CALGARY – Asked about Monday’s trade deadline, Sean Monahan veered into a We are the World soliloquy that spoke to the cohesiveness of the group.
“For me, being here in my seventh year, this is probably the tightest team I’ve been a part of,” the Flames alternate captain said Thursday.
“Obviously if there are guys added to your team you’re going for it – you’re going for a push. Sometimes it’s a tricky situation. Whether anything happens, or things stay the same, I like this team and I like the group we have. We all get along in here and we’re all here for the same reason.”
That reason revolves around avenging last year’s playoff flop with a playoff run more befitting of pre-season expectations.
The question GM Brad Treliving is trying to figure out amidst a sea of inflated price tags, is whether the current group is capable of ascending to the challenge as is.
Is there a significant add or two that can bolster the bunch, or are the asking prices too high and the unity too strong to risk disrupting?
Is this tight-knit group, which is almost identical to the one that shattered expectations and hearts last year, capable of translating its united brotherhood into on-ice success?
“I just think this year we have a mix of everything,” said Monahan.
“You see guys are getting older and other guys are stepping up. You look the other night, (Andrew) Mangiapane steps up and has a great game and helps us get the two points. That kind of stuff goes a long way. Everybody is involved. We do a lot of things as a team and that’s also a big help. This is a team that is motivated and we want to do something.”
On some nights that has been hard to believe, as this team’s wild inconsistency has some convinced these Flames aren’t capable of spring success.
That’s why a large portion of the fan base is hoping the Flames don’t cough up significant assets for a rental.
Then again, perhaps now is the perfect time for the GM to back the team with a hockey trade to address their offensive shortcomings, rewarding them for staying in the mix despite significant adversity.
Looking back, the off-season injury to Juuso Valimaki almost seemed to set a tone for a season in which the team would watch TJ Brodie seemingly struggle for his life one afternoon; switch coaches mid-season under shocking circumstances; support assistant GM Chris Snow through his ALS diagnosis; and then lose its top two defencemen at an inopportune time.
Pack all that on top of the shocking, five-game ouster last spring and you’ve got a group that perhaps shouldn’t even be this high in the standings.
But here they are, forever zigging when everyone else thinks they’ll zag, to land smack dab in the middle of a Pacific Division race for the ages.
“Getting almost swept by Colorado last year – obviously that’s way in the past now – but I think our game and our mindset has changed since Game 1,” said Monahan.
“Guys are hungry for different reasons, but we all have that same goal in this dressing room.”
Sure sounds inspirational, but is this team capable of following up such talk with more consistent action?
Some will find it hard to believe given the coach has questioned the team’s compete-level twice in the last three weeks.
“Guys including myself have to be better – we know what we can do here and we know what we can do as a team, and when everyone is at the top of their game and rising to the occasion we’re a tough team to beat,” said Monahan, part of the core leadership group that has underperformed this season.
“If you’re coasting into the playoffs it’s tough to get there when the games change. Grinding and finding a way to get in that playoff spot is huge because your game is at the top, where you want it to be, and that’s when you start rolling.”
Treliving announced Thursday that Mark Giordano has been skating on his own to test his injured hamstring and will join the team for its five-game road swing, starting Sunday, with hopes of playing.
Travis Hamonic (upper body) may not be too far behind.
The top-six winger they’ve been searching for may actually be Mangiapane or even Austin Czarnik, who has been ripping up the AHL.
Standing pat isn’t the worst-case scenario for Treliving.
Hedging his bets by suggesting he’s cool with whichever way Treliving goes Monday, Monahan insists he and the group don’t worry about it as it’s out of their hands.
The only thing they can control is their work ethic, which best be at high octane levels Friday when the top-dog Bruins visit a rink the Flames have won once in their last six.
“I’ve been here for a long time and every time the trade deadline comes around you’re always guessing and thinking of situations that can happen,” said Monahan. “We’re not looking forward to the deadline or any changes, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
The same can be said of his team every time it suits up, which is what complicates Treliving’s predicament even more.