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Flames' Dynamic Duo can take a lot from this season

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

The curve was bigger this season.

No, not on the stick of Sean Monahan.

Nor the 55-flex twig Johnny Gaudreau uses.

In a year of contract extensions, inconsistencies, injuries and a first-round exit, the Flames' dynamic duo learnt a lot through a long season.

"A lot of learning experiences this season," Gaudreau said, frankly, during the team's end of season media availability Friday. "Throughout the season, there was some ups and downs, but it's a learning experience and try to get better."

The lessons came early. And often.

The first came in dealing with distraction.

The pair, who has been 1-2 in Flames scoring the past two seasons, entered last offseason as restricted free agents, and went through contract negotiations for the first time. The process dragged through the summer, and broke through on some daylight when Monahan inked a seven-year contract on Aug. 19.

New contract. New pressures.

"I never really had to deal with anything like that…getting a contract and stuff is a process," Monahan said. "To be locked up here for seven years, that's special. Coming into the season you put a little more pressure on yourself.

"I think I learned this year you come to the rink to play hockey.

"You love the game."

Gaudreau missed training camp before signing a six-year agreement on Oct. 10. Calgary opened the regular season two days later.

"It's a little more relaxing for sure," said Gaudreau, "going through the off-season not worrying about, 'Is my agent going to call today? Am I going to get a deal done today? When is the deal going to get done?'

"When I get back home for the summer, getting better in the gym, work hard in the gym and just get better and get ready for next season."

The second lesson came with patience.

Monahan was slated to represent Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey in September, but was forced to withdraw because of a back injury. It limited his ability to participate in training camp.

Gaudreau, too, learned that lesson a little over a month later. He missed 10 games, starting in mid-November, after undergoing surgery to repair a broken finger.

The 23-year-old winger isn't the type to like the view from up top.

"A lot of learning experiences this season…I think just the injury, how frustrating it was not being able to play," Gaudreau said. "And then getting back, I was so jacked up to getting back playing after the injury. I've said this before, but it felt like I was playing my first NHL game again.

"But throughout the season, there was some ups and downs, but it's a learning experience and you try to get better."

And a four-game sweep in the Western Conference first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks might've led to the most important lesson of the season.

"I tried to elevate my game and get my compete level up and put the puck in the net," said Monahan, who became the first player in NHL history to score in four straight playoff games in a series his team was swept. "That happened. It's a good experience for the team and myself as well. 

"That's a tough series. We were there every game. Sometimes it doesn't go your way.

"We learned a lot about our team."

Playoff hockey will do that.

Experience, after all, is the greatest teacher.

"It's just a learning experience right there," Gaudreau said. "You get to play against those guys. They're a big, physical team. They've been in the post-season before and they've gone deep before too. You kind of learn playing against those guys.

"As a young team, as younger guys, we can get better in the offseason and come back pretty excited to try to get back to the same spot we were.

"I think we have a bright future here with the Flames, a lot of young guys.

"This is a learning experience for us."

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