Friday 2 February 2024

Mony Mony

While Tommy James and the Shondells only reached Number Three on the US charts with their 1968 hit "Mony Mony" - long "oh" sound - it seems the Winnipeg Jets are hoping their "Mony Mony" - short "oh" sound - will help them ascertain the top spot in the NHL with a Stanley Cup parade in the Manitoba capital. The deal for Sean Monahan shouldn't have been unexpected as a number of outlets had the Canadiens' centerman linked to the Jets, but the timing may have been a little more surprising for most. Monahan does things that a number of players on the Jets roster cannot, but there are also some drawbacks to his game that will need to be addressed systemically. Regardless of the pros and cons, Sean Monahan will fill the Jets' second-line center role for the foreseeable future. Fans are hoping he's a fit!

The Winnipeg Jets opted to trade away a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional draft pick to acquire Sean Monahan from the Montreal Canadiens. That conditional pick will become a third-round pick in 2027 if Winnipeg wins the Stanley Cup, so the immediate trade was Monahan for what appears will be a pick in the bottom-third of the opening round in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. A first-round pick may seem high for some, but acquiring a player who has shown the ability to play both sides of the puck well might be worth the investment based on how Monahan fits into Rick Bowness's systems and how the Jets finish this season.

"He's got good size, he's a smart player, he can play two ways, he's responsible," Kevin Cheveldayoff said during his press conference after the trade. "He's a true centre. He's someone who can help elevate different players."

If that assessment from the general manager is true, Monahan might be the player that the Jets are seeking to help push players like Nikolaj Ehlers, Cole Perfetti, and Alex Iafallo higher based on who slots in on his wings. Getting Ehlers to play at a consistently high level won't be an issue, but having a finisher in the middle with some size could be the key for Ehlers finding more points this season.

If Monahan can be a finisher, receiving passes from Cole Perfetti would result in the same elevated scoring for Perfetti, and the Jets will benefit overall. Monahan's experience as a center in the NHL can also help Perfetti as some of the lesson he's learned likely will be taught to Perfetti as well.

Alex Iafallo has shown glimpses of having a big season, and we've seen Monahan work as a distributor as he's recorded more than 30 assists five times while with Flames and was projected to hit that mark this season with Montreal. If Iafallo can play his gritty game in going to the net and showing off his underappreciated shot, Monahan could help Iafallo turn in a big season as well.

Of course, you could look all this up on a dozen different wesites and conclude the same thing. Monahan's game has evolved as he's gotten older, and he's certainly less of an offensive threat compared to what he once brought to the ice, but does play better defensively as well. He's no Phillip Danault in terms of being a solid defensive centerman, but he'll do the little things coaches love: win face-offs, go to the dirty areas, block shots, and can play up or down the lineup.

Monahan will be given the second-line position, freeing up Vladislav Namestnikov for a third- or fourth-line role, but Monahan's defensive play and ability to win face-offs far exceeds what Namestnikov brought to that spot. For two puck-possession wingers like Ehlers and Perfetti - assuming they're flanking Monahan - winning face-offs is a huge key in this trade for the Jets as he's won the 28th-most face-offs this season at a rate of 55%. As we know, possession means more shots and scoring chances, so Monahan's skill at the face-off dot could help the Jets immediately.

If there's one thing that the stats may not show, it's the leadership that Monahan showed in Montreal. From what the Jets have said all season, they are looking for players who want to lead with their play on the ice and actions off it. We've seen the likes of Lowry, Scheifele, Morrissey, Ehlers, and Vilardi doing a lot of the vocal leadership, but it's hard not to notice the play of DeMelo, Neiderreiter, Barron, and Dillon doing a lot of the talking for those players. And while he wasn't wearing a letter in La Belle Province, Monahan embraced his role as a veteran player as Cheveldayoff noted.

"You watch him in Montreal and he would come back to the bench and he'd be talking to (them)," Cheveldayoff said. "You would see that kind of mentorship that he had, quiet leadership on the bench. That's exactly what you want in a pro."

You can make the case that Cheveldayoff has tried trades this before in trying to beef up leadership with the likes of Matt Hendricks, Nate Thompson, and, to a degree, Mark Letestu where the Jets made deals for players that had limited upside, but brought good leadership and smart defensive play. You're not wrong on any of those, but I feel this trade could be similar to that of Paul Stastny in that the offensive upside, particularly on the power-play, is still there for Monahan, he's an effective leader as shown in Montreal, and he can be a solid defensive addition to the second line. Add in the fact that he's 29 as opposed to Stastny's age of 32 when acquired in 2018, and it may benefit the Jets in that Monahan has less miles on his engine.

Jets fans will expect Monahan to bring his lunch pail to work every day that he wears Winnipeg's double-blue, but I believe that Monahan is smart enough to have seen how Jets fans reacted to Pierre-Luc Dubois who would show up when he wanted and often looked invisible at times. Stastny was successful in Winnipeg because his effort often matched his desire to win, and Monahan can find that success on the ice and with fans if he can do the same for the Jets.

With the guys around him in Winnipeg who are older than his teammates in Montreal, but still within the primes of their careers, I feel Monahan won't have any trouble being motivated to bring his best. In fact, he's one of those "prime of his career" guys at his age, so that may be enough motivation for him to help push the Jets higher on a personal level. Whatever motivation he chooses, I suspect that Sean Monahan may be a good fit as Kevin Cheveldayoff stated, and if he can resemble Paul Stastny on that second line this trade will be celebrated as one of Chevy's best.

Kevin Cheveldayoff also alluded to the Elias Lindholm deal made by Vancouver as the reason he made this trade now, and I understand why not waiting is the better of the two choices. Honestly, for what the Jets gave up to get Monahan in comparison to what Vancouver surrendered to bring in Lindholm, I'm actually quite happy that Chevy only parted with a first-round pick. The two players are different in how they play the game, but I'm surprised that Monahan didn't fetch more considering how two-way centers are valued in the NHL. In the end, I'll take a Monahan-for-less over a Lindholm-for-more to allow the Jets to have flexibility moving forward.

The Jets are in Pittsurgh on Tuesday, and it will be the first chance to see if Sean Monahan is Winnipeg's "Mony Mony" as he'll be looking to "shoot 'em down, turn around" and "don't stop cookin', 'cause I feel all right now". If he can find chemistry quickly with his new teammates, Jets fans will be singing, "Don't stop now, come on, Mony"!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: