monahan is a stud, he was drafted as one & he has performed like one in his 2 years as an NHLer. Colborne was a project, it cost us a 4th rounder. Personally, from the games I saw at the Dome he did improve, he gained muscle & it showed in his board work. He has good hands & worthy of a continuation project. If he adds more muscle & the confidence he has gained this last year (2nd round of playoffs will give confidence to most of these Flame kids), I hope to see more consistent premium board work & equate to better cycling in the offensive zone & that will translate to much better possession numbers. Comparing these two players is pointless.

    • Ari Yanover

      I don’t see it as a pointless comparison at all. Both centres have now played two full years in the league, they have played roughly the same number of games, and they both put on weight over the summer.

      But one is twenty and succeeding playing hard minutes and the other…isn’t.

      I don’t disagree that we should continue with the Colborne experiment, but let’s be clear here, he’s no Sean Monahan.

      If you hate the comparison and want it to be fair, then compare him to Jankowski. Both first round picks, both have their share of detractors, both larger bodies, both centres, and Janko has an nhle about the same as Colborne’s actual. But Janko is younger and looks like he is getting harder minutes, relatively, than Colborne.

      Sure, give Colborne a break and let’s see what becomes of the experiment. But he isn’t Sean Monahan, and I’m not too worried he is going to be a stretched version of Marty St. Louis either.

      • piscera.infada

        In all fairness, very few NHL hockey players are of the Sean Monahan ilk two-years into their career.

        I’m skeptical of some aspects of Colborne’s game, but the above comparison is like saying “Daniel Paille is no Patrice Bergeron”.

        • Franko J

          I think the telling feature of the story and the comparison is that Monahan progressed and Colborne didn’t. Monahan has a few years before he should, statistically, peak, and Colborne doesn’t.

          Personally, I think Colborne was a great speculative addition for a fourth round pick. But it may be that we already have a bunch of players that can fill a bottom nine winger role (cause I don’t think he can beat out any of the centres ahead of him on the depth chart – another place where Monahan smoked him). So let’s not fall in love with this asset because it is the potential, not the reality, we want.

          • piscera.infada

            I don’t disagree. Nor do I advocate “falling in love” with the asset. I was just saying, using Monahan as a comparable is bogus–Monahan is and should be developing faster into a better player. I was certainly under no illusions that Colborne was going to come in and be a top-2 centre option for this team. It was a good trade for a fourth, and I do think he has some potential to be an effective bottom-6 winger. That said, if someone came to me with a sweet deal for him, I’d definitely do it, but at this point, I’d just like to see if he can grow at all next year before throwing in the towel.

          • piscera.infada

            Agree that I didn’t think that Colborne would be a top two centre. On the other hand, I didn’t believe for a second that Monahan would progress to become a legitimate 1C so soon either.

            Maybe that’s what we would be better served figuring out: why and how Monahan was able to do develop as he did.

          • Ari Yanover

            Not hard. Plain & simple pedigree. Monahan could have been a top 3 pick in the previous few years. & sorry, I just don’t understand the value of this comparison. If you want to compare him to maybe Jooris or Bouma, I see a little more value in that. At this point, he is signed for 1 more year & his next contract depends on how he progresses. Instead of trashing a former first rounder that had become a project & focusing that he hasn’t accomplished what Monahan has accomplished is not productive. Why didn’t Sven achieve the same success as Monahan if you want to keep this path of comparison. Colborne only cost us a 4th, at least we got a 2nd for Baertsche.

          • Willi P

            Again, it’s about comparing his progression (none), not his draft pedigree.

            Re: Sven – opportunity. Oh, and he doesn’t gif into the almost two full seasons of rookie and sophomore seasons that the title of this article states.

            Sorry dude, I just don’t see what you’re attacking here.

          • Ari Yanover

            Your first paragraph says it all. That’s exactly what the article is about. It’s not comparing the two players per se, it’s comparing their progression rates. It’s useful for future projections of the two in their individual roles. No big deal, not sure why some on here are so easily offended.

    • Ari Yanover

      Wrong, dude. You can’t know that I “have never liked Colborne” because that’s factually incorrect. I wanted him back when he was still with Boston, I was excited when the Flames traded for him, I was happily talking about him with Leafs fans a year ago. Don’t make assumptions.

      I’m not comparing Colborne to Monahan. The original idea of this piece was actually just Monahan, but looking through the Flames’ roster, Colborne was the only other sophomore, so I decided to throw him in, too. wot96 nailed it – I’m comparing how one has progressed and the other has not.

      I’m not expecting Colborne to be a top six player – despite his usage as one to end the season – and I’m not expecting him to be Monahan-level. I’m noting he’s an older second-year player who is not showing any real signs of improvement. The Flames have a number of players starting to pass him on the depth chart, which is going to be a problem for him sooner rather than later, unless he has an unexpectedly great third year.

      A fourth rounder for Colborne was great at the time. However, with the knowledge of how his first two seasons went, it’s not one I would make again.

    • Ari Yanover

      Would just like to say I’m annoyed by you saying you “know” I’ve “never liked Colborne” because that’s factually incorrect. I wanted him back when Boston still had him, I was excited when the Flames traded for him, I was happily talking about him with Leafs fan friends just a year ago. You didn’t “know” that. Please don’t make assumptions.

      It’s only in these past few months I’ve gone from liking Colborne to disliking him, because he’s not showing any real signs of improving and he should be by now. Trading for him was great when it happened; it was an easy pickup of an NHL ready guy for a midround pick that doesn’t have a high chance of making it. It was a net positive.

      Just because it was a good trade then, though, doesn’t mean Colborne should still be on this team. It isn’t just Monahan progressing at a faster rate than him – which, as both wot96 and the-wolf have said, is what the piece is about (they were the only two second-year players on the Flames; originally this was going to be about just Monahan but I decided to throw Colborne in because he matches the same criteria) – it’s that Colborne is older and the Flames have younger, better guys that are probably going to push him out sooner rather than later.

      • MontanaMan

        A 25 year old player, drafted in the first round with an up and down career to date and you started “disliking him in the last few months?” How is that an assessment of a hockey player who’s played the game for more than 20 years? Pretty irresponsible to start basing your opinion on a player in the past few months. I’m one who thinks we should stick with the project and see where it goes.

        • Ari Yanover


          I’ve started disliking him over the past few months because after years of actually loving him and wanting him on my team I watched him more and more, looked at the numbers more and more, and as time passed he was not showing any improvement whatsoever, nor any real reason to justify my previous liking of him.

          Opinions are ever-evolving based on new information. Maintaining my initial assessment of Colborne in spite of all accumulating evidence would be “irresponsible”.

          • Burnward

            Colborne is a better skater, more physical and stronger than he was a year ago. Took some dumb penalties against Anaheim but they were probably going to need a miracle in that one.

            He also played with a bum wrist all season. There’s no need to rush to judgment on him, I think. Still a work in progress.

            Next year will be very telling but I personally like how he was trending this season.

            Monahan is an unquestioned stud.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Colborne has been playing with a bum wrist for his entire pro career.

            I think that’s part of the reason the Leafs were willing to let him go for a bag of pucks. They considered him damaged goods.

            That, and the fact that although he improves every year, his improvement is (as described here) generally slow and modest.

          • Burnward

            It was his skating that really blew me away in the playoffs. There were times where he would wheel and just pull away from guys.

            He’s got such a good skill set that I’d want to give him two more years before cutting bait. Upside is still there methinks.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            You “looked at the numbers more and more”.
            Hockey is not a bank, it is a game of flow, not flow charts.
            Colborne is a skilled player who if he was put with other “possession” players would have better “numbers” to your liking. The point is most of us look at the game with our eyes, not our spread sheets. “F you Billy Beane!”

          • Ari Yanover

            You did a pretty good job completely ignoring the part where I said “I watched him more and more”.

            By the way, one of his most common forward partners was Josh Jooris, who was one of the best Flames possession-wise, so, no.

  • beloch

    Most players peak around 25 or 26, and their development has usually slowed down before that point. Colborne started the season at 24 and finished at 25. He’s close to his peak. Monahan started the season at 20. He’s still developing very quickly.

    No surprises here, except perhaps how awesome Monahan was this season. I can’t wait to see what he does next season!

  • T&A4Flames

    I like Colborne; I think his game is progressing. The playoffs was a pretty decent break out for him. He started using his size more and more as the PO’s went on. It was a bit of a steal with a 4th rnd pick. I wouldn’t mind keeping him as a 3rd liner, but I think other teams will still see pretty good value in the kid. I would use him as carrot to dangle in front of a team up against the cap. Top 6 potential still remains and his next contract should come in quite low. If we could move him as part of a package to take on a bad contract and grab a legit top 6 like say, Toffoli and Richards. I would do it. Not saying LA would but he could be a good piece to offer in a similar opportunity. Could LA really afford to say no to something that frees up cash and still gives them some young, decent pieces? They’re already against it and Kopitar’s new contract looming.

    • Willi P

      Too many centres, would just make the problem worse in the year after next. An almost 6M 3rd line C, and 3M+ fourth line C. What about Backlund? Where do they play Bennett? If they take on a bad contract, it should be on D or RW.

  • Ari Yanover

    To clarify: the original idea for this piece was to talk about Monahan’s progression from rookie to sophomore. I went through the roster, realized Colborne was the only other sophomore, and decided to throw him in, too. wot96 is right – my ultimate point was Monahan made amazing progression, while Colborne didn’t really improve at all.

    Abd Kevin R – you don’t know I’ve never liked Colborne, because that’s factually incorrect. I wanted him back when Boston had him; I was excited when the Flames got him; I was happily talking about him with Leafs fan friends a year ago. It’s only very recently – a few months – since I’ve stopped liking him. Chill. Believe it or not, I’m not into writing hit pieces. I don’t hate players for no reason.

    Without knowledge of the future, I’d absolutely do the trade for Colborne again. It was a really great one at the time. Knowing what I know about him now, I wouldn’t. Colborne ended the season in a top six role without showing any indication if being a top six player and better, younger players are going to be pushing him out of the lineup soon enough.

  • Ari Yanover

    In all fairness, you started not liking his game when you first started writing on Flames Nation. My assumptions are based on what I have read from you these last few months.

    Again & not what Wolf says, Im not offended by it, but why are we comparing progression of two entirely different players, different ages other than they have both been playing at the NHL level for the same time.
    Kid in Ottawa that really never bloomed until his mid twenties last year.
    If you compare Colborne to competing with Bouma & Jooris for 1 position, I get that. My expectations of these players is pretty close.
    Appreciate your clarification on where you stand on Colborne.

  • Ari Yanover

    Probably shouldn’t use the word “never”, then. (I realize I am being a touch snippy here and I do apologize for it!)

    We’re comparing them because they’re the only second-year players on the Flames. Bouma is a third-year. Jooris is a rookie. I was writing specifically from a frame of “what did they learn over their first year and apply to their second?” Bouma and Jooris don’t apply.

    End game: Monahan progressed, Colborne didn’t. That’s all I was saying.

  • RedMan

    good comparison, thanks Arii

    we have definitely seen some improvements in Joe’s game – including his strength on the boards. I a willing to bet the team gives him a little more leash to see how high his ceiling can go… but if he doesn’t make hay this season quickly he will definitely be replaced by a youngster.

    • Joe Flames

      I agree that he will get another look next season. He has good skills, but if he doesn’t put it all together soon, a younger, cheaper player will come along who can get 30 points on the 3-4 line, but who also has potential to get better.
      You can only wait so long for a player to develop before you have to give that roster spot to another prospect. Colbourne has been given opportunities in many different roles, but doesn’t excel in any one thing. If he doesn’t score and isn’t a faceoff specialist, penalty killer, agitator, etc, the flames will eventually give up on him.

  • JumpJet

    Can anyone explain what Monahan did differently on the ice between year one and two of his career to become a good possession player?

    Experience and maturation are involved, but did he start hanging onto the puck longer? Did he shoot from different places? Does being stronger and bulkier help in keeping possession?

    These are the things I’m really interested in, and I’m sure Joe Colborne would be too.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Colborne has all the tools to be a 1st line centre. That’s why he was drafted in the first round.

    He’s got the size, he’s got the speed, he’s got the hands, he’s got the puck possession skills, he could be a #1C if he put it together.

    But he only puts it together for a few shifts every few weeks.

    I don’t buy into the narrative people use when they say “Player X just doesn’t want to win badly enough”, or that “Player Z just isn’t trying very hard”, because at the elite athlete level this is complete nonsense 99% of the time.

    But Colborne might be part of that remaining 1%.

    It’s like night and day watching Colborne when he has a burr under his saddle. He goes from a very forgettable perimeter player, to being a force of nature. That speaks to a level of motivation that’s just not there most of the time.

    That’s not a knock on him as a person either. NHL fans get bent out of shape because they think some hockey player isn’t giving their job 100% every second of every day, enough so that they’ll complain about it from their iPhone at work while trying to shake off a hangover.

    When I get really P.O.’ed playing hockey, I have a whole different gear that I don’t normally have. Try as I might, I just can’t sustain that level of motivation every day. Most NHLers *can*, which is yet another thing that sets them apart.

    But I don’t think Colborne does.

    Which is a dang shame, because when he is on, he is ON.

  • Ari Yanover

    When Colborne went in on that shorty breakaway against Anaheim I knew, without doubt, he was going to score there. He very much has the hands and reach to get that done; it wasn’t even a question the puck was going in.

    But there’s more to the game than breakaways, is the problem.

  • Ari Yanover

    I don’t get why Arii is getting so much grief for comparing Colborne and Monohan. Monohan wasn’t drafted as a generational talent (a very good player no doubt) but doubtful most thought of him as a legit first line center after his second year in the league (I think a few teams would like a redraft with that knowledge and I think Monohan goes more than a couple spots higher). While Colborne was drafted later than Monohan, when Colborne was drafted the belief was he was going to be a top 6 power forward(same as Monohan).

    Colborne is also older and has the benefit of 3 full seasons in the AHL so I think the comparison is still fair. Also the comparison isn’t a Joe Colborne didn’t do what Monohan did so he’s trash argument, it’s a look at what each guy did and how that may relate to where the player’s career goes from here. Even with more development time before his 2nd NHL season Colborne still couldn’t hold a candle to the improvement Monohan showed between his first and second seasons and that’s what matters, not the fact that Colborne isn’t as good as Monohan, it’s that Monohan is going upwards in his development while Colborne is merely staying in place.

    I do think Bouma should have been added to the comparison though, he’s only played a quarter of a season more than Monohan and Colborne but is in the same age range as both and like the other two has only two complete seasons.

    But back to the data. I’m firmly in the trade Joe Colborne camp. He isn’t getting better than what has been seen the last two years.

    Some other data points that Arii didn’t put in his article but I think is still important. Colborne actually managed to take more minors than last year(in less games) to lead the Flames in minor penalties this year (the majority of those penalties are hooking penalties, only 1 roughing this year so it’s not him being tough, just takes a lot of penalties), Monohan also went up in Minor penalties but when he only took 4 all last year to this years 6 playing a first line center role(and more roughing minors than Colborne) I think it’s a wash. I know Arii put the CF% numbers in there but failed to show just how little Colborne is shooting, last year only 80 shots on net. This year in a top 6 role only 67 shots, not much of an improvement from last year either. Where as Monohan put 50 more shots on net this year vs last year.

    Colborne’s value is likely at it’s peak and the Flames should take full advantage of that and trade him to get that value before he loses value as other players push Colborne down the depth chart.