WWYD Wednesday: Deploying Sean Monahan

For a brief stint after Johnny Gaudreau was hurt, it looked like Sean Monahan was finding his game on a new line with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer. 

Last week in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Monahan played over 19 minutes, scored two points and was one of the Flames’ better skaters on the night. Maybe the 22-year-old had finally shaken the malaise that had infected his play since the start of the season?

Unfortunately the young centre followed that performance with a pair of simply putrid games on the road against the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. His line was the worst for the Flames on both evenings. In fact, it’s arguable Monahan and Troy Brouwer were two of the main reasons the Flames lost the game in Buffalo. 

So another two steps back for the kid. His struggles this year remain ongoing and apparent: his one goal versus the Hawks last week is his only marker in his last 12 games (and his only goal of November). It was an intended pass that deflected in off a defender.

Glen Gulutzan has resorted to hyper-sheltering his highest paid centre, feeding Monahan the most offensive zone starts of any pivot on the team. In Buffalo, Monahan’s ice time fell to under 14 minutes, his least since he was a rookie. Although he has always been given the high ground to some degree, Monahan hasn’t been treated with these kinds of kid gloves since his first few months in the league. 

It’s a worrying and staggering regression for a guy who was expected to be one of the club’s premier players this season. 

So what should the coaching staff do? There are a few options:

1.) Move Monahan down the rotation and play him in a third or fourth line role. This would take him out of high leverage situations and play him against the opposition’s less dangerous players.

2.) Move Monahan to the wing where he can simplify his game and concentrate more on offense than developing a complete game. 

3.) Continue to play him as one of the team’s top centres, hoping he eventually plays his way out of the slump.

4.) Scratch him for a game or two (or more, if there is a lingering injury concern).

The first option is my preference. It keeps Monahan on the ice, but puts him into a position to work out his issues while being less central to the team’s on-ice success for now. 

Here’s what it could look like:

  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik (Hardest matchups)
  • Ferland – Bennett – Brouwer (vs second lines)
  • Shinkaruk – Monahan – Versteeg/Chiasson (vs third lines, offensive zone draws)
  • Hamilton – Stajan – Hathaway (only defensive zone draws)

I’d restrict Monahan to 12-13 minutes of ES ice and some PP time. From a coaching perspective, concentrate on his play in all three zones, but particularly in the neutral and defensive zone, where he has looked tentative and lost for most of the season. Feed him circumstances and opposition where he can actively work on this stuff, but isn’t required to face off against the other team’s best.

I’d at least try this before moving on to any of the other options, which stake me as either indefensible (continue to play him the same way) or more extreme (move him to wing or scratch him). 

But maybe we’re past this and more extreme measures are required. Calgary is a quarter of the way through the year and their newly signed $6.375M top line C is still mostly playing like he’s fresh out of junior. Maybe he simply needs to play his way out of it, or maybe more active coaching, teaching and ice time management are required to get him over the hump.

The one thing that is certain is that the Flames need to get Monahan turned around for long-term considerations. Not only has Brad Treliving opted to build around Monahan as a cornerstone player, but his seven-year, $45M deal becomes an insidious boat anchor of a deal if he can’t get back to a 60+ point forward.

So what would you do with Sean Monahan? Bump him, scratch him, move him to the wing or leave him alone?  

  • brodiegio4life

    right now GG is doing the worst thing which is nothing. The backlund line should be deployed as the first line, give monahan some easier minutes to get his game going.

  • Petzl

    3rd line with PP time, to see if he still struggles against the scrubs on other teams. I think Steeg + Ferland would be a good fit with him, let him play a higher energy role see if he can pick up some of that effort level.

  • Parallex

    If he’s playing hurt I’d sit him until he’s 100%, If he’s not I’d press box him for a game and then move him down the rotation as suggested (I’d also have him start killing penalties on the 2nd PK unit and bump him down to PP2).

    Frankly, he’s not earning his icetime. So I’d bump him down and tell him that if he wants his spot back he has to take it because it’s not being given to him anymore.

  • RKD

    Gaudreau was working himself out of his funk, got into a groove and then got injured. I’m not seeing anything from Monahan which is concerning. He has to work his way out of it but if he can’t maybe a healthy scratch is the best option. That won’t be easy but if that wakes his game up then I’m all for it. Some have suggested it’s a personal off-ice stuff if that were true I think the team would have granted him a leave. Some say it’s an injury, but then he shouldn’t be cleared to play. To those giving up on him, give your head a shake. He’s been the one of the most dominant players from his draft class. Guys like Monahan don’t just fall off a cliff, I hope for his sake and ours he hasn’t plateaued.

    • Parallex

      I dunno man… if you look at every game and ask “Which line was garbage tonight?” I think you’d be hard pressed to find many nights where the answer wasn’t “The line that had Monahan on it”.

      Something is up with him… he doesn’t look right.

  • snotss

    monny is playing like….. “roman turik” remember him?????? singed a big contract after a couple of good seasons and then fell off the face of the earth!!!!! like RKD said I hope he hasn’t plateaued……hikes

  • Derzie

    I’m spending next to zero though on player performance until we have a proper coaching system. It does not utilize skill players at all. Grinding possession system that make defensive skill mandatory and offensive skill optional. The opposite of Monahan, basically.

    • I don’t really see the problem as systemic. Monahan, by eye, is playing bad hockey. He loses puck battles, can’t get shots through in the offensive zone, loses possession in the neutral zone. He’s simply ineffective all over the ice.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Every single cup winner for over a decade has been a top possession team through the regular and playoff seasons. Winning is exciting. Winning with the puck on your stick for the majority of all your games is really fun.

      Unless you consider blocking shots a fun style of play, I don’t understand your assertion.

  • Jakethesnail

    This team needs an experienced coach. They sit 30th in team defense and 29th and 30th in pk and pp. I’m pretty sure after 20 games professional players have a grasp of what his system is and it’s not working. Time to get a coach in here who can give this team what it needs.
    That’s how you fix Monahan!

    • Stan

      I’m so sick and tired of people complaining about GG. He is not the issue and the solution isn’t to keep hiring and firing coaches like the inept Oilers did for the better part of a decade. We’ve seen how well the system works when it’s employed properly, it’s the players that have been inconsistent. At least that’s what sunk them at the beginning of the season, now its moreso special teams that is sinking them.

      Fix the special teams and this team is competing for a playoff spot. That might mean firing Cameron, but i still think it’s more about the percentages and the players executing.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    @ Kent Wilson… Could you Please take Dave Cameron’s spot on the Bench! Maybe Dave would like to asst coach the Adirondack Thunder?(sorry Thunder)… Go Flames (Not holding my breath on tonight’s game as the Blue Jackets are on a major upswing) And Go Stockton!(as they are on a 3 game winning streak)

  • Parallex

    Gulutzan isn’t a perfect coach (in fact some of his blindspots regarding line-up construction are facepalm worthy)… but I’ve seen enough of the team at even strength to say that he’s good enough. Cameron & Jerrard on the other hand, the sooner we get rid of them the better.

  • Arminius

    Everyone is panicked about Monahan. He just turned 22 a month has ago. All he needs is a slumpbuster.

    If it was good enough for Phil Esposito in the 70s and 80s who are we to argue

  • DoubleDIon

    Monahan just looks lazy to me honestly. He’s never been a great skater, but he used to get involved more. Looks like a bigger version of Eberle. He still has the best release on the team but that’s all he’s been good for lately. His two way play is atrocious and that’s totally on him. I’ve never felt he could generate play, he relies on Gaudreau for that. Bennett should help him somewhat as he can generate some things.

  • everton fc

    “This”:

    Here’s what it could look like:

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik (Hardest matchups)
    Ferland – Bennett – Brouwer (vs second lines)
    Shinkaruk – Monahan – Versteeg/Chiasson (vs third lines, offensive zone draws)
    Hamilton – Stajan – Hathaway (only defensive zone draws)

    I posted a similar scenario on another thread earlier in the week. Monahan’s play warrants third line minutes. Only changes I’d make to the above:

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik

    Ferland – Bennett – Brouwer

    Versteeg – Monahan – Hathaway

    Shinkaruk – Stajan – Hamilton

    I’d sit Chiasson

  • Derian Hatcher

    Oiler fan here…Pull a George Costanza and DO THE OPPOSITE of what the Oilers did over the last 10 years.

    – Do not rush kids with either ice time or expectations. Let them learn the pro game at the NHL or AHL level withour the burden of expectations. I know Monahan is 22 – but he’s still young…he’ll be OK.

    – Do not change coaches every half-season…It doesn’t work

    – DO NOT hire Dallas Eakins or similar type coach who thinks he is smarter than everyone. Humility is a good thing.

    – The flames have some good framework players…I think BT is a good GM…be patient and we’ll have great BOA games.

    Sorry…not trying to lecture…hang in there.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Excellent comment!

      What’s been very evident lately is the number of Oiler fans pouring fuel on the GG hate fire. The very people who saw the Oilers make the aforementioned mistakes are now advocating for the Flames to repeat those missteps. Think hard – their here to troll. Stop being trolled and stop panicking.

      I’ve said from the beginning that I gave Hartley 82 games, I’ll give Gulutzan the same.

      • wot96

        And moreover, when the Flames play the disciplined system that Gulutzan is stressing, they do well. They don’t necessarily win, but they compete. Their undoing is not the 5v5 system, it’s their very special special teams.

  • redwhiteblack

    How little Monahan is contributing is baffling. I think he is the biggest performance concern this team has at present. The longer it continues the questions will get louder. Great players are still consistently good under any system.

    He would not be the first young man to get into bad habits after a big pay day. I hope he is alright and not spinning down a hole we do not know about. I feel something is off. Hopefully he scores a nice one tonight and we talk about how good he is again soon.

  • wot96

    On the actual point of WWYD – I would move Monahan to the wing, and I would even try him on RW, especially on the PP.

    I don’t know if he is injured or just isn’t used to the extra weight yet. Whatever his actual problem, he isn’t driving play and he is a hazard defensively. So put him somewhere that he doesn’t have to drive play, minimizes his defensive responsibilities, and where he can find some room for his shot.

    • Dan the flames fan

      I agree with questioning if his added weight hasn’t made it more difficult. I know with myself that adding ten or twenty pounds really throws off everything, including speed and reflexes.

      It very well may be a combination of both.

      I would be curious to see what a line of Gaudreau-Jankowski-Monahan would look like. With all the reports coming from the minors, the one issue that Jankowski doesn’t suffer is Ozone entry. This would allow JH a secondary entry and two good targets to make plays. It might also solve our RW issue. If SM has to have the added weight let’s use it where it would do the most good.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Guys who are getting their knickers in a knot over the struggles of Sean Monahan have way too much idle time to be thinking about this and/or they are the jittery type.

    Chill. Sean will be fwine.

    • wot96

      You might be right.

      But doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Between the power play, the penalty kill, and moving Sean Monahan, the latter is probably the low hanging fruit.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        The kid needs to work his way out of his funk. Could take several more games, maybe it will be a lost season. Just don’t sell the kid short. He is a keeper who has just hit hard times.