Sam Bennett Is Going To Be A Centre (At Least To Start)

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley did the media rounds this week, including an appearance on Sportsnet 960 The Fan’s morning show with Dean “Boomer” Molberg and Ryan Pinder. He covered a number of topics in the 20+ minute interview, which you can listen to on the station’s website in its entirety.

The biggest news item? Probably where Sam Bennett is going to start the season: up the middle.

The fact that he was still a kid and everything, we put him on the wing [during the playoffs]. And I don’t really like this. I like his game, and he showed us that he can play at wing, but I think that we drafted him as a center, and at camp we’re going to work unbelievably hard with Sammy. We’re going to see him in many games, so that we can really test him, we can really teach him. Every training camp is a learning session for these kids, and that’s who he is. I have lots of trust, I have lots of high hopes on Sam Bennett, and I want him at center.

So for those of you scoring at home, that gives the Calgary Flames a centre group that includes Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan and Sam Bennett. You’ll notice that group includes zero right-handed players, so most likely you’ll also see Josh Jooris and Drew Shore – who played some centre last year – lining up in that spot from time-to-time.

At this point, I think you can slot Monahan in as first-line C, Stajan in as fourth-line C, and some combination of Backlund and Bennett as 2C and 3C. Beyond that, there’s a bunch of question-marks on this roster. And not “Oh god, they have no depth!” questions, but “Where do Mason Raymond and Joe Colborne fit on this team?” types of questions.

  • Joe Flames

    At least they are playing him in a position he is used to rather than have him learn to play wing then switch. They gave Monahan lots of responsibility but not much more than he could handle; I expect Bennett will get similar treatment. Let’s hope he can handle more than the usual rookie centre.
    Hartley has a good record with young players.

    • zachg

      Actually Bennett spent a fairly large chunk of time in Kingston on the left wing. Personally I’m all for developing Bennett as a centre but this hurts our top six in my opinion and creates a whole at 2nd line lw in my opinion. Ultimately good move for the future but it may not be the best for us short term. Not to mention bumping Backlunds minutes down as well as not having a righty. It does however separate Backlund from Bennett which will more than likely allow us to give him sheltered minutes.

      Can the season start yet??

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Hartley has a great track record for maximizing potential in young players which is the exact opposite of what I heard he did with his young players in Colorado. So either the rumours of him in Colorado were false or he has learned from his past mistakes…either way he has shown the right formula in Calgary.

      I used to get irritated when he would not use Johnny more often… But that started to change. He would not play him in the last couple minutes of a game or 4 v 4 until later In the season. All that is left is for him to play Johnny on he PK… And that to will happen.

  • everton fc

    I see Backlund centring the 3rd line, and Colborne on the wing with him. Perhaps that 3rd line is Boume/Backlund/Colborne to start.

    Which puts guys like Raymond, and even Byron, in limbo, unless Byron’s a 4th line wing on Stajan’s like, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Or Colborne is moved. And Raymond, as well. And so on, and so on….

  • zachg

    My hopfull lines are- johnny monny huds- ferland backs frolik- bouma Sammy Colburn-Byron staj Jones. …bro die gio- Hamilton spoon- wides Russell. ..but we have too many ya eng will prob be with Hamilton. . Go flames go!!!

  • ngthagg

    This is tangential to the issue, but this is a situation where numbering the lines 1st through 4th, presumably based on ice time, is really showing its age.

    If Backlund plays on a line with Frolik and another defensively sound player, and Bennett is on a line with a couple of quick thinking, high ceiling forwards, it doesn’t really matter which one gets more minutes. Against different teams, it could be either one. (A deeper team would demand more time by the Backlund line, for example.)

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Canucks Army just listed Sven as their #1 prospect.

    Poor bastards…

    I wonder where Sven would have landed in our prospect rankings this year?


    • Cfan in Vic

      This could very well be how it shakes out but I doubt it will be how training camps starts. I expect that Raymond will be given every opportunity to play with Bennett and Frolik. I know that will not be popular around these parts but I doubt they want to give up on him yet. Whether he seizes his chance that’s up to him. Looking at your line combinations I think that Jones and Jooris are interchangable depending on chemistry and whom we are playing.

      Line A: will be relied on to produce offense but will not be overly sheltered Hartley will not be afraid to play this line against other teams top lines when he has too.

      Line B: Bennett will be given the most sheltered starts and will see a lot of OZ and whenever possible Hartley will want this line against other teams weaker lines. There is going to be a lot of competition to see who will round out this line.

      Line C: Backlund’s line will be given the toughest assignments and yet will be expected to drive possession and produce some offence. Expect them to see whenever possible the other teams best.

      Line D: Stajan’s line will also mostly get DZ starts and will be expected to negate other teams second lines and shift possession as well. They will be expected to produce less offence than Back’s line.

      • Craig

        I agree with your comments, I do think that Jones will play with backs and boums, since they had excellent chemistry for a time last year. I’d rather see Frolik with Backlund but he would be a good player to have with Bennett to help him get into the offensive zone.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I guess I’m in the minority that believes it’s ok to start Bennett on the wing? Personally, I’d rather him see more minutes on the wing and learn the game with a very good centre to shelter him.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      If it’s shelter you want it makes more sense to keep Bennett at center. If he plays on the wing with Backlund he’ll get defensive starts against top players (and if he doesn’t you’re wasting Backlund and thus hurting the team).

      The best decision developmentally is to keep Bennett at the position you want him to stay at (center). The best decision in the short term is to use Bennett in a primarily offensive role and to keep him away from Backlund and his defensive role.

      There is quite literally no reason to move Bennett to the wing.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I disagree.

        Firstly, the ‘best’ decision is without question is situational. Where and how to shelter a young inexperienced player depends on a lot of factors. For example, how much organizational depth does a team have? Which players can be relied on to effectively pickup slack, and still maintain posession? How good is the rookie?
        Second, the goal should should be short and long term success for both player and team. Look no futher than Leon Draisaitl for evidence of pushing rookies to far. Promoting an 18 year old to the NHL is one thing, and throwing him into a role where he may not be successful is quite another.

        Sam Bennett’s development will not be slowed by placing him on the wing for a season (or less) but it will allow him to get real game time experience without having all the responsibilities of centre.

        In the end, I not for or against either the wing or centre. I would just like him put in a place to succeed.

        • Craig

          Even before Hartley said he wanted to play Bennett at center I was saying that; many(most) on this sight were on your side of the argument. I also see where the Hockey writers side with you as they still have him listed as a lw. I believe he will be given every opportunity to play center just like Monahan was; which means playing with at least one veteran and being given mostly OZ starts; if he struggles then I could see Hartley moving him. Based upon his play in the playoffs and the preseason last year I would not bet against the young man and Hartley being right about him playing at center. He will be coming into camp with a healthy set of shoulders, his healthy level of confidence and a desire to prove himself against the other top rookies playing in the NHL this season; personally I think young Sam is up for the challenge.

          Camp should be very interesting. (other guys who I think might get a look with Sam and Frolik: Granlund and Ferland(LW) or Jones and Poirier (RW).