When Kingston’s Done, What Happens To Sam Bennett?

While everyone’s focus is rightly on the playoff chase in the National Hockey League. But hey, there’s a decent chance that some goings-on in the Ontario Hockey League could have an impact on the race.

And yes, I’m talking about Sam Bennett.

The Kingston Frontenacs are down 3-0 to the North Bay Battalion in their first round series. Game 4 is on Thursday, and there’s a good chance that the Fronts will be swept and Bennett will suddenly be without much to do.

So what do the Flames do with Sam Bennett if/when he becomes available, whether it’s Thursday or whenever his series ends?

THE OPTIONS

There are basically three things that can happen for Bennett. He can go to Calgary, as Jarome Iginla and others have. He can go to Adirondack on an ATO, like Emile Poirier did in Abbotsford last season. Or they can shut him down, given that he’s had a hectic year of surgery, rehab and moving around. Giving him some time off may be a good call.

THE SAFE PICK: ADIRONDACK

If the Flames want to play it safe, they can always send Bennett to the AHL. There’s no risk of his contract running, as he’d be on an amateur try-out deal. The Baby Flames are in the midst of a playoff push, but it’s a bit lower-key than the craziness of an NHL playoff.

The Baby Flames have 10 games left – it’ll be 8 after Thursday – and they need as many skilled bodies as they can get their hands on. Ryan Huska showed he doesn’t mind throwing new bodies into the mix this past weekend, as he put newly-signed Kenney Morrison in after a few practices. With Markus Granlund, Michael Ferland and Drew Shore up in Calgary, the Baby Flames could use a bit of high-end skill to go with their work ethic.

Bennett would be a good fit, and it’d be an alternative to throwing him into the deep end.

THE BOLD PICK: CALGARY

By the time Sam Bennett is available – optimistically, let’s say that Kingston loses on Thursday – the Flames will have four games left.

Now, if you look at the team’s roster and general line-up card, Bob Hartley has been pretty consistent. As the old saying goes, he’s danced with the ones that brought him. The Flames haven’t made any big acquisitions, and for the most part, the players that have performed well this season are the ones that have gotten the ice time. And now that the playoffs are up for grabs, the players are playing the same way they have all season. One reason behind this may be because the locker room is full of guys that have won games for each other in all sorts of manners, so that if one of them screws up and the team loses a game, pretty much everyone can recall a time where that player had bailed them out.

This may be a reason why Emile Poirier and Tyler Wotherspoon haven’t factored into the line-up; they haven’t had the time to build up the locker room cache, and it’s a bit unfair to put them in a situation where they could have a negative balance at season’s end. Hartley continues to ride the guys that got this team to the verge of the dance.

That brings us to Bennett.

The thing with Sam Bennett is that he’s been around the hockey team all season long, aside from being sent back to the OHL on February 21 and going home for Christmas. Up until that point, he was living in Calgary, practicing in Calgary and working out with the team in Calgary. For the majority of the season, aside from playing, he was basically part of the team.

Any other player, I can see the team being very hesitant to put them into the line-up over somebody who’s been on the roster all season. But if a player is bruised and there’s a top nine spot vacant, the decision-making calculus for Sam Bennett is a little bit different because the players – and Hartley – have likely gotten to know him a lot better than they would anybody they bring up from the farm.

That’s why I think they’ll at least bring Bennett to the big club. There are plenty of bottom-six bodies that can cycle in and out, but Bennett may be one of the few players with the skill-set and talent level to jump into an offensive role if injury strikes. Players get injured all the time during the playoffs, and it’s immensely helpful to have players around that you feel you can trust – both as a coach and as a teammate.

SO WHAT HAPPENS?

My gut says the scenarios can probably be structured, from most likely to least likely, like this:

  1. Bennett goes to the AHL.
  2. Bennett goes to Calgary as part of the Black Aces but doesn’t actually play.
  3. Bennett goes to Calgary and plays because of an injury.
  4. Bennett goes to Calgary and plays because Hartley sits somebody from the top nine.
  5. Bennett goes home and relaxes.

My gut says that the smart money is the Flames remain smart. But given that they’ve test-driven most of the team’s top prospects at a pro level except for Bennett this season, and their familiarity with him as a person and as a player, there’s a decent chance we see him wearing the Flaming C before the last game is played this season.

  • hulkingloooooob

    oh my. can you imagine if:

    (A) the flames blow all the predictions out of the water a make the playoffs

    (B) we beat Vancouver 1st round.

    and

    (C) we get a little taste of our next bright light (Bennett) in the playoffs?
    (and i do indeed think if he gets a chance he’ll “show up” and more! this kid is uber eager to impress!)

    maybe dreams can come true?

    anyway, my question is this:

    can we send Bennett to the farm and then bring him up if someone gets injured? or is it one or the other?

  • Parallex

    That’s a tough call.

    The most important thing is Bennett’s development, given how much hockey he’s missed this year I’d send him wherever he’s most likely to get the most games and the most minutes. I guess I say send him to Adirondack. They have more games left on their season then Calgary does and he’s more likely to play more minutes there then here.

  • Parallex

    I can see him being with Calgary to be around this atmosphere of a playoff chase if only as a practice player. Once he gets into a practice, it may be hard not to play him though.

  • Parallex

    The emotional hockey fan would say let’s play him here now, even get him into game before the season ends.

    The astute hockey fan would not burn a year off his ELC, ensure he is not overwhelmed and losses his confidence by throwing him into a playoff race and let him play in Addy to gain some confidence for next year…..

      • piscera.infada

        Once he plays his tenth game, his ELC no longer become deferred. Unfortunately, there is nothing to distinguish 10 regular season games from playoff games in the CBA. Therefore, I assume playoff games also count.

        It’s a really tough call with Bennett, but one has to think they’ll try him in Calgary for a bit, to see how he looks in practice maybe give him a game against Edmonton or Phoenix, then reassess.

  • scoopz

    I’d love to see them give the kid a taste vs, Edm and Phx. The problem is that he’s so damn competitive. If Hartley decides to go with other guys down the stretch, Bennett will take it really hard, I think. He wants to win, and has the drive to do it. It will break his heart to sit in the pressbox.

    I know some guys will say you can’t treat treat these guys with kid gloves. Well… Bennett is a kid, so you kind of have to, at least a little.

    Also, Providence made the Frozen Four!

    • King Quong

      I don’t see how he’d take it any different than he took getting sent down to the chl earlier this year… 2 points a game is an okay way to take something like that.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Adirondack is the best bet. It would be beneficial for the prospects playing down there to make the playoffs also. Bennett can help them do that while playing big minutes in a big role. No pressbox, limited minutes, etc.

    They could use a good center down there right now with Granlund being up, whereas the Flames have plenty of center depth right now.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Play him on the 3rd line as soon as hes available because hes been with the team most of the year. Theres no real pressure for him to be a star he can just come in and try to contribute without having to be pushed into a huge role too soon. I think thats the prob with edmonton every new first rounder is immediately expected to take on a big role. If flames make thr playoffs i think you take your shot- lot of players having career years that might not be so next year.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Bring Sam to Calgary as part of the Black Aces. Play him in a game after the Flames clinch 3rd in the Pac Division. My guess is that will be accomplished by beating LA on April 9. One game left in regular season against the Jets…tryout for Sam!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    If he’s good enough I don’t see the problem of playing him. Chances are he’ll outplay someone in the bottom 6. It’s not going to ruin him to play him. It’s more about his mentorship and attitude. The flames have good mentors to make sure he transitions well. Put him in coach!

  • RedMan

    As much as I want to see Bennett play in Flames silks, I think its best for his development to go to Adirondack. And based on everything BT has been saying and doing these last six months, focusing on the long-term success of the team and its prospects, I believe that’s what they’ll do.

    By the way, has anyone watched or closely followed the Frontenacs playoffs series vs. the Battalion? Based on articles like the one below with brief mentions of Bennett’s play, apparently he has been non-existent so far.

    Is it a nagging injury? Does he already have one foot er skate out the door in Adirondack/Calgary? Or is it just simply a slump/being keyed in on by a good junior team?

    http://www.thewhig.com/2015/03/31/frontenacs-in-a-3-0-hole

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Seems like the team isn’t playing well as a whole. Got torched 8-0 in the first game and have only scored 3 times in the entire series, with Bennet assisting on 2 of those. Following the Frontenac in game Twitter feed has shown that he has been getting chances and getting involved – seems like North Bays goalie has been lights out as well.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I say AHL.

    He’ll play the most meaningful minutes there and it’s the next progressive step for him: Junior to minor leagues. See how he does against full grown men in the pros, there’s no reason to rush him into Calgary. He’ll make a bigger impact in Adirondack than Calgary anyways.

    Development is the most important thing here. I have a feeling we’ll see him in Calgary next season anyways, but he may as well adjust and see the pro side of things at a slightly slower pace than the last 4 games of an NHL playoff chase.

    Too bad his playoff numbers have taken such a nosedive too. I wonder how many bodies he has hanging off of him every game?

  • Reidja

    Is he capable of helping the Flames win hockey games? Answer that and I think you know what they will do with him. I’m afraid the stakes are too high to insert a raw rookie. Even one with as high a ceiling as SB. I don’t think we have to worry about the Baertschi situation with this kid.

  • Nick24

    I was originally going to make an argument for why he should go into the AHL, but I think he could add a significant boost to our third line and 2nd PP unit. If theres a chance he helps your team I think you take it.

    However, in all likley hood he’ll be playing in Adirondack.

    • RedMan

      I just don’t know how we bring a youngster like that in with 2 or 3 games left in the season and expect him to perform without significant sheltering. And if the focus is on sheltering, then it isn’t on wining. At this stage, the team needs to pursue the post season with all their focus and energy, as they are doing. I think bringing in Bennett distracts. Not that I wouldn’t love to see him, but we will soon enough one way or another.

      • Nick24

        He wouldn’t need any more sheltering than Granlund. You only bring in Bennett if you feel that he is an improvement to your bottom 6. I think he has the skill to perform and he would probably be an upgrade on Granlund.

        The only people it would distract would be the media. Bennett’s been around the team all year. As I said before, its rather unlikely that he plays in the NHL this year but I think he’s ready.

        • Nick24

          Definitely do not agree!! You only play Bennett in your top 6 or not play him at all this year in Calgary. The kid is 18 and never played an NHL game. If he plays you play hime with the best…build his confidence!!

          He is NOT a bottom 6 player…

          • Nick24

            Our best players are on the top line, and short of playing him wing, he’s not going on the Backlund line. You play him in a scoring role. He’s good enough to make our 3rd line more offensively threatening. Yes he’s young, but whether hes in the NHL or AHL, he’s a player before he’s a kid.