Bob Hartley will never criticize one of his kids in public.
Asked following Wednesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes about the recent struggles of some of his boys — namely that night’s star Sean Monahan — he never hesitated to answer that he’s always going to stick with them through thick or thin.
“He’s a young player so I will never change my approach with young players,” the Flames head coach said.
“Whether they produce or don’t produce, we’re asking a lot from those young kids. Two years ago when they came out (of junior and college) we said we’d go through a rebuild and we didn’t change our mindset.
“It’s so important to keep playing those kids and giving them responsibility. As long as I see the commitment and hard work, we’re going to live with their mistakes.”
Johnny Gaudreau has been pretty solid in his second full season in the National Hockey League, but Monahan and Sam Bennett have been less reliable.
Eight of Bennett’s 13 goals came in a six-game span right before the all-star break, including a four-goal night on January 13. Prior to that he had one goal in 23 games.
Monahan has had two stretches of eight games without a goal this season.
Last night he put up one goal and three assists to lead the Flames over the Carolina Hurricanes at the Saddledome.
He hadn’t recorded a point in four games going in, but then set up Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, then scored the fourth goal early in the third to ice the 4-1 victory.
The Flames are living with what they get from Monahan right now because of his age.
“We know that each second they spend on the ice is an investment,” Hartley said.
“We saw tonight. Johnny, Mony, and (Jiri Hudler, not a youngster) were flying tonight. I thought everyone deserved credit. Everyone stepped up.”
Monahan, the sixth overall choice in the 2013 NHL draft, is just 21. With 15 goals and 33 points in 49 games, he’s actually not far off his 62-point pace from his 81-game sophomore season.
Bennett is in his rookie season and at 19 the critics are going to go easy on him for awhile yet. Keep in mind he doesn’t have a Gaudreau or Monahan with him on the second line.
A year older because he went the U.S. college route, the 22-year-old Gaudreau is not part of this equation. Averaging a point-a-game and carrying the team most nights in this his second season, there’s been nothing to criticize.
Monahan’s effort against Carolina was the first four-point night of his young career. He entered the game with just two goals and two assists in his past 16 games, so he matched that in 60 minutes.
“It can get frustrating when you’re getting chances and they’re not going in,” Monahan said.
“But I try to focus on the little things and when I’m playing my best, I’m winning faceoffs, playing well in my own zone and that’s when you generate the most offence.”
Monahan looked real good Wednesday night. Now he’ll be watched Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets to see if he can do it again right away. If he doesn’t Hartley will still love him.