Calgary Flames forwards Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan are respected NHL veterans. Monahan serves as an alternate captain, while Lucic has found a strong locker room role (without a letter) since arriving from Edmonton in 2019.
While they’ve slid to the fourth line this season, both remain important role players for the Flames. But they’ve struggled lately, and with the Flames carrying extra forwards, it might be time for them to occasionally be scratched to maximize their usefulness for the post-season.
Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s unfair to really blame Lucic or Monahan for how their seasons have gone. They’ve both played a lot of hockey in their NHL careers, and they’ve both paid the price for their playing styles.
Lucic was a picturesque power forward back in the day, winning a Stanley Cup in 2011 while serving as a proverbial wrecking ball. But crashing and banging is not easy on the human body, and he’s noticeably slowed down this season. The same goes for Monahan, who set up shop in the slot and the area around the crease as a young forward and has paid the price for the more than 200 goals he’s scored for the Flames. He’s had multiple surgeries all over his body, and he’s also slowed down this season as a result.
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Lucic and Monahan have been joined at the hip on the fourth line for awhile, joined by a rotating cast of characters. They’ve also failed to really generate much offensively, with their line typically being the weakest-performing trio during games. By most metrics, they’re among the players with the worst scoring rates and possession rates on the team. They have been frequently out-scored when on the ice together this season, and the duo has combined for just one point over their last 14 games.
That said, they’re both savvy veterans. Monahan has scored key goals at key times for the Flames, including in the post-season. Lucic has a Stanley Cup ring and has more playoff experience than anybody else on the hockey club. But neither player has been effective of late, and it might be useful to give one (or both) of these guys a reset for a game or two. It just so happens that the Flames have a pair of extra forwards on the roster in the form of Ryan Carpenter and Brett Ritchie who could spell off Lucic and/or Monahan.
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Nobody’s saying that Lucic or Monahan are completely washed up. They still have on-ice value, but the way they’re playing right now isn’t conducive to the on-ice success of the Flames. With the playoffs approaching, it’s essentially that the Flames get as much value as they can out of these players. Similarly, even the most black-hearted person likely has some affection for Monahan – a longtime Flame who’s grown as the team emerged from the rebuild – and Lucic – a refugee from the Edmonton Oilers organization who’s found a role and success in Calgary. Wouldn’t it be great if the Flames could reward these two veterans with a playoff run worthy of the history books?
The Flames are going to need Lucic and Monahan at their best if they’re going to be playing deep into May and June, like they hope to be doing. But right now, they’re not nearly at their best. Spending occasional games in the press box over the team’s final 19 regular season dates will keep them fresh, help them reset, and help the team (and the players) maximize the competitive window the Flames find themselves within.
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