Failing To Learn From The Mistakes Of Others: Sean Monahan Edition

Derek Leung

The Flames announced today that they are going to repeat the mistakes of their provincial rival.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am not perfect; if that revelation is similar to your learning the truth about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I apologize. And because I'm not perfect I, on rare occasions, make mistakes. But when I make a mistake I try to learn from it so I don't repeat the same mistake twice. And in situations where someone I know, a co-worker for example, makes a mistake I also try to learn from their mistake so I can avoid a similar screw-up in my personal of professional life. To me, that seems like a smart way of doing things. Clearly not everyone agrees.

With a single tweet this morning the Flames made it clear that they have no intention of learning from the mistakes of others and instead will be keeping their first pick in last June's entry draft, Sean Monahan, on their roster for a while longer. Since the Flames next game will be Monahan's tenth in the NHL, this means that this season will be year one of Monahan's three-year entry level contract (ELC). With very few exceptions starting a players ELC when they're 18 years old is a terrible idea. The Flames are hardly the only team to do this though. Hope in a car and drive three hours north, you'll find another team that has made this same mistake.

If I were an NHL general manager that was thinking about keeping an 18 year old player on my team I would ask myself two questions: Is this player going to have a very good season? And will we make the playoffs? If the answer to either is no I would be leaning towards putting to kid onto a plane destined for the team I drafted him from. Because of the salary cap GMs have to be constantly mindful of their cap situation, not just this year but in future years as well. The cheap years gifted to GMs by the CBA are incredibly valuable in a cap world and shouldn't be squandered on an average season or year where the playoffs are missed.

In 2007 the Oilers should have sent Sam Gagner - drafted sixth overall just like Monahan - back to London Knights of the OHL. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should have spent the 2011/12 season with the Red Deer Rebels. Even with Nail Yakupov the Oilers would have been better off leaving him in the KHL rather than bring him to Edmonton for the strike shortened 2013 season (with a slightly better defence I think last year's Oilers would have been a playoff contender last season, so I'll give the team a marginal pass on this particular choice). I wrote this about the Nugent-Hopkins situation two years ago:

Like it or not, Nugent-Hopkins should be sent back to junior for this season. It won't be an easy decision and it won't be a popular one either but it is the right thing to do for the franchise in the long term. It makes sense economically and the arguments for ignoring the economic benefit are flimsy at best.

I still believe that today. It would have been a brutally tough decision, one that would have been very unpopular with the fans, but it would have been the right decision. The argument in favour of keeping teenagers in the NHL made by both fans and the media is that these players have played well enough to deserve to stay, that they've "earned" a spot on the roster. Even if that's true (and in Monahan's case it's not) the long term benefit of delaying the start of the ELC is worth putting up with the backlash in the short term.

For me the economics drive the decision, that's probably not the case for everyone though, so lets look at some numbers. Through nine games he's got six goals and three assists, is -2, and is averaging 15:47 a night. That's pretty good. Is it likely to last though?

Right now Monahan has a shooting percentage of 28.6%, more than triple the NHL average. Obviously he's not going to keep shooting at nearly 30%. If Monahan had been just average he'd have two goals this season instead of six, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. He's got an individual points percentage of 100% right now as well. For those who might not know, that means that the Flames have yet to score a goal this season at even strength with Monahan on the ice, where he hasn't recorded a point. That's another check mark in the luck column. He does have a positive Corsi Rel, but he's getting a ton of offensive zone starts and butter soft minutes to make that happen.

Bottom line, he's had a great first nine games but he's not going to come close to keeping up this pace and the Flames are going to miss the playoffs by a mile. Keeping him on around does little more than waste an otherwise valuable contract year. For the last seven years the Oilers have shown Flames management what not to do, since I'm not a Calgary fan I'm glad they decided not to pay attention.

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