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October 9, 2013 | 2:06pm ET
Monahan given every opportunity to shine
 The Calgary Flames are willing to let rookie Sean Monahan learn from his mistakes and build experience.

TORONTO, ON -- It's going to be a rough season in Calgary. It's going to be a rough few seasons in Calgary. Right? Based on what you see on paper, that's probably the best way to describe it.

The Flames have been needing to "rebuild" for some time. They should have traded Jarome Iginla one season prior to actually doing so. They should've moved Jay Bouwmeester out sooner, too. There are still some pieces on this roster that some could argue should be dealt now.

But this season's group of Flames is a hard-nosed one. They're willing to work and they're willing to battle. Most pundits didn't expect the Flames to start the year off with a 1-0-2 record, collecting four points out of a possible six. Granted, it's super early, but it's clear head coach Bob Hartley isn't afraid to hand the keys over to certain players in certain situations, and that's led to some early success.

"You make a good team with good people," Hartley said. "That's what we have. We have work to do. We're not celebrating, and we're not happy with where we're at. We should have six points. We're disappointed, but at the same time we're not living in the past.

"The 20 guys in the lineup, we're happy with them. The effort is there. I think the execution is still a work in progress, but at the same time, as long as we see that intensity and that commitment is there, I don't see a reason to change."

Star rookie Sean Monahan, drafted sixth-overall in June, is a prime example of Hartley's coaching tactics.

The Brampton, Ontario native has been put out in almost every situation in his first three games in the NHL, and while he's produced well, it's evident he has a lot to learn at this level.

"We have a saying in our coach's office: Mistakes are acceptable, as long as you learn from them," Hartley said.

"If we're going to keep him and not play him, we might as well send him down.

"It always makes me laugh when (people say) a young coach can't coach in the NHL because he has no experience, or a young player cannot play in the NHL because he has no experience... If you don't play him, you can't go to Walgreens and buy experience off the shelf. Experience is a combination of success and failures."

In his first three games, Monahan has scored twice and added an assist. He's eager to play and eager to learn, and while Sunday's home opener wasn't his best showing, you can see the intensity in his game.

"He's creating a lot offensively, he's making some plays with poise that guys who have played 600 games in the League wouldn't even have the poise to make, and that's what we're impressed with," said Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman.

"Sure, there are going to be some mistakes. He's playing center against some really good players as an 18-year-old. There are going to be some mistakes, we just have to be there to back him up."

Monahan has also made friends by admitting his mistakes. It's one thing to sit back and battle your in-game demons internally, but when you step up and take responsibility of your blunders, your teammates appreciate it.

As for the kid himself, he's willing to play wherever the coach puts him.

"I'll take whatever I can get," he said.

He's averaged just under 13 minutes of ice time per game and should see that number climb as he gets more games under his belt. He's going to continue to play with an offensive chip on his shoulder, but he knows where he needs to improve on as soon as possible.

"I think you can always focus more on defensive zone coverage," Monahan explained. "It's something I want to continue to get better at and that's something that will help me in my career."

The Flames have something special in Monahan. He's a gifted athlete and with more games under his belt, he'll soon own Calgary in a few seasons. I didn't see too many Monahan jerseys at the opener, but I suspect that'll change pretty quickly.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.



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