Sean Monahan’s Rapid Decline Both Surprising and Concerning

Six games into the 2021-22 season, things are going quite well for the Calgary Flames. Not only are they winners of four straight, but their 4-1-1 record is good enough for second place in the Pacific Division. It isn’t as if they have gotten by on a soft schedule either, as two of their wins have come against good teams in the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Almost everything for this team is clicking, however, there is one notable disappointment early on, that being Sean Monahan.

Related: Flames Prospects Report: Beck, Stromgren, Wolf & Poirier

In 2018-19, Monahan scored a career-high 34 goals and 82 points in 78 games. It was a fantastic year for a guy who had scored 27 or more goals in five of his first six seasons in the NHL, and one that made it seem as though he was still improving as a player. All Flames fans were quite excited to see what he would do moving forward in his career.

The 2019-20 season turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for Monahan. He was still able to score 22 goals in 70 games but had just 48 points. Those would be good totals for some, but everyone knew from watching Monahan in past years that he was capable of much more. A bounce back the following season seemed like a near guarantee, but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, he continued his downward trajectory, scoring just 10 goals and 28 points in 50 games. After two straight off seasons, many grew frustrated and questioned what type of player he would be moving forward.

Monahan Not Redeeming Himself

The hope was that the now 27-year-old would not only be fully recovered from his hip surgery this past May but could get back to the player he was a number of seasons ago. Again, it’s early, but so far, it doesn’t look good for the once very consistent goal scorer.

Sean Monahan Calgary Flames
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Through six games this season, Monahan has just a single assist and has a minus-4 rating. He is in Flames head coach Darryl Sutter’s dog house right now, as he has spent time this season centering the team’s fourth line with Lewis as well as Milan Lucic on the wings.

Monahan’s Offensive Game Vanished

During his career year in 2018-19, Monahan had a career-best 23 points on the man advantage. This came even though the Flames’ power play was average at best, ranking 18th in the league with a 19.3% success rate. The following season, it was able to improve to 12th. However, the better success rate didn’t help Monahan personally, as he recorded only 16 points on the power play that season.

In 2020-21, the Flames power play regressed to a more similar rate to what it had been two seasons prior, as did Monahan’s play on it. He recorded just nine points on the man advantage. Even more concerning is that while his play on special teams has dropped off, so has his play at even strength.

In 2018-19, Monahan’s 59 even-strength points were by far the best of his career. Since then, those numbers have declined massively, capped off with just 19 last season. That came despite getting continuous looks in the top six, as Sutter seemed hesitant at the time to move down the once extremely offensively gifted centerman down the lineup.

As a result of his 5v5 numbers decreasing, his points per 60 (P/60) at even strength has dropped dramatically in recent seasons. During his outstanding 2018-19 campaign, he trailed only Johnny Gaudreau almost Flames with a P/60 at 5v5 of 2.58. In fact, that number was good enough for 21st in the entire league that season, ahead of players like Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak.

Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That P/60 in 2020-21, however, dropped all the way down to 1.47, which ranked 10th amongst Flames skaters. Even worse, it ranked 231st throughout the league and surrounded him with players like Valtteri Filppula and Kevin Stenlund. Nothing against either of those two, but Monahan should be well above both, and it goes to show just how bad he has been struggling.

Monahan’s Days in Calgary Could Be Numbered

The mystery behind this seemingly rapid decline for a player who should be in his prime is quite confusing. There have been some injuries here and there, but nothing that many other players don’t go through and come back successfully from. It also doesn’t seem like it is simply a confidence issue, as most players, specifically ones that were as good as Monahan was for a number of years, can snap out of that much sooner.

Perhaps it is just a change of scenery that is needed. That is what we saw from Sam Bennett, who has had his career rejuvenated since being traded to the Florida Panthers last season. With the Flames rolling the way they are right now, however, it is unlikely they are in a hurry to make any drastic changes to their roster at the moment. There is also the fact that he still has this season and one additional on his contract that carries a 10-team no trade list and a cap hit of $6.375 million, making it even more unlikely he is anytime soon.

There is the possibility of a trade later in the season depending on how the Flames are positioned in the standings by then, or perhaps one next summer. There is even the possibility Monahan is back next season and plays out the remainder of his current contract in Calgary. However, the one thing that is for sure is that if he is not able to get his career back on track, he won’t be signing another deal with this organization.

Sign up for our regular 'Flames Newsletter' for all the latest.