Flames’ Monahan Speaks on Disappointing Start to 2021-22 Season

The Calgary Flames, despite some recent struggles, have been solid thus far into the 2021-22 season. Players like Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau have bounced back nicely after inconsistent 2020-21 campaigns, as has goaltender Jacob Markstrom. One who has continued to struggle, however, is Sean Monahan.

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Through Monahan’s first seven seasons in the league, he scored at least 22 goals in each, and he’s had north of 30 in three of those. In 2018-19, it appeared he had fully arrived at the NHL level, registering what stand as career highs with 34 goals and 82 points. But since that season, it has been a steady decline.

Though Monahan still managed to find the back of the net 22 times in 2019-20, he put up just 48 points, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2013-14. Last season was even worse, as he registered just 10 goals and 28 points in 50 contests. Many hoped and expected that offseason hip surgery would get him back on the right track, but so far in 2021-22, the decline has continued, as he has just four goals and 16 points through the Flames’ first 33 games.

Monahan Knows He Needs to Be Better

For anyone watching the Flames this season, it is abundantly clear that Monahan has not been nearly good enough. To make matters even worse, his team hasn’t had much of any secondary scoring as of late, making his struggles that much more of a talking point amongst the fanbase. With the third-highest cap hit on the team at $6.375 million, he hasn’t been good enough, and he is well aware of it.

“For me, I gotta start to bear down and look at the net more,” Monahan said. “I’ve been pulling up and not shooting as much as I normally do. I think once you do that one goes in and you start to go with it. I gotta bear down, get around the net more, be harder. That’s when you’re going to generate a lot of looks.”

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

The first step to fixing a problem is accountability, and it seems Monahan is having no trouble admitting he needs to improve his game. One particularly interesting comment from him is his mentioning of shooting less, which is certainly playing a part in his struggles.

During his career season in 2018-19, he registered 211 shots in 78 games, which translates to 2.71 shots per game. This season, he has managed to throw just 49 shots on net in 33 games, which averages out to just under 1.50 shots per game. This likely stems from a lack of confidence, as he has converted on just 8.2 percent of his shots this season, which is easily the worst of his career and continues a troublesome downward trend.

Through Monahan’s first six seasons in the league, he was scoring on 15.11 percent of his shots, an excellent percentage that came as a result of having one of the game’s best releases. That percentage peaked at its highest in 2018-19 at 16.11 and has decreased in the following seasons to 13.3, 10.2, and now the dreaded and previously mentioned 8.2. It is a shocking falloff for a player who once appeared to be as consistent as they came.

Can Monahan Get It Back on Track?

Many believe Monahan’s struggles over the past few seasons are a result of injuries, and there is certainly an argument to be made supporting that theory. Since the 2016-17 season, he’s undergone many procedures, including two wrist surgeries, two hernia surgeries, groin surgery, and the previously mentioned hip operation. This is very extensive for a player who is just 27 years old, though he is far from the only player in the league to have injury troubles.

The more optimistic look in describing his struggles, and the one both Flames management and fans should be hoping for, is a lack of confidence. If that were to be the case, it would mean that a few goals here or there could be all it takes to get him back to the Monahan of old, something that would be a huge boost for this team down the stretch run of the season and into the playoffs. It would also make trading the final season of his contract this summer much easier, though the argument could be made that it would make it easier to hold onto him as well.

It remains to be seen whether or not he can turn things around, but it is clear that his head coach in Darryl Sutter is doing everything he can to make that happen. Though Monahan isn’t playing in the top-six as of late, he is still on the team’s top power-play unit, one that has been fairly successful this season. Perhaps a few markers on the man advantage is all he needs to get back to being the consistent goal scorer he was for so many years.

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