The Monahan Debate

By Bob Trask – Sean Monahan’s future with the Montreal Canadiens has regularly been written off as a temporary stay at best while others hold the belief that he won’t even make the team and will end up on the injury reserve list. The “optimists” believe he will play well enough to bring a decent return at the trade deadline in the form of prospects and/or draft picks.

No one questions Monahan’s hockey skills, nor should they. The factor that most frequently arises is his ability to recover from injury. However, if he does show well as the optimists hope he will, the “recovery from injury” argument goes out the window. The pessimists believe that Monahan will not rebound physically and will be of no value to anyone.

The Third Option

So far the options presented by many are a deadline day trade or a spot on the injury list, but there is also the option that virtually no one is considering. What if Monahan plays well enough to warrant a contract extension.

Sean Monahan

Every successful team has a blend of veterans and youth. We’ve seen teams unsuccessfully try to rebuild by accumulating draft picks and young prospects without having a veteran presence on the team to guide them through the ups and downs of an NHL season. Is that really the route Montreal wants to go?

Monahan will be 28 years old on October 12th – an age that is considered to be the prime of his career. In other words, there is a lot of time to maintain a high level of play if he has recovered. What if Monahan becomes an integral part of the team’s offense and a dressing room leader? A successful Monahan could be that veteran presence that younger players lean on.

Statistically Speaking

Let’s face it, if Monahan is to have any value in the trade market he will have to put up some good numbers, but if he puts up good numbers while helping others on the team reach their potential, he may become as valuable to the Canadiens as he is to any other team. And trading established players for someone who may or may not contribute five years down the road is a gamble in itself. So what would be classified as good numbers for Monahan?

Throughout his career Monahan has average about 25 goals and 30 assists per 82 games played. While its true that those aren’t superstar numbers, the fact that he played the last two seasons while injured have dragged his numbers down. If you take out those two seasons he has average 29 goals and 33 assists.

In his best season, Monahan put up 82 points. When was the last time any Canadiens’ player put up 82 points? Funny that you should ask. It was Alex Kovalev who had 84 points in the 2007-08 season. It was 15 years ago. Yet, so many would be willing to give up Monahan for futures if he is playing well.

Of course, I’m cherry picking but it’s not to make a prediction, it’s to make a point. If Monahan is healthy and contributing, he has value to the Canadiens. At some point the team has to stop building for the future and succeed in the present. A healthy, productive Monahan could be part of that.

The Roster Conundrum

The problem that many point to is the number of players already slotted in to play center for the Canadiens. Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans all seem to have roster spots nailed down and unless one of them is traded, there doesn’t seem to be a spot for Monahan.

However, the Canadiens could approach the situation with some creative thinking. Monahan has played LW at times during his stay in Calgary. He could do the same for the Canadiens while providing depth at center in the case of injury or illness – and we saw firsthand last year how those two factors can impact a team. With all due respect to Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin, I would take a healthy productive Monahan over either one of them.

Kirby Dach

Monahan also gives the Canadiens added proficiency in the faceoff circle. Kirby Dach doesn’t arrive with a stellar reputation in that area and Nick Suzuki is still a work in progress when it comes to faceoffs. The Canadiens could use Monahan in a hybrid lineup on occasion where he takes the faceoff and then switches to the wing for the balance of the shift.

If that is an approach the Canadiens decide to take, then decisions will have to be made at left wing and those most susceptible to forfeiting their spot in the lineup are Hoffman and Drouin, particularly if Slafkovsky shows he is ready at some point this season.

A Fluid Situation

The Canadiens are unlikely to make a preemptive decision on Monahan. It is doubtful that they have already decided that Monahan is gone a the trade deadline. They need to see how the season unfolds, how Monahan performs and how he fits into the overall team structure and they need to see how some of the other candidates for positions on the team perform as well.

Contract status is another issue to be considered. If Monahan performs well but has pricey contract aspirations, the Canadiens may prefer not to lose him for nothing but if he can fit into the overall salary structure, they may prefer to keep him.

There are so many moving parts to the Monahan situation that it is foolish to conclusively state what the outcome will be. Everyone needs to sit back and let the situation unfold. Whatever the final decision is, all Habs fans should be pulling for him to because that opens up so many positive options for general manager Kent Hughes.

List of Outcomes

In conclusion, there is a wide list of outcomes that could occur. Monahan:

  • does not fully recover from his hip surgeries and it becomes obvious he can no longer play at the NHL level. Montreal simply lets his contract expire.
  • plays well, commands significant value at the trade deadline and Montreal is offered a package in return that the cannot refuse. Montreal traded him to the highest bidder.
  • plays well, seeks a high value contract and commands fair value at the trade deadline. Montreal trades him for a reasonable return but less than what they had hoped for.
  • plays well, fits in with the team’s intermediate term goals and seeks a reasonable contract. Montreal signs him on a team friendly 3-4 year contract.
  • has modest success but holds little value at the trade deadline. Montreal attempts to trade him but has to be satisfied with a less than stellar return.

At this time it is virtually impossible to which of these scenarios will unfold and we should be aware that it could be any one of them. In the meantime, let’s all get behind Sean Monahan and cheer for him to have a successful season because success for him means success for the Canadiens in one form or another.

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