Sean Monahan may very well be the Calgary Flames' saviour. Well, not the saviour - in a team sport, it's hard to find just one guy to hold the mantle - but definitely one of them. And in the 2014-15 season, Monahan made very, very tangible steps towards claiming one of those places atop the Flames.
After a rookie season that only took one small step towards asking if Monahan truly was NHL-ready, he had a sophomore season for the ages. Gone was the sheltered teenager who played his way to 20 goals, replaced by the new first liner and smart veteran centre. The Flames are a team that can boast reasonable centre depth, but most of it got hurt within the first month of the season, leaving Monahan and his 86 games of NHL experience as the veteran.
He didn't buckle under the pressure. He took those hard minutes, and he succeeded. When his truly veteran centremen returned from injury, Monahan was promoted to a new, high-scoring first line, where he became a 30-goal scorer and helped complete his team's run to the playoffs.
It was a roller coaster of a season for all of the Flames, but perhaps none more so than Monahan, who started to look like a true number one centre at the ripe old age of 20.
With his second year in the books, it's time to grade him. It's June, after all, and that's when school ends and final grades come in. These will be featured all month long. Monahan is the first in the line of Flames to get his Matchsticks & Gasoline report card.
It'd be one thing to just dish off a grade, but this is a blog that has written, well, a ton on the Flames this season. And so, we've explained all of our thoughts on Monahan, justifying boiling down his entire year into one simple letter:
Sean Monahan completely exceeded expectations this season. While he put up impressive scoring numbers in his rookie year, there was still a lot left to be desired, as is reasonable when you’re talking about a kid coming straight out of junior. He put up pretty bad possession numbers in sheltered circumstances.
Well, when injuries made Monahan the de facto number one centre on the team early into this past season, sheltered minutes weren’t an option. And rather than buckle under the pressure, Monahan survived. He didn’t necessarily thrive, but his improvement - the leap in his quality of play between rookie and sophomore years - wasn’t anticipated. And yet, it happened. Monahan spent a significant portion of the season taking on the hardest minutes, and being an absolute positive to his team while doing so; all the while, becoming a 30-goal scorer and nearly doubling his points from the previous year. All that’s really left to ask of him is: do it again. No, wait, do it better. Year three of Monahan’s career is sure to be an exciting one, and if he continues growing, his entire career is going to be incredible.
Mike FAIL (A):
Sean Monahan scored 31 goals this year and has perfect hair. Sometimes you would like to believe he is the most exciting person on the team, but then you might remember that he isn’t. He took a leap forward in his sophomore season that many, including myself, could not have expected. The big key here was Bob Hartley finally playing him with capable linemates which impacted his play and maturation. Funny how that happens sometimes.
Injuries allowed him to seize and take over the first line centre role which at times he flourished in, other times he floundered in. The big key here is he did take steps forward in terms of driving play and creating chances. The biggest knocks you can find in his game is just inexperience at this point. He isn’t the best centre on the team… yet. That will come with time, but for the first time in well over 20 years, the team has sufficient and capable depth down the middle.
Monahan was one of the Flames' best players this year and he did so at the young age of 20. He scored 31 goals. Many individuals were surprised, but really shouldn’t have been. He still probably has another level or two to go before he reaches his full potential and will likely be the Flames' first line center for many years to come.
Here’s a nifty little comparison - Monahan had .76 goals per 60 minutes, .91 assists per 60 minutes for a total of 1.66 points per 60 minutes with a relative Corsi percentage of +1.62% at even strength. As a 20-year-old, Patrick Kane had .55 goals per 60 minutes, and 1.21 assists per 60 minutes for a total of 1.76 points per 60 minutes and a relative Corsi percentage of +1.02%. Monahan’s overall Corsi was much worse and his goal totals were boosted by a much higher shooting percentage, but it’s still cool that he’s in that type of company.
For someone projected to slump this year, he didn’t just duplicate his rookie year, he exceeded it. When centre after centre went down with injury early on, Monahan was forced into a role not exactly suited to a 20-year-old sophomore, and he rose to the challenge. He developed his two-way play this year, which is very promising - now to just improve in the face-off circle! I hope he sticks around and can see him growing into a captain role in the future.
For all the poetry commentators spewed about the intangibles of guys like Bouma and Russell, everyone seemed to forget that Monahan became the most improved Flame through his offseason work. To avoid the impending sophomore slump coming his way, Boring Monahan put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and improved his game, changing him from the sheltered rookie to the dominant centre.
In spite of harder competition with worse zone starts (from 16.1 to 10.1 OZS rel), Monahan evolved into one of the better possession forwards for the Flames (2.5 to 6.8 corsi rel). Maybe it has to do with swapping Johnny Gaudreau for Joe Colborne on the wing, but Monahan’s offseason work is mostly responsible for his growth. I’d have less headaches if commentators chose to talk about that over Bouma’s heart or Russell’s determination.
I’ve touted him as a future captain of the Flames, and why not? He is the definition of clutch. The main task this year for Monahan was avoiding the sophomore slump, and he more than did that.
Sean Monahan was a beast for the Calgary Flames, scoring 31 goals and 31 assists in 81 regular season games. It should come as no surprise that Monahan contributed to the most 5v5 scoring chances for the Flames other than Hudler (adjusted for ice time). He was also a force on the powerplay, putting up nine goals and seven assists at 5v4. As a team the Flames were most efficient at scoring on the PP with Monahan on the ice (8.16 goals per 60 minutes).
The only reason I’m giving Monahan a minus is because he underperformed in the playoffs relative to his regular season performance (you can be upset with me for this, that’s fine). There’s no need to leave this on a negative, so let me repeat: Monahan was a beast.
To sum it up: Sean Monahan took impressive strides over this past season in all categories. His scoring shot up, and the circumstances he played in, according to zone starts and the quality of his compettion, were much harder. Meanwhile, his possession stats improved all the while.
Monahan has played two NHL seasons, and in his second one, he already became one of the Flames' top players. For that, we're all in agreement: he averages an A, along with a reasonably strong degree of excitement for next season, and his overall future. Monahan. Is. Awesome.