In an announcement that likely surprised nobody, the Calgary Flames traded Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens in order to make room for a highly sought after free agent. For Flames fans, it’s the end of an era.
I should have seen it coming, I suppose.
On a hot Thursday in August, the Calgary Flames announced that Sean Monahan and his $6.375 million cap hit were being shipped to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the always ambiguous Future Considerations. Thus, the team had enough salary cap space to sign Nazem Kadri.
Sadly for fans of Monahan’s, the writing was kind of on the wall here.
Prior to last season’s trade deadline, Monahan’s second hip surgery in as many years forced him to leave his Calgary Flames team. At the time, they were first in the Pacific Division and headed into their most optimism-fueled playoff run in years. Certainly, Monahan had left due to injuries in the past. But this one seemed different.
Perhaps it was the frequency of his injuries. By my count, it was to be Monahan’s seventh procedure since his draft year. It was beginning to feel like he was running out of things to operate on.
Perhaps it was that the team, at that time, seemed poised to do just fine without him.
Whichever the case, he’s no longer a Calgary Flame. And I think it behooves fans to take a moment to pause and remember what Monahan has meant to our team.
The Darkness Before
Monahan came along at possibly the lowest point in Calgary Flames history.
After a lockout-shortened season, the team missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. This prompted then-GM Jay Feaster to commit the unfathomable act of trading heart-and-soul captain, Jarome Iginla, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was gut-wrenching.
The mere act of trading Iginla was understandable. He was at the end of his contract, and made no secret of his desire to pursue a Stanley Cup. Since the Flames were nowhere close to having a contending team, a trade for assets made sense.
It was the assets that were disastrous. I won’t bore you with the details. Just know the names Agostino, Hanowski and Klimchuk will not have their jerseys retired.
Then along came Sean Monahan.
Drafted 6th overall, the fresh-faced, scruffy-haired kid from Brampton took the stage and posed between Feaster and then-Head Coach Bob Hartley. Fans didn’t know it yet, but things were about to get a little brighter in Calgary.
Monahan made his presence known immediately. He scored his first NHL goal in only his second NHL game. It would be first of the four goals he scored in his first five games in the league. It was awesome.
He finished the 2013-2014 with 22 goals. That was good enough for second place on the Calgary Flames. But it was also good enough for second place in his draft class. Only Nathan McKinnon, drafted 1st overall, scored more.
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By the end of the 2013/14 season, the Flames still did not make the playoffs. But, with Monahan, there was hope. The team had something they desperately needed.
Sean Monahan became the first “best player on the team” in the post-Iginla era.
Of course, he could never replace Iginla. For one thing he lacked Jarome’s charisma in front of the press. Monahan’s poker-faced, monotone non-answers to reporters’ questions were pretty mind numbing.
But he would get a little help with that. It didn’t take too many interviews before an anonymous teammate created the Boring Sean Monahan Twitter account. Hilarious tweets about, well nothing, followed. And Monahan’s sense of humour about it only elevated his likability.
Speculation about which teammate started the account ran rampant. Personally, I thought it was Brian McGrattan. Monahan himself recently said he was pretty convinced it was Chris Butler. Whoever it was seemingly understood Monahan’s value to the Calgary Flames. And, by starting Boring Sean Monahan, endeared him to the fan base.
Jonny and Monny
The spectacular happened in Monahan’s second year with the team….Johnny Gaudreau showed up.
The two found chemistry almost immediately. They helped each other lead the Calgary Flames in goals and points for the next four years. Monahan would have near-30 goal seasons until 2019. They were one of the more formidable duos in the NHL, one that no coach would would separate until Darryl Sutter came along.
It wasn’t all wine and roses, of course. Bob Hartley scratched the pair in 2016 after they showed up late to practice on the Monday after Superbowl Sunday. It was a bad look, but made worse by the fact that game they were scratched for was to be attended by team’s fathers.
Monahan’s injury troubles began after the 2016-2017 season, when he had offseason wrist surgery. Seemingly untroubled the following season, he scored 31 goals. However, when it became clear that the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs that year, Monahan was put on the IR after 74 games to have not one, but four subsequent procedures. One on his other wrist, one on his groin, and the repair of 2 herniated discs.
From there, it just seemed like he was having surgery every summer. A cracked thumb in 2019. Left hip surgery in 2021. Then the right hip in 2022. With each procedure came a decline in production, bottoming out at 12th in team scoring in 2021-22.
We all know the story from there. Darryl Sutter would be forced to separate him and Gaudreau, putting Elias Lindholm on the top line (Lindholm was ironically drafted one spot ahead of Monahan in 2013).
Monahan is now a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Whether he gets a chance to regain his form is anybody’s guess. I, for one, am hopeful. He didn’t ask to raise the team on his shoulders in the shadow of Jarome Iginla’s, but he did it anyway.
Even if it was a little boring.