In his final year of college hockey, Johnny Gaudreau led his team in scoring by 15 points over just 40 games. The second and third best scorers for Boston College were his regular line mates Kevin Hayes (65) and Bill Arnold (53). The best point total managed by a “non-Gaudreau” player was Patrick Brown (30).
This situation is playing itself out again in the NHL with the Flames. Gaudreau currently has a team-best 39 points. Second and third on the team are Sean Monahan (25) and Jiri Hudler (20). At this pace, Gaudreau could lead the Flames by 30+ points by the end of the year.
Gaudreau’s offensive potency is relevant in a discussion of Sean Monahan because the two players have been connected at the hip since about December of 2014. Like Gaudreau, Monahan is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and as Pat Steinberg recently reminded us, he’s going to get paid.
It is therefore vital for the Flames to evaluate Sean Monahan’s individual contributions, which means: how good is Monahan without Gaudreau?
Monahan With and Without Gaudreau
Luckily there’s an easy way for us to look at this thanks to the tools at Puckalytics.com. Here’s what I found when I looked at the two players together and separately over the last two and half seasons:
That’s a lot of numbers and acronyms, but the main stuff to look at is GF% (ratio of goals for and goals against) and CF% (possession rate).
As you can see, Monahan and Gaudreau together outscore the bad guys at even strength, even though they are slightly underwater in terms of possession. That’s over about 940 minutes of ice time together.
The instructive information is below that. Alone, Monahan’s results plummet across the board: his corsi falls to 43.9% and his GF% dips well into the red at 43.7%. What’s interesting is his on-ice SH% also falls to a completely average 8.35%, whereas he is well above average when skating with Johnny (it’s possible Gaudreau is one of the very rare forwards who drives SH%. Monahan, who despite being a pretty effective sniper, may not). These results are over 1700 minutes of ice, so not an insignificant amount of time.
It’s tempting to conclude that Gaudreau and Monahan form a deadly duo and their chemistry (plus the lack of other quality options) is the reason for the large disparity between the two data sets.
Notice, however, that Gaudreau’s results are slightly better away from Monahan. Over 700+ minutes of ice time without Monahan as his centre, Gaudreau’s CF% (47.7) and GF% (54.4) both marginally improve. This reduces the possibility that the two players form a kind of symbiotic chemistry that benefits them both.
To put this in more concrete numbers: with Gaudreau, Monahan has been on the ice for 43 goals for and 39 goals against at ES (+4). Away from Gaudreau, Monahan has been outscored 76 to 59 (-17). Gaudreau away from Monahan has outscored the competition 37 to 31 (+6).
I was shocked with how stark the WOWY results are. I expected Gaudreau to have a positive effect, but not to such a large degree.
We can’t necessarily assume this solely reflects disparate skills levels. We might, for example, be able to put this down to role: away from Gaudreau, Monahan’s zone start ratio falls below 50% (47%), which means Monahan might be doing some of the dirty work when he’s not skating with Gaudreau, which would naturally suppress his output somewhat.
In addition, a big chunk of Monahan’s time away from Johhny is captured in his rookie season, which we can assume was Monahan at his weakest. That said, I isolated Monahan’s WOWY re: Gaudreau this season and it’s still abysmal:
With: GF% = 54.8, CF% = 47.6
Without: GF% = 35.7%, CF% = 39.4%
Gaudreau away from Monahan: GF% = 42.9%, CF% = 53.4%
We’re dealing with sample size issues here since Monahan has only played about 80 minutes away from Johnny this year, but the pattern more or less holds (though Johnny’s GF falls while his CF improves).
The pertinent issue here isn’t necessarily that Gaudreau improves Monahan’s results; it’s that Monahan (at least over the sample of data we currently have) gets completely beat up away from Gaudreau.
This is relevant when considering contract extensions for both guys this summer – if Monahan can’t be effective at ES unless he’s stapled to Gaudreau, it raises very serious questions about the org backing up the Brinks truck for the 21-year old. After all, there’s no guarantee that the two guys will be line mates forever.