Sam Bennett (Centre) - Midseason Grade: C+
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Our Individual Grades:
I had high hopes for Sam Bennett to break through this season and after seeing how dominant he looked in the preseason, I felt confident he was going to stack up some points. Unfortunately, the preseason is not the regular season and things really did not transpire very positively. He went through a couple of massive slumps throughout the year and finished with just 26 points in 81 games, a 10 point drop off from his rookie year. However, what really needs to be taken into consideration when assessing Bennett, is the amount of time he played with Troy Brouwer and how detrimental Brouwer was to Bennett’s play. With Troy Brouwer, Bennett had a ghastly 44.2% CF% of at 5-on-5, without Brouwer, Bennett’s CF% shot up to 51.2%. That is a massive swing in shot-attempts. Not a coincidence that Bennett appeared to “find his game” again toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, once he was permanently taken away from Brouwer. I think it is important to remember that Bennett is only 20-years-old. With better teammates on the ice with him and further development, I think Bennett will have a bounce back year next season and should be closer to the player everyone hoped he would be when the Flames drafted him 4th overall in 2014.
Oh Sam Bennett. Not the kind of season you wanted to have going into a contract year. I also had high hopes for Bennett coming into the season and he failed to totally deliver. He showed flashes during the season of that he could become, but he never was able to consistently put it together. His best showing of the season was during the playoffs where he was a physical presence for the Flames and moved the puck well when he was paired with Alex Chiasson and Kris Versteeg. With all of that in mind, the Flames didn’t take him with the 4th overall pick in 2014 for that kind of effort. The good news is some players are late bloomers and Bennett’s second straight, below average year may allow the Flames to sign him on the cheap and let him develop.
Much like the case of T.J. Brodie, this grade is more of an indication of the Flames failing Bennett than Bennett failing the Flames. Bennett more than anybody else was stuck as the individual who was the boat being sunk by Brouwer and his awful possession. He really didn’t stand a chance this year and far too often Glen Gulutzan made a scapegoat out of him instead of Brouwer who rightfully deserved it.
Hopefully next year Bennett will not be attached to Brouwer and may have a chance at proving something. This year ultimately served as a year of wasted development due to his absolutely abhorrent deployment with sub-par talent. Both the Flames and Bennett have some catching up to do.
The only thing that’s been consistent about Bennett in his first two NHL seasons is inconsistency. When he’s on, he’s really on, but unfortunately those times were few and far between this season. I’ve really liked the edge Bennett brought to the Flames this year, and especially towards the end of the season. I think a lot of his future is resting on how the Flames choose to support him and how set they are in keeping him at the centre position. In the few games Bennett shifted to wing, it seemed to really pick up his game, although it did come with the benefit of playing with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. The Flames should be able to sign Bennett to a team friendly bridge contract and let him continue his development. At the end of the day, he’s 20 years old and I think we’ve been slightly spoiled by the immediate impact other players like Gaudreau, Monahan, and Tkachuk have made. He’s got a lot of the intangibles that you can’t teach, and I think it’s only a matter of time until his point production picks up.
Our Final Grade: C+
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