The creative force behind the fake Sean Monahan Twitter account (Boring Sean Monahan) remains an unsolved mystery in the Calgary Flames dressing room, though the suspect list has generally been narrowed down to two possible candidates, both of them long gone from the team.
It might have been defenceman Chris Butler, now with the St. Louis Blues, because of his quiet sneaky sense of humour. Brian McGrattan, now in the minors, is the other option, a loud and boisterous dressing-room presence who took Monahan under his wing last year, when the latter was still an NHL rookie.
Whoever created – and still maintains – the account (@boringmonahan) follows just one player (McGrattan), which is either a too-obvious clue or a clever red herring.
Defenceman Dennis Wideman thinks it's the latter.
"That's someone real smart, trying to set Grats up," said Wideman, who laughingly pointed out that McGrattan's over-the-top sense of humour is at odds with the dry wit on display in the account, which he, like a lot of Flames players, follows.
When it was launched in October of 2013 to parody Monahan's careful and benign interview answers, the account went viral. It boasts more than 50,000 followers, including many from the hockey world's Twitter elite: From Roberto Luongo (@strombone1) and Connor McDavid (@cmcdavid97) to future teammate Sam Bennett (@SBennett93).
The ersatz account has almost twice as many followers as his own verified Twitter account (@Monahan20) and works because it so tidily mimics Monahan's solemn public nature – which teammates insist is wildly at odds with the fun-loving guy they've come to know in just under two NHL seasons.
You can understand why the public might be confused because Monahan's real-life answers don't vary all that much from the deadpan lines you read in the fake Twitter account.
Fake Sean: "Today's game starts at 2 pm. Most of our other games start at night but this one starts early."
Real Sean: "Every game is a big game and I treat every game the same way."
Fake Sean: "I called Johnny Gaudreau to see if he wanted to come over and have some toast this morning but he said he was sleeping in today."
Real Sean: "He [Gaudreau] is a special player, he's doing a great job, he's stepping up, he's taking charge. We're doing a good job as a line, and that's why everybody's having some individual success."
Fake Sean: "A reporter asked me why we are winning so many games this year and I said we are scoring more goals than the other team."
Real Sean: "The scoring opportunities I'm getting, I need to get the job done and put the puck in the net and right now it's happening."
You get the picture. Real Sean is a sober, mature-beyond-his-years 20-year-old, who takes his craft seriously and doesn't much care for social media, seeing it as part of the job of a modern-day athlete, but not a forum he's embraced.
"He's just quiet," Wideman explained. "He's a guy you're never going to figure out. He's talking more than he did last year, obviously, and he's a pretty witty, funny guy. It's just when he does joke around, it's usually just to one or two guys. He's not going to throw it out to the masses."
"Away from the rink, he's a very funny guy," confirmed teammate Lance Bouma, who is Monahan's roommate on the road. "He makes me laugh all the time. For such a good hockey player, he doesn't get too high, or too low. He just does his thing and plays hard all the time. He's really mature for his age."
Organizationally, the only thing that really matters to the Flames is Monahan's production on the ice, which has been stellar compared with other members of his 2013 draft class.
Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy last year as the NHL's rookie of the year after going first overall in the same draft in which Calgary selected Monahan sixth, but has struggled for consistency in his sophomore season and is now injured and out of the Colorado Avalanche lineup. The four other players selected ahead of Monahan (Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones and Elias Lindholm) have all had their share of down moments in their second seasons, a typical development for many young players, even the most talented and highly recruited.
But Monahan, except for a brief scoring slump early, has been remarkably consistent.
He has 29 goals, 56 points, and his line, with Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau, has been the offensive catalyst behind the Flames' playoff push. Going into Friday's game against the Wild in Minnesota, they had accumulated 46 points in March, more than any other NHL line.
Monahan is kind of a prototype. NHL scouts usually want all the things that Monahan brings – good size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), good hands and good instincts. The problem with prototypes is often, the physical attributes don't necessarily translate into a complete on-ice package. With Monahan, they do.
"He's pretty mature for his age and he's responsible out there," defenceman T.J. Brodie said. "You can see it in his game – he's so patient. As a defenceman, you know he's going to be back and when he's the low guy, he's going to be in the right spot. He doesn't seem to get too excited over very much. If you're a guy that can also score at the same time, to be able to do both those things, that's big."
Monahan is the first big centre that the Flames have developed internally since the Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk. As did Nieuwendyk, Monahan played a lot of lacrosse growing up, a skill set he believes translates well into hockey.
"Rolling off checks in lacrosse and hand-to-eye coordination and stuff like that, it all relates," Monahan said.
Physically, the comparisons aren't there, but in terms of approach and preparation, Flames coach Bob Hartley sees many similarities between Monahan and Hall of Famer Joe Sakic, whom he coached in Colorado. For much of his career, Sakic's nickname was Quoteless Joe because he didn't say much either, but did his talking on the ice.
"Mony never gets too high, never gets too low," Hartley said. "He talks rarely, but when he does, there's volume to it."
Nor does Monahan accept the notion that ups-and-downs are a normal part of the development of a young player.
"I had a year of experience last year," Monahan said. "You should be better in your second year. I get more opportunity this year and I'm confident in my game right now, so I think that's a big part of playing well."
As for the identity of the player or person behind his Twitter parody account, Monahan says he tried to figure it out last year, but no longer bothers, and "doesn't really care about it, to be honest."
"Obviously, when it first came out, everybody thought it was somebody in the room, but nobody came forward and nobody's figured out who it is," Bouma said. "We give him a hard time about it sometimes. We know it's not him obviously, but if you look at some of the tweets, it's pretty funny, pretty clever."