It doesn't take much to see that Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland are trying their hardest. They really are. The pucks just aren't finding the netting. And even with that notion, both are playing some of their best hockey this season. The way they are both skating and using different facets of their game, it may be time to move them up and give them some time on the top line. Granted, they both can't be on the line at the same time, but maybe it's time to rotate them in and give them BOTH some time with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Bennett is mired in one heck of a slump. He hasn't scored a goal since November 24th against Anaheim in a 2-1 OT loss. He last registered a point with an assist on December 15th in a 2-1 OT win over Nashville. To save you the trouble, that's 18 straight games without a goal and 2 points since before Thanksgiving. That's a slump and then some. But you know what? Bennett is playing some great hockey. Instead of burying himself in his own misery, Bennett has taken on a physical role with the Flames. Don't read that wrong either. Bennett hasn't completely stopped trying to score or facilitate, he's just using other parts of his game while he figures out how to get the puck in the back of the net. During Bennett's 18 game slump he's had 39 hits in that time frame, with 6 in one game against Detroit being the high point. In the prior games he had only 31 hits and in that span he had 4 games with 0 hits. And to prove his SOG aren't down, he's had 32 shots on net during his slump as opposed to the 28 shots he had prior to his last goal. Bennett isn't scoring for lack of effort, that's for sure. He's skating incredibly hard and throwing his body around, but the points aren't coming. That's why I wonder if it isn't time for him to spend some shifts out on the ice with Gaudreau and Monahan (maybe he could help Mony get over his yips)? A few goals or assists would do wonders for his confidence. Most times when a player gets in a slump they get dropped to the 3rd or 4th line or even get the painful "healthy scratch," but neither of those are warranted in Bennett's case. I just watch him play and you can see all the special skills we've been told about and I wonder if sometime with Gaudreau up top would help? Bennett needs to stay out on the ice and keep working through this because once the flood gates open, look out.
Micheal Ferland is in quite a slump himself, but I don't think anyone has the same expectations for him as they do Bennett. Ferland has been the definition of streaky. He's had 2 seperate streaks where he's gone 15 games without a goal. The difference is he's at least piled up 3 assists in his last 15 and had 30 shots on net during that streak. Each night the Flames take the ice you can count on Ferland giving you everything he has and lately he's been a pleasant surprise. He's been out skating the competition for loose pucks and when he has the puck on his stick, he shows some remarkable stick handling. The part of his game that gets overlooked is his speed. I was shocked to see how quickly he can take off with the puck creating the rush. I think he was trying too hard to start the season. He looked like he was trying to live up to the wrecking ball mantra he adopted during the playoffs. In the first 15 games of the season he racked up 13 PIM and 44 total hits. In his last 16 games he's had 4 PIM and racked up 49 hits. Ferland seems to be realizing that, yes, he can smash the heck out of the opponents, but still keep himself out of the box. And the Flames need him out of the penalty box because he's a valuable asset to the team. Ferland is just as snake bitten as Bennett, but I don't think anyone expects him to be a 40 point guy. Ferland really started stepping his game up just before Christmas and his ice time and shifts have gone up as a result. He takes up space out front, redirects shots, pummels people in the corners, but can't get himself a goal. This is why I think he could use some time with the top line as well. Maybe just taking a couple of feeds from Gaudreau or Giordano could help his confidence. Ferland is proving he's more than a meat head who just skates around looking to hit someone. He's got a great shot, incredible speed and he just needs that one goal to get him moving.
Obviously both Bennett and Ferland can't skate on the top line together. The most probable solution would be to move Bennett to the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan and drop Joe Colborne to the 3rd line, keeping Ferland with the 2nd group. You could then rotate Ferland in to the top line as the game progresses, getting them both some time up top. Ferland got some time with Gaudreau and Monahan in Thursday night's loss to the Coyotes and it seemed like a good fit. I don't see how this could hurt either player or the team. While Bennett and Ferland are struggling to score, they're doing everything else well and they should be rewarded for their efforts.
What do you think?