Sean Monahan last stood in front of cameras at the Saddledome with his left arm in a sling and a frown on his face.
It was at the conclusion of exit meetings where he ambled in front of reporters to deliver a laundry list of significant medical procedures he’d undergone to cap off his season.
Sure, it was evident late in the season something was wrong.
However, few knew he’d quietly led the league in incisions with an unofficial record of four surgeries, including left wrist reconstruction, two hernia surgeries and a groin procedure.
“I felt like I was playing with one hand for a while,” said the Calgary Flames 23-year-old associate captain.
It explained how the man with the lightning-quick release was only able to score twice in the final 12 games of the season before being shut down medically for the final five.
On a team as dependent as it was on Monahan’s top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau, his mounting struggles played a significant role in the team’s late collapse.
A big question mark throughout the summer revolved around how Monahan’s body responded to the obvious rehab and strengthening needed.
Monahan answered that by emphatically announcing he’s never been healthier.
“I feel great,” said the man who still managed to match a career-high with 31 goals last year.
“For sure (this is the healthiest he’s ever been at camp.) Some of the injuries I’ve had are ones that have been with me for a while, so to finally get those taken care of and do the extra stuff this summer to make sure I feel good gives you confidence.”
Asked how long it took for the Brampton, Ont. native to return to his normal training regimen this summer, he chuckled.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be doing my normal stuff again,” said Monahan who broke into the league at age 18 with 22 goals.
“I’m going into my sixth season and you learn a lot in taking care of your body. From Day 1 as an 18-year-old to now there has been a lot of change for me. Each summer I add new things to my program and this summer was a big one for me.”
For example, Monahan said he prepares much differently for practices, skates and workouts, as well as changing his workouts to, “make himself feel better.”
“My warm up is almost an hour now before I start doing anything,” said the sixth-pick overall from 2013.
“A lot of it is band work, a lot of mobility stuff, stretches, bunch of movement patterns. This summer I did a lot of Pilates. I did that last summer too, but this is more in-depth.
“It’s never fun being injured, but honestly I took a lot of positives from it. I think it has made a world of difference and I look forward to being healthy at the start of the year.”
Monahan said he was fascinated to tap into the minds of his surgeons to learn more about his body, staying in touch with them all summer as he trained. All with an eye on turning his team’s fortunes around following a season in which a squandered playoff spot cost the coaching staff their jobs and prompted significant change to the roster.
He feels, like most, the team’s added offensive depth and new coaching staff arm the team with every reason to believe a significant turnaround is forthcoming.
“We have the team this year to do something, and talking to (coach) Bill (Peters) and how he wants us to play we have the guys in the room to play that style and that’s going to play a lot longer than we have the last couple years,” said Monahan, who has scored 27 or more goals in four-straight campaigns.
“He seems pretty straight up and I think he’ll be pretty honest on what you’re doing right and wrong. We have a good mix of a lot of skilled young guys, good veterans and excellent goaltending. We have a good group and we’ve just got to translate that to being a committed group on the ice. The mentality for me is to hold myself accountable with higher expectations.”[sidebar]
He hopes and believes his teammates will do the same given the tinkering management did to help change the culture from a squad that had a few too many players who didn’t mind losing.
Free agent signing James Neal, who will get every chance to play on Monahan’s right side, was brought in to help others with the win-first mentality.
“I’ve watched Nealer for a while now – he plays a different style of game than a lot of guys in the league,” said Monahan, who had a career-high 64 points in 74 games last year.
“He puts the puck to the net, he’s tough, he’s hard to play against, he makes plays and he cares about winning. To add a guy to our team like that it’s going to be a big difference.”
“I think the most exciting part is getting the group together,” Monahan said of the 10-day camp in Asia, where the club has plans to visit the Great Wall of China between exhibition games with the Boston Bruins.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys and I don’t think many of the guys have been there before so it’s going to be all new for us. That bonding this early in the year, a lot of people don’t realize how far that goes. It’s going to kind of kick-start our season for us.”
A jump he’s pumped to make with a body that’s never felt better.