In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, Sean Monahan’s rough season got even worse this past week, as he was a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. In other news, prospect Matthew Coronato is expected to return to Harvard for the 2022-23 season. In an interesting tidbit recently, head coach Darryl Sutter explained the importance of analytics in today’s NHL. Last but not least, defenceman Noah Hanifin was able to play in his 500th NHL game on Saturday night.
Monahan Hits New Low
Monahan’s struggles over the past few seasons have been well documented, particularly as of late. The 27-year-old is having his worst NHL season to date, with just eight goals and 22 points through 63 games. He is currently in the worst stretch of his career, failing to register a point in his last 14 contests. As a result of his poor play, Sutter made him a healthy scratch Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes, as well as Saturday evening against the Edmonton Oilers.
“You gotta look at the big picture with Sean, for sure,” Sutter told reporters. “He had major hip surgery last summer, and he worked his tail off to come back in and be ready. … I’d say his first 40 were good games, but then I think he’s struggled offensively over his last 20 to 25. You know, I should have been monitoring how much he played a little bit more. I should have been monitoring how much he played a little bit more. Meaning, I should have been giving him some games where he wasn’t playing. That’s my plan now. I’m not overly concerned about it, I think he’s still an important piece going forward.”
Through the first seven seasons of his career, Monahan never scored less than 22 goals. However, he found the back of the net just 10 times last season, and is struggling even more in 2021-22. As Sutter mentioned, his hip surgery, along with plenty of other injuries he has sustained over his career, are likely playing a big part in his down play.
Coronato Expected to Return to Harvard
According to Elliotte Friedman, Coronato is expected to return to Harvard for the 2022-23 season. Many believed the 19-year-old, who was taken 13th overall by the Flames in 2021, would sign an entry-level contract after his 18-goal, 36-point freshman season. That no longer appears to be the case.
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“The Flames are going to talk to him the next two days,” Friedman wrote in his most recent 32 Thoughts blog. “It’s widely believed he’s going to return to Harvard for another season. But I know Flames fans get worried about this because of history, but I don’t get the sense that the Flames are worried about this at all.”
While the decision may be disappointing to some, it isn’t a bad idea by any means for Coronato to have another season at the college level to continue his development. He remains one of the Flames top prospects and appears to have a very bright future ahead of him.
Sutter Speaks to Importance of Analytics
In recent seasons, analytics are really starting to change the way certain NHL management makes their decisions. For the most part, the newer aged hockey minds are the ones who really value these numbers, while the ones who have been around the game for a long time seem to downplay them. That isn’t the case for Sutter however, who recently spoke about how much he and his staff look into them.
“I just think it’s an evolving process,” Sutter said. “We have new [analytics] staff and we spent a lot of time together this summer trying to connect it more with individual performance, team performance, opponent performance, back-to-back performance, home-road performance, a lot of those things and then to tie it in with management side. To be quite honest, analytics was started not for what’s on the ice, but more for use in negotiations, arbitration, things like that. When it first started, it wasn’t used for a coaching standpoint. The teams that do it properly tie it together.
“We built what we wanted in Los Angeles to help the locker room and players more. I think today’s player wants that information because it’s not a criticism. It shows them the performance based on something a computer’s kicking out about you. So, you can put in what you want, it can help players in so many different ways. It helps them keep a tighter focus, and it takes some of the emotion out of it from a coach-player standpoint, where it’s factual. Instead of your opinion, this is it. It helps a lot with these kids coming out, turning pro because they’re brought up in elite environments now and they’re given that sort of feedback when they’re young. This is just a continuation of it.”
This thought process explains why Sutter has been a head coach in the league for as long as he has, and why he is able to continue to adapt. Clearly, what he is doing is working, as the Flames are running away with the Pacific Division while he appears to be the frontrunner for the Jack Adams Award.
Hanifin Suits up for Game 500
Despite only being 25 years old, Hanifin has been in the NHL for a long period of time. He was first able to crack the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster back in 2015-16, just months after being selected fifth overall. He went on to play three seasons with the Canes before being acquired in a blockbuster trade that saw Elias Lindholm head with him, while Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland went the other way.
He is now in his fourth season with the Flames, and has turned into a very legitimate top-four NHL defenceman. Though he doesn’t always receive a ton of recognition, he was spoken about plenty this past Saturday, as he suited up for his 500th NHL game against the Oilers. It is a very impressive accomplishment for anybody, let alone someone as young as him. Assuming he is able to remain healthy in the coming years, he should have no problem hitting the 1000-game mark.
Up Next for the Flames
The Flames have three games on schedule for this week, with the first coming Tuesday against arguably the best team in the NHL, in the Colorado Avalanche. The two met earlier this month in a tightly contested battle that saw the Flames walk away with a 4-3 overtime win. They will then have a divisional matchup on Thursday versus the L.A. Kings, before facing the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.