Glen Gulutzan moved Sam Bennett back to the wing with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik owing to the Matthew Tkachuk suspension. The team didn’t have a great game, but Bennett’s performance was better than what we’ve generally seen from him this season: A team-leading CF% of 66% in just over 13 minutes of ice time. Even by eye, he looked more comfortable.
We’ve been debating what to do with Bennett for much of the season. Unfortunately, up until now, it’s mostly been status quo for the 20-year-old sophomore, much to his detriment. Everything about his game has been poor this season: his scoring is down, he gets roundly outshot, and he is visibly frustrated by his lack of progression.
So the question is – should the Flames make this move to the wing permanent?
While Tkachuk will likely go back to the 3M line at the end of his suspension, leaving Bennett on the wing may enable the Flames to fashion three solid forward lines rather than the two they have right now. In addition, the team really needs to Bennett to re-discover some of the mojo he displayed as a rookie last year.
Once Ferland and Tkachuk return, that would bump Bennett down to Stajan’s line. Here’s how the lineup might shake out:
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
Bennett – Stajan – Chiasson
Versteeg – Hamilton – Brouwer
This gives Bennett a couple of solid (if unspectacular) linemates and slides Brouwer down to the fourth line. Feel free to swap Versteeg for Chiasson if you’d prefer.
There’s no guarantee this would work, of course, but at some point the team needs to not only figure out how to get Bennett going, but how to ice a third line that isn’t routinely outshot and out-chanced. Maybe this does both.
So what would you do? Keep Bennett on the wing? Or move him back to C?