The Calgary Flames’ rebuild could have failed without Sean Monahan

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames’ rebuild began unceremoniously on Mar. 27, 2013 when they traded Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh, but the real work began on Jun. 30, 2013 at the NHL Draft. At sixth overall, with the first of their three first-round selections, the Flames selected Sean Monahan.
On Thursday afternoon, Monahan’s tenure with the Flames ended when he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for cap space. It’s hard to overstate how important Monahan was to the Flames during his tenure.
If Monahan wasn’t as good as he was, especially early on, Flames’ history probably looks a lot different. A product of the Ottawa 67’s, he came into Flames camp amidst then-Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke proclaiming how much he didn’t like having junior-aged players on his clubs. Monahan, mature beyond his years both physically and mentally, forced the hands of Burke and then-general manager Jay Feaster.
Sure, the Flames had a fairly shallow roster and that made it possible for a fresh-faced 19-year-old to play his way onto the team, but Monahan was superb in 2013’s camp and deserved to be there. And every time Burke or Feaster made a public or private pronouncement about what would need to happen for Monahan to remain, the forward rose to the challenge. He ended up fourth among Flames forwards in points and had carved out a niche for himself as a really reliable two-way forward who could score goals.
In the fall of 2014, Monahan was placed on a line with American college star Johnny Gaudreau, himself recently turned pro after a superb run with the NCAA’s Boston College Eagles. Monahan and Gaudreau found instant chemistry, and for the next six seasons were attached at the hip on the first line with a rotating selection of wingers – Jiri Hudler, Micheal Ferland and Elias Lindholm were their primarily wingmen.
As Monahan became entrenched as an important figure on the ice, he was also becoming an important figure off of it. In addition to being enshrined in fandom lore with the Boring Sean Monahan Twitter account – sources say that Derek Smith and Brian McGrattan, among others, were part of running the project – he was also named an alternate captain in 2015, a post he held until his departure. Seven seasons wearing an A on his chest is among the most in franchise history.

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The Flames were fortunate with Monahan. At sixth overall, he was the right pick. In his first camp, he was ready and made a push for a roster spot. By the time Brad Treliving became Flames general manager, Monahan was already a reliable NHL centre, and he cemented himself as a top-flight pivot during Treliving’s first season. That allowed Treliving to focus his attention on other things, as finding a good centre was a problem he didn’t need to solve.
Even with recent injury issues, Monahan is one of the best players in an impressive 2013 NHL Draft class. He remains third in goals and points, trailing only first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and second overall pick Aleksander Barkov in each category. He sits among Flames franchise leaders in several categories, notable game-winning goals and overtime goals.
Had circumstances been different, the Flames’ rebuild could have gone far, far worse. The Flames could’ve selected somebody else. Monahan could have had a bad camp in 2013. Heck, the Colorado Avalanche could’ve declined to match Ryan O’Reilly’s offer sheet (and the Flames would’ve given up the pick they eventually used on Monahan).
Monahan was the beneficiary of favourable circumstances in Calgary, a mature, composed young centre who came along right when the Flames desperately needed one. But he was also full marks in his role. For nine seasons, Monahan and the Flames fit like a glove, and both leave the other better for having been paired over that period of time.
We wish the best of luck to Monahan with the Canadiens.

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