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With next to nothing happening in the hockey world this month, I thought this would be as good of a time as any to profile members of the Calgary Flames.
I'll be commenting on their performances last season as well as projected role and expectations moving forward. I've profiled 10 Flames thus far, with Cam Talbot being the most recent
Today we're going to take a closer look at Sean Monahan.
78 games played, 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists), 19:03 average time on ice
2.58 points/60, -0.35 CF% Rel, -5.36 GF% Rel, -0.97 xGF% Rel, 1.003 PDO
Sean Monahan had the worst best season you'll see. For much of the year, he centered Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm on what was one of the league's most dominant lines. At 5v5, they controlled 54% of the shot attempts, 53% of the expected goals, and nearly 60%(!) of the actual goals. This while getting special attention, and facing difficult matchups, every night.
Individually, Monahan set career highs in goals, assists, points, and shots. His efficiency took off as well. The 2.58 points/60 he averaged at 5v5 was also a career high, and good for 21st in the NHL – ahead of names like Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux. That's the good-to-great.
Time for the bad. Monahan did not drive play. The Flames allowed shots, chances, and goals at a higher rate with him on the ice than without. And, too many times he went completely invisible for long stretches. From mid-to-late January on, there were three different occasions where he went five games or more without recording a 5v5 point. Making matters worse, of course, is the fact Monahan is essentially a one-use player. If he's not producing points, which he's very good at, he's not providing much value. And he stopped producing – as much, anyway – down the stretch and in the playoffs.
It got to the point where many – myself included – believed Monahan was dealing with a fairly serious injury despite the fact he constantly said otherwise. There were also questions about whether he should even remain on the top line against Colorado.
If the script was reversed, and Monahan started slowly before going on a tear, I think a lot of people would be thrilled with the season he had. On aggregate, they should be. But Monahan limping to the finish line the way he did left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths and raised lingering concerns about whether he's a No. 1 center capable of taking a team to the promise land.
Monahan was quietly one of the better primary playmakers in the NHL last year, registering 21 A1s at 5v5. That slotted him 12th in the NHL, ahead of names like Jack Eichel, Tyler Seguin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Mikko Rantanen.
Monahan has primarily centered Gaudreau on the top line for what feels like forever and I don't see that changing next season. Not as the team is currently constructed, anyway. Had the Nazem Kadri trade gone through, perhaps he would have gotten some run alongside Gaudreau – at least when Monahan inevitably ran into a wall for a few weeks, as happens every season. That's not the case, though. It's still the same cast of characters.
Mikael Backlund is a little inconsistent offensively at times and he's needed in the shutdown role on L2. I like Derek Ryan as much as the next guy but he's out of his depths playing top line minutes for more than a couple of games. There aren't really internal options to challenge Monahan, so I think he'll continue to center the top line every night and the Flames will have to deal with the occasional low that comes with the highs. They just have to hope the low doesn't come at the worst possible time again.
numbers via naturalstattrick.com and hockey-reference.com
Best forward duo in the Pacific Division?
Best forward duo in the Metro Division?
Best forward duo in the Atlantic Division?
2019 player profile: Johnny Gaudreau
2019 player profile: Mark Giordano
Top-5 wingers 22 & under?
Top-5 defensemen in the Western Conference?
Top-5 wingers in the Western Conference?
On the Milan Lucic trade