Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan is up for a major NHL award for the first time in his career, but his focus in Las Vegas is anywhere but on himself. Monahan is a finalist for the Lady Byng alongside Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and St. Louis’s Ryan O’Reilly, but he’s far more interested in what happens to his teammate. Calgary’s Mark Giordano is up for the Norris Trophy and Mark Messier Award, and it won’t surprise Monahan if he wins both on Wednesday.
“That’s even cooler than me being here for an award,” Monahan told me poolside on Tuesday. “I’ve known Gio for six years now and I’m basically with him 365 days a year. To see what he’s done and made out of his career, it’s pretty special.”
Most are expecting Giordano to become the first Flames blueliner to take home the Norris, myself included. Giordano combined the ability to play tough shutdown minutes with driving offence and possession better than any other NHL defenceman in 2018-19. When you consider that with the fact Giordano has never won a Norris, the circumstances really add up. Monahan tends to agree.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “He’s a complete defenceman, he had a great year with points, but he plays the game hard. If you ask anyone throughout the league, he’s tough to play against. He blocks shots, he’s physical, and he plays a real important role for our team. He was a huge factor why, I think, we finished first in the West.”
It’s no stretch to think Giordano could return from Vegas with multiple awards; he’s up for the Messier Award alongside Carolina’s Justin Williams and Wayne Simmonds of the Predators. While choosing the NHL’s top leader is anything but a science, seeing Giordano get the nod wouldn’t be a surprise knowing what he has meant to the Flames over the last six years.
“You look at him and he’s a leader on and off the ice,” Monahan said. “He puts the work in, so I think that’s another one he could be a shoo-in for. He’s a special player and obviously a special person, so I think these are two awards he definitely deserves.”
The countdown is on
Monahan has stiff competition for the Lady Byng in Barkov and O’Reilly, with the former getting the most buzz as favourite. Both O’Reilly and Monahan are coming off career years, but Barkov dwarfed them both statistically.
But while being a first time award finalist is an honour for Monahan, it isn’t making up for a disappointing finish to Calgary’s season.
“I mean, it was a good year points-wise and what not, but when you look back on the season the only thing that sticks out is playoffs. This is an important summer for our whole team, and especially myself. You have to get faster, and we know what we have to do now. This is a real important time for our team and this summer is going to go a long way.”
It sure does sound like Monahan is taking those words to heart. The Flames, and specifically his line, were badly outmatched by the Colorado Avalanche in five playoff games. The lopsided nature of that series is still fresh in Monahan’s mind two months later.
“Everybody has to take a step. I think as a team, we’re a good team, but the league is getting quicker every year. For me personally, that’s my goal is to get more explosive and I think that kind of stuff will go a long way. I’ve been working on that all summer.
“This is my first summer (where) I kind of got to train properly from the start. I’m trying to take advantage of that as much as I can. You look back…three summers I’ve had injuries and a ton of surgeries. I’ve got to take it as a positive, honestly, and like I said, my goal is to become a different player next year.”
Whether Monahan wins the Lady Byng Wednesday night or not, it’s clear what’s on his mind in Vegas. Sharing what should be a special night for Giordano is a nice summer diversion ahead of a crucial 2019-20 campaign.