(Admit it, you read that headline in Jerry Seinfeld’s voice)
As I type this it’s August 24th and I literally said today “hey, what’s up with Sam Bennett?” Last summer we spent hours refreshing Twitter feeds waiting for news on Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, but when it comes to Sam Bennett it’s crickets. I’ve read more about Jaromir Jagr coming to Calgary, allegedly, than Bennett coming back.
It could be a whole lot of nothing and we’re just looking for something, but it does speak a little to how Bennett has been kind of an enigma over the last 2 seasons with the Flames. Bennett was the #4 pick in the 2014 draft and the results have been, shall we say, meh. Bennett hasn’t blown anyone away with his play, yet he really isn’t a bust either. It’s like he’s in some weird middle ground. Is he a true centre? Is he a forward? When will we see that potential the Flames saw when they selected him that high in the draft? All very good questions and they could be the exact ones Brad Treliving and company are asking themselves as they work on a new contract with the 21 year old Ontario native.
Bennett didn’t do himself any favors last season with another up and down campaign. He played in 81 games in 2016-17, four more than the prior season, but saw his point totals drop by 10 (36 down to 26). He did appear to be lost at times at the centre position and at times seemed comfortable on the wing. It seems like a broken record, but that’s his track record. Very streaky and very up and down. Last season he had streaks of 5, 6, 8 (x2) and 9 games where he was kept off the score sheet. Very similar to his rookie season of 2015-16.
It could be a mix of who he plays with and him just getting comfortable. Not every player is going to blow the doors off the league like Gaudreau, Monahan and Tkachuk did in their first seasons. The Flames top line of Gaudreau and Monahan clicked immediately and they play so well off each other. Tkachuk slid into the 3M Line and looked like he belonged from Day 1. Could Bennett benefit from playing up with Johnny and Mony or with Backlund and Frolik? Absolutely. In limited time with Gaudreau he looked like a different player, but so does Micheal Ferland. And while Bennett does have some of the grit in his game, I don’t think he gives the Monahan and Gaudreau line the muscle that it is sorely missing without Ferland. What about the 3M Line? That’s a hard one to break up due to their success last season. Out of those two lines, you’d probably drop Ferland down to third line and hope he continues to score and try to jump start Bennett with Gaudreau and Monahan.
The Flames history is littered with young prospects they have given up on too soon and you’d hate to see Bennett added to that list. A more recent tale of patience would be that of Mikael Backlund. Calgary was extremely patient with Backlund and that logic paid off big time. Backlund was Calgary’s 1st Round pick (#24) back in 2007. It took Backlund a solid 4 years to really gain some footing and it really wasn’t until the last two seasons that he really exploded (47 & 53 points respectively). The end result? Selke chatter for Backlund and an impending HUGE contract.
Sam Bennett’s two NHL seasons are a good thing for the Flames, believe it or not. They don’t need to break the bank to sign him seeing he hasn’t proven himself and they can get him on a team friendly, 2 year bridge deal. That gives both the Flames and Bennett the chance to get to know each other a little more and see what they have in each other.
It’s just odd that the summer is coming to an end and Sam Bennett seems like an after thought when it comes to new contracts. Is it a bad sign? Time will tell, but when you hear more about a 45 year old Jagr as opposed to your 21 year old, former #4 pick, it peaks your interest.
One thing we do know for certain, Sam Bennett can grow a SWEET lip caterpillar.