Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation player evaluations: Sean Monahan

Sean Monahan has been one of the most reliably productive and strongest players for the Flames in recent memory, perhaps the closest thing they’ve had to a true first line centre since Daymond Langkow. Even in a season marked by injury, inconsistency, and an awful powerplay, Monahan had a career year and shows plenty of promise headed into next season.

2017-18 season summary

Monahan held down the same role as he has had since the 2014-15 season: playing on the first line with Johnny Gaudreau, being a mainstay on the first powerplay unit, and generally trusted to score goals. And he pretty much did just that. This season was his fourth year in a row picking up 25+ goals (second 30-goal season) and 30+ assists.

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Games Played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
74 31 33 64 13:39 54.75 1.94 57.64 1.013

Monahan’s season was marked by scoring ebbs and flows. For example, he picked up 22 points in his first 20 games of the season, picking up points in all but six of those games. In the next 20, he picked up 14 points. A modest drop off, but he was held off the scoresheet in 11 of those games. The next 20 saw him bounce back to a near point-per-game rate, scoring 19 points and only picking up donuts in seven of those games. He trailed off to nine points in his last 14 games of the season before he was shut down.

Part of that was due to the frustrating inconsistencies of the first line in general. Although Micheal Ferland has been one of the only RWs to work well with Monahan and Gaudreau for more than just a portion of one season, he was simply not first line calibre for the whole year. When Ferland couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain, the burden shifted to Monahan and Gaudreau, which was occasionally overwhelming. Experiments with Jaromir Jagr, Troy Brouwer, and Michael Frolik were also less than fruitful.

And it wouldn’t be an article about the 2017-18 Flames without whining about the powerplay. Despite being one of the only functioning pieces on the powerplay (most individual shots, second in points, career year in CF/60 and SF/60), Monahan finished the season with a modest 19 powerplay points. One could only imagine how high his totals would be if the powerplay was actually able to do something.

It’s also important to mention that he played those last ~20 games through injures that later required four offseason surgeries, including one wrist surgery. This was the first year since his rookie season where he missed extended time (eight games) with an injury, but he certainly could’ve missed much more. His production in spite of the injuries is pretty impressive.

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Compared to last season

Monahan had the strongest season of his career by far. Adjusted for a full season, Monahan had highs in goals, assists, and points. Had he played those last eight games, he would’ve certainly cracked the 70-point mark for the first time in his career. If he was actually fully healthy for the whole season, we can only speculate that he might’ve just hit 80. That’s pretty good.

Part of this is related to the great strides he made to become a better offensive weapon. Many of his shot attempts against/60 numbers stayed about the same (his CA/60 was 0.15 attempts better per hour from last year. An improvement technically, but not anything game changing), but he increased his CF/60 and FF/60 by about 10 attempts per hour. His SF/60 also went up by about five shots per hour, which meant about one goal per hour more than last season.

This season, Monahan enjoyed a 4% bump in CF%, even with a slight reduction in offensive zone starts. This trend carried over through many of his other fancy stats. He was finally a 50%+ player in fenwick for%, shots for%, and high danger scoring chances for%. He was a net positive relative to his teammates for every category besides HDCF%.

All around, Monahan took a big step forward this season that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved. If the Flames didn’t sputter to the end, he probably would’ve been given some more recognition.

What about next season?

He gets a lot of flak, but Glen Gulutzan’s work with Monahan has been very underappreciated. Under his regime, Monahan has had two strong seasons of development, becoming more of an offensive weapon that can hang with some of the bigger names in the NHL.

Hopefully this can continue to be developed under Bill Peters, another coach who emphasizes structure and defensive responsibility. Monahan already had tremendous value as an offensive centre, but if he can further round out his game to also be responsible in all three zones of the ice, he can truly become one of the game’s best. The powerplay hopefully improving will also boost those numbers.

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Brad Treliving’s moves will also be key for Monahan. If the Flames can bring in an actual top six right winger during the summer, he’s only adding fuel to the fire. The potential in the Monahan and Gaudreau unit that has yet to be uncovered thanks to a rotating cast of below grade right wingers is too much to ignore.

#5 – Mark Giordano #7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart #10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund #13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass #18 – Matt Stajan
#19 – Matthew Tkachuk #20 – Curtis Lazar
#21 – Garnet Hathaway

  • Squishin

    Even after 4 seasons, I get the feeling that we still don’t know fully who this player is. We know he can shoot and score well. Other than that, he seems to be average in a lot of areas (faceoffs, playmaking, D-zone play), and below average in terms of skating and speed. If he can pull these other areas of his game further towards the “elite” category, I get a feeling we’ll see an explosion in his production.

    • Bringthetrashes 2.0

      I would liken Mony more to Jamie Benn. Ovie is flashy, larger than life personality, physical, and found weekly on the highlight reel. Mony is steady, silent, and takes advantage of opportunities by being in the right place at the right time. I do love how his stats improve yearly but some of those points are largely in part to whom is on his wing. Glad he is locked up for a decent term and hope he keeps improving because he is definitely a keeper.

  • Flamesforever

    Wouldn’t shock me to see him score 40 next year.. that is “if” BP can fix our PP and BT acquires a top 6 winger to slot in with Gaudreau and Monahan.

  • freethe flames

    Bear BT and BP: Don’t fix what is not broken. This team needs an overhaul; an examination of what is right with team and what is wrong with this team. We have all been saying that we need a top RHS to play with Johnny and Monny. I am going to start with the assumption that the first line even with Ferland on it was not the reason we missed the playoffs; after all they scored over 70 goals last season. Nor can we blame the lack of success on Tkachuk he had over 20 as well; the problem was below that a lack of secondary scoring from the next 9. If you can’t get a true RHS to play with Johnny and Monny fix the other problems. I suspect that most of us can agree that Johnny, Monny, and Tkachuk are all high end forwards but after that things drop significantly.

    So in looking at the rest of the squad he is how I access what we have left; the next tier of forwards are Backs, Ferland, Bennett and Janko and quite frankly I have no problem with them being part of the building blocks going forward. That leaves us with 7 forwards and quite frankly that means we are 7 forwards short of the normal 14 a team carries. Of the remaining forwards who played on a regular basis you could make a case for both Frolik(past history and the facct that BP has said he likes him) and Lazar as possible guys who fill 2 of the spots but they could be on from. If you can trade them for other assets now might be the time to move on. That leaves Brouwer who IMO must be moved whether it be a buy out, as a bury in the AHL or a trade an pay half of his salary he has IMO proven his worth. There is no need to look at any of your pending UFA’s a none of them are good enough. I’m still at needing 7 forwards to make this team truly competitive.

    So where else to look; start within. Both Mangiapane and Foo are your top AHL prospects; give them a chance at camp to earn a spot on the team but make them have to earn it. After that you have 3 forwards turning pro this year who hopefully can help push the envelope(Dube, Phillips, Gawdin) but to expect any of them to make it is very optimistic. Then you have the long shot AHL guys like Poirier, Shinkaruk and Klimchuk all of whom need to really impress to be in the conversation. If out of these 8 guys you get two that can earn a job this year you should be happy. That takes the need down to 5 positions.

    Where and how do you find these 5 spots? What are your needs? I would argue you need depth at center and some RHS that can play in different positions in the bottom 9. Here are the top 4 UFA’s that are RHS that play center and I would suggest you could use 2 of them. Beagle, Ryan, Brodziak and Riley Nash; none of them are long term solutions but all them would be upgrades over what you have and would buy time for the development of your young prospects. The first 3 are all good face off guys; something BP values. I would look to sign them for 1 or 2 year contracts at somewhere between $2 and $2.5m. That would still allow you to go after some additional forward depth.

    Next you have to explore some solid middle 6 forwards guys who have proven they can score between 25-40 points in the NHL; they can be acquired via free agency, trade or even dare I say it “offer sheets”. Here are guys who I would try and acquire; Fast(NYR), Rust (PP), Armani (Jets), Rittchie or Kase (Ducks),Wilson (Caps) to name a few. Other than Fast the others are RFA’s and I think their teams may have difficulty signing them because of cap issues. I think Fast might be available because of the lack of depth NY has on D and the amount of forwards they have. I mentioned “offer sheets” and I know that makes many people cringe because of the near disaster that Feaster had with RoR; but none of these guys are in that kind of category. You can offer sheet a player up to $1.339 m without losing any draft picks; for all of these guys that would be a significant pay raise, you can go up to $2.029 m and all it would cost you is a 3rd. I would take any of these guys I listed for a 3rd round pick any day.(and pay the $2m for a period of time) A second round pick allows you to go to just slightly over $4m although I would not pay any of these guys that kind of cash.
    If somehow these things could happen this team would be better. I look at the VGK and see a team that gets it down and they are made up of mostly guys who were considered middle 6 or lower players on this team.

    I think all of these things can be done w/o cap issues. Currently the Flames have $12.5 m; buy out Brouwer and you are up to $15.5m and if you move Stone and Brodie it’s another $8m although I know you bring cap space in if it becomes a player for player deal. This would still allow you to consider adding an insurance policy in net (Hutton/Pickard/Bernier) and a 7th D.

      • rusty_shakleforde

        I also think its important to mention that Ferland was ultimately pretty decent on the first line–he’s been the best fit in recent memory, at least best fit this year, and reached career high goals. He had some freaking amazing plays this year too, and showed some real upside. He struggled with injuries last half of the season just like Monahan. And like you said, the first line is the least of our concerns. A scoring second line is where we need to focus.

      • freethe flames

        I am happy to respond to your questions about Backs and Janko; both would still be at center and if I had it my way I would get Ryan and Beagle(jobu this in response to your not wanting Brodziak-the reason I listed 4 RHC). Beagle would likely be the 4th center and Ryan on a wing with either Janko or Backs many centers also play the wings. There can never be to many guys who can take face offs effectively. I also agree that there would be nothing wrong with leaving Ferland with Johnny/Monny and have Tkachuk with say Janko. As for me including Wilson I was listing all the guys who make sense; yes he is a long shot but he could be the guy for TJ instead of Fast and that might be doable. Again my primary reason for doing this was to suggest there is an alternative to the we must find a star player and also to encourage discussion about what the Flames need to do. I am sure I missed some very good LW and LHC that could help this team but I wanted to focus on what I see as a glaring weakness. (How many times have we been told draft the BPA and trade for need? Yet what has been a glaring need has gone unaddressed)

    • calgaryfan

      Good read, agree the forward depth needs to be addressed and a good backup is required. Too risky to start the season with Rittich or Gillies. The Vegas team proves you can win with depth.

    • Jobu

      No way Wilson is let go by the Capitals. I do agree that you might be able to swing a deal for one of Winnipegs bottom 6 once they hit their RFA and cap issues, but it wont be for free – others will likey be able to offer more.

      Also, RFA offersheets burn GM bridges. Calgary has few enough trading partners as it is. Lets not make more enemies than we already have.

      • freethe flames

        You may not have to offer sheet on all these guys there may be deals to be done and some of the teams may need to let a guy go b/c of their own cap issues.

  • Jobu

    Watching Scheiffle this post season reminds me a lot of Monahan. Quick trigger, accurate shot, good at getting open in the scoring areas. The only difference is Scheiffle is more noticable in other ends of the ice, especially the nuetral zone. Monahan relies WAY too much on Johnny hockey to gain the zone and get him the puck for a scoring chance. If Monahan develops some speed and learns how to carry the puck into the zone himself, he can create a forecheck and scoring chances for others – sky is the limit.

    If he can figure out this part of his game, then the sky is the limit.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      Yes!! He needs to take charge, he needs to be that dominant first line C he totally can be. Hopefully the surgeries and a good off-season help 🙂

      • calgaryfan

        It would be a great if Monahan improved his skating, that is the biggest difference between him and players like Scheiffle. Holds him back from being an elite center.

    • Kevin R

      Disagree Jobu. Brett Hull wasnt any kind speedster or dangled around the ice. He just had a knack to getting open & when he got the chance his rocket shot was in the net. Monahan reminds me of Hull. What we need is someone who can dangle on the right side. But then, we just load up 1 line & teams focus on that. Ferland was fine on that line. We need to create a 2nd lethal offensive line that Tkachuk is a big part of. Backlund & Frolik are not it & to me, moving Backlund & Frolik down to the 3rd line address your scoring depth & we have lots of candidates to slot on that 3rd line & experiment with. Janko isnt ready to be that 2nd line weapon yet. & Bennett hasnt established himself as a top 6 centre yet either but I think he can play wing. But target a big name player to match up with Tkachuk & build off those 3 pairs of lines. Dont care who they get Tavares, RoR, gun after Granlund on Minny or Zibby on the Rangers. The price will be huge & cost us one of our plum D prospects, my guess Fox but that is what I would look at if you are in win now country.

        • Kevin R

          Different shot but multi 30 goal seasons at his age says he has some talent as a goal scorer. Mike Bossy wasnt fast either & didnt have a Brett Hall shot but he scored a lot of goals. If he skated like McDavid he would have been 1st over all. Glad he’s a Flame.

          • Jobu

            Sorry Kev. Hull was from a bygone era were you didn’t need speed to play the game and superstars got 90 point a year or more. It’s like comparing McDavid to Gretzky.

          • Kevin R

            Point noted, but style once in the offensive zone is very similar. Perhaps the new era coaches should go back reviewing archive tapes of what the high scoring teams did back then seeing players had to fight through the clutch & grab era & still pile up the points.

      • freethe flames

        Yesterday I suggested that it might take Brodie and Fox to get Zibby from the Rangers; if you can get him from the Rangers for Fox alone you are one shrewd dealer. Again although my earlier article was on building from the bottom up I would not be opposed to getting another top 6.

          • freethe flames

            If we could get Zibby and a late round 1st rounder or the Rangers own second rounder for TJ and Brodie and then sign Beagle and or Ryan, then add one of the other RHS I mentioned above the rest of the forward ranks could be filled from within. This type of trade makes sense for both teams; the Rangers upgrade their D right now and add a piece for the future, the Flames fill a serious need RHS at an affordable cap hit and get back a needed draft pick. In many ways I would prefer this to adding RoR as he is both more expensive and a LHS. (yes I know he has the intangibles)

          • Kevin R

            Definitely a reasonable trade scenario & something I hope we are seriously considering.
            I was goofing around thinking RoR & Risto for Dougie Hamilton, thinking no way they(Buff) do that. But, really is it that far off.

            But with the Rangers, yeah, Fox would definitely be their target. Can we afford to part with Fox with Andersson, Valamaki & Kylington in the pipeline & literally all of them knocking on the door? Fun to speculate.

          • Baalzamon

            Ristolainen is what people accuse Hamilton of being. A liability everywhere except the powerplay. I think Buffalo is more amenable to moving him than you might think.

          • Baalzamon

            Zibanejad yes. Hayes no.

            Hayes is one of those players people constantly think is better than he is because he’s big. Tom Wilson’s another. Nick Ritchie.

            It isn’t that Hayes is bad, just that he’s… very not great. Mediocre. Unremarkable.

            But at least he’s nine feet tall and weighs forty stone, right?

  • Franko J

    Great shot between the circles. Otherwise, the rest of his game needs improvement. It was commendable he played through some injuries, however going forward I think this will be the third off season where he has to rehab injuries and I’m concerned with him being injury prone going forward. Right now him and Gaudreau have some chemistry and is the Flames only viable option as close to as a “first line” centre.