How much does Sean Monahan’s production depend on Johnny Gaudreau?

When we do our regular mailbag feature, we get lots of questions. Some questions can be answered quickly, while others are worth diving into in some detail.

This week, we got a really interesting question worth diving into.

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The short answer is “it’s complicated, but a lot of it.”

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau have been teammates since 2014-15 and have been playing on the same line together basically since that season. Their third linemate has rotated – Jiri Hudler in 2014-16, Alex Chiasson in 2016-17, Micheal Ferland in 2016-18, and Elias Lindholm in 2018-20 – but their pairing has been a constant. They’ve played together in 453 games since Gaudreau’s NHL debut at the tail-end of 2013-14.

Since Gaudreau’s debut, Gaudreau has 150 goals and 294 assists – he’s 10th in scoring in that span – with 117 even strength goals and 200 assists. Monahan has 172 goals and 205 assists – 29th in the NHL in scoring – with 116 even strength goals and 144 assists. The duo accounts for a big chunk of the Flames’ offensive output in that span.

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Monahan had assists on 54 Gaudreau even strength goals (that’s 46.2% of those) and 16 Gaudreau power play goals (that’s 48.5%). Monahan had 48 primary assists on Gaudreau goals in all situations. Gaudreau had assists on 71 Monahan even strength goals (that’s 61.2%) and 29 Monahan power play goals (that’s 53.7%). Gaudreau had 66 primary assists on Monahan goals in all situations. In other words, Monahan is arguably more dependent on Gaudreau set-ups than Gaudreau is on Monahan set-ups.

All-told, the duo has been on the ice for 304 even strength goals, scoring on 10.5% of even strength shots.

Now, broadly-speaking, the scoring line data matches up with the observations of such folks as Corey Sznajder (whose All Three Zones project tracked zone entries). Gaudreau has been during his Flames career easily the team’s most effective player at gaining entry into the offensive zone with puck possession – Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett also fared well in recent seasons. So if you’re arguing that Monahan benefits from Gaudreau whizzing into the offensive zone and feeding him the puck in the slot, that’s definitely the case. Gaudreau is absolutely elite at gaining the zone and passing to Monahan and the date bears that out.

But, let’s not discount the Monahan of it all. Since 2014-15, 97 NHL players have taken 1,000 or more shots. In that span, of those 97 players, Monahan is eighth in shooting percentage – only Mark Scheifele, Steven Stamkos, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid shoot at that volume and score on more of their shots than Monahan does. In other words, Gaudreau is an elite puck carrier but Monahan is an elite finisher, too.

Gaudreau gets the puck into the zone and gets Monahan the puck in prime scoring areas. But Monahan is far better than the average NHLer (and even better than all but the league’s best snipers) at burying those chances in the prime scoring areas.