148Sam Bennett

Could any Flames players rebound in 2017-18?

A little while back, Kent wrote about Troy Brouwer. More specifically, he wrote about the many reasons why a bounce-back year shouldn’t be expected from the veteran Calgary Flames forward. His reasoning got my curiosity going: if Brouwer isn’t expected to have a bounce-back year because of a few specific reasons, could any Flames be due for a bounce-back for those same reasons?

The reasons players struggle

As Kent outlined, there are five basic reasons why players underperform:

  • Poor usage
  • Tied to boat anchors
  • Injury
  • Bad on-ice percentages
  • Bad personal shooting percentages

Brouwer’s bad year wasn’t tied to any of these five factors. But what players didn’t perform well last season and seemed to have their poor performance tied to one (or more) of these factors?

Poor usage

Sam Bennett had a weird year in 2016-17. He played primarily middle six minutes, but was basically shelved on the third line as he committed to becoming a full-time center. He wasn’t great at it, and his lack of offensive production in that role (for reasons we’ll get into in a bit) wasn’t propped up with a ton of power-play time.

Bennett’s even strength usage made sense given his role, but he was a distant seventh among forwards in PP ice time – behind Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. If you’re trying to keep your young center’s confidence up as he struggles to learn the ins and outs of being a full-time center, it doesn’t make much sense to not give him a ton of PP time.

Tied to boat anchors

For the sake of argument, let’s presume that Brouwer, Lance Bouma, Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman are the team’s primary boat anchors from last season. Which players spent the most time with them? Three players spent over 200 even strength minutes playing with three of the four boat anchors:

  • Bennett spent over 200 minutes each with Brouwer (376:45), Engelland (350:55) and Wideman (230:20)
  • Brodie spent over 200 minutes each with Brouwer (338:55), Bouma (226:22) and Wideman (655:45)
  • Versteeg spent over 200 minutes each with Brouwer (431:27), Engelland (275:25) and Wideman (200:04)

Brodie played more with Wideman than with anybody else. Versteeg played more with Brouwer than with anybody else. Depending on what happens with free agency this summer, Versteeg may once again be with Brouwer (but Brodie will definitely be far away from Wideman this year).

Bad on-ice percentages

Bad on-ice percentages manifest themselves in two ways: the puck won’t stop going into your own net or it won’t go into the other team’s net. A couple of Flames got nailed by both of those impacts in a big way last season: Brodie and Bennett.

Among Flames regulars, Bennett had the lowest on-ice shooting percentage (6.28%) and the lowest on-ice save percentage (90.53%). Brodie’s bad percentages were very close to Bennett’s: a 6.71 shooting percentage and a 90.95 save percentage. When Bennett and Brodie were on the ice, the Flames couldn’t score and couldn’t keep the puck out of their net.

Bad personal percentages

Bennett had a bad shooting percentage compared to his prior full NHL season, with 10.7% of his shots going in compared to 13.2% the season prior. His percentage definitely dipped, but it’s hard to say whether it was due to situational issues or swapping from the wing to center, and there are the usual sample size questions given we’re comparing his only two full seasons.

Sum it up

Bennett, Brodie and to a lesser extent Versteeg seem like decent candidates for bounce-back seasons in 2017-18. Bennett had to drag around boat anchors, never got PP time and had both bad personal and on-ice percentages. Brodie had to drag around boat anchors and had bad on-ice percentages. Versteeg had to drag around boat anchors.

So long as these guys can get some significant ice time away from Brouwer, they should be good bets to bounce back in 2017-18.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    I think there is one other reason players can bounce back but it isnt measurable. They can recommit themselves to the game. I suspect that for whatever reason Troy Brouwer didn’t have his mojo last year. In fact last year I kept wondering who the large, unengaged floater was and why he was on the ice. I suspect Brouwer is embarrassed by last year’s performance and has something to prove. We shouldn’t expect miracles but I have to believe we get more than we got last year. If not then Troy has given up on the game and should retire.

  • buts

    Everybody talks about how bad a year Brouwer had. Bennett had a bad year and it’s Brouwers fault. He wasn’t the only one with a bad year. How about Bouma, Brodie, Wideman, Stajan, arguably Jonny plus others also many on the team had sub par point years compared to there career averages. What responsibility does GG have in all of this?

    • TheoForever

      Large part of the responsibility is on GG, he made bad decisions throughout the year. He was getting better as the year went along. His decisions in many aspects such as player usage were terrible. What I find funny is that it took him 4 playoff games to realize that if you have a potent defense core that can provide offense you should activate it like Nashville did. He doesn’t adjust very well. Not talking to players after games and waiting a day is weird.
      Does he talk to them in between periods?

    • oilcanboyd

      Brouwer rises to the top of the bad year players because Brouwer’s indifference on the ice looked like he was coasting this season, no matter what the game situation.

    • Carl the tooth

      How many points did edm get in there first year under McLennan………77. All these statistics and last year are miss leading take out oct and beginning of November from there how good was the flames ….. well they were one of the best teams the rest of the season .now with all the distractions and excuses gone .wideman.johnny contract.no camp for our top two forwards and new coach and system .i believe in smith if he’s stays healthy we are golden . I’m not worried about this year what so ever but going into last year I wasn’t so sure . Stats aren’t everything what does your eye gauge tell you ? Flames will only keep getting better our core is still pretty young yet

    • L13

      Stajan did not have a bad year given his age.

      Gaudreau did not have a bad year, that’s just ridiculous.

      Bouma sucks.

      Wideman at this age also sucks, yet he was better than Engelland, Bartkowski and Stone, so IDK why you’re singling him out.

      Brodie got nailed on percentages and was stuck with Wideman, who sucks, and Stone, who sucks despite what Flames fans think.

      Basically you can blame Gulutzan for his D pairings or what have you, but it’s not his fault that some players aren’t good.

  • The GREAT WW

    Super high risk trading away our first round pick with that many players needing to turn things around, especially with a weak coach…..
    I hope it works out….

    WW

  • Lucky 13

    I just hope that Bennett gets a chance to have an impact this season. I’d love to see him get his confidence back.
    As many others have suggested, having a line of Tkachuk- Bennett- Versteeg would be optimal for him.
    Questions remain as to how GG deploys Bennett? He performed quite well in the playoffs with Versteeg. Tkachuk would no doubt be a complimentary fit.

    Does GG keep 3M line together?

    I’m less concerned about Brodie, he’s a world class skater and regained some confidence after being paired with Stone.
    With Hamonic joining the team, I suspect nothing but better overall performance from Brodie.

    Brouwer? Just questions this year, hoping he does better, but realistically wonder where he fits beyond 4th liner. Maybe PK time.

    I’d be happy if Brouwer has a bounce back season, but how do you use him this season after a horrendous year?

      • The GREAT WW

        I like Hamonic a lot, but I would not have made that trade without knowing where the pick ends up.
        With our luck we miss the playoffs by one point and this is the one year “we” win the lottery…

        WW

      • Carl the tooth

        Hey GG had way more points in his first year with flames than McLennan did with Soilers there first year with him .flames were one of top teams last 2/3 rds of the season where does this GG hate come from really

        • Skylardog

          But the Flames came from being a playoff team one year removed, whereas the Oilers were what, a decade from being in the playoffs. And for no reason should you think it is McLellan. The team he left went from chumps in his last season in SJ to Stanley Cup finalists the year after he left. Oilers are 59% McDavid, 39% Talbot, and 2% Rogers Place. The Flames core should have been good enough to make the playoffs with “Harvey” at the helm

          • Carl the tooth

            When flames made the playoffs in 2015 it was a bit of a fluke it was fun but not sustainable to have all those comebacks .fun but everyone was right that it was very unlikely to repeat .

          • Carl the tooth

            True . I wonder if he’s influenced by management at all .they signed Brouwer as a top 6 .maybe they told gulutzan to use him on top line . Could be same with trevling and some of his questionable signings if Burke had influenced .maybe that’s why trevling had a full control clause in his contract . Could there be meddling going on in the background? I think he was starting to figure it out .there was a lot of new faces .new system .goalies . I think he did ok

          • Carl the tooth

            Lol we would have to get mcT back in edm I can see it now the hound and mctavish scrapping in the dressing room hall fur and tongues flying everywhere lololol

  • Avalain

    The question for me is if Stone and Hamonic can have bounceback years. Stone is likely going to go down the depth chart a little, which should help. Plus Hamonic and Stone both had “gradual recovery from injury” seasons last year, if I recall correctly. Either way, them stepping up will make a big difference.

    • Rudy27

      Sometimes I think people think that once a player returns from a serious injury they are at 100%. There is a mental aspect beyond the physical state. I had a completely torn ACL and remained active in several sports since. In my case, it took about a year after recovery before I truly believe it was healed and got my confidence back. I feel confident Stone and Hamonic will return to their better selves this season.

  • Toofun

    Calgary gets better this year by moving out their worst players from last year and reducing the roles of the weakest remaining players. Makes sense to me.

    Add in the possibility of less frustrating penalties and non-calls, fewer backbreaking weak goals against and even maybe a more balanced disputed goal record (for and against) and this could be a very fun year!

  • OYYC

    There are two young players who need a confidence boost the most, and need to be in a situation where they can succeed. One, is Bennett and the other is Lazar. They need to be kept away from Brouwer, who is a 4th line player at best. Another youngster that needs to stay away from Brouwer is Jankowski who figures to graduate this year. Playing Janko at 4C makes no sense to me, so he has to play up the line-up somewhere.

    I’ve been saying it for a month since I signed up here, and at the risk of becoming boring these lines make the most sense:
    Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
    Jankowski – Backlund – Frolik
    Tkachuk – Bennett – Lazar
    Versteeg – Stajan – Brouwer

    Versteeg with Bennett makes sense, but that won’t work in the confidence building department as it means Lazar gets bumped down to the 4th line to play with Brouwer. Put the 3rd line B-L-T together and see what they can do.

      • piscera.infada

        While I don’t necessarily disagree, you are aware that team’s can (and will) tryout different lines. Gulutzan can always go back to Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik at literally any time he wants to.

        Now, I don’t dispute how good that line was, but I’m intrigued by a potential Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg line, wherein we know how good Backlund-Frolik can be playing with virtually anyone else on the roster. In my mind, should this team be able to get three near-interchangeable lines rolling, that goes further to their success this season than anything. The only path I see towards that (with the currently available forwards) is to see if Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg works in practice. Again, this doesn’t mean that Gulutzan has to become married to the idea.

        • OYYC

          The trouble is that Versteeg on the 3rd line means Lazar with Brouwer. I don’t think the team spent a second rounder on Lazar for him to be stuck in that scenario. That’s the Ottawa situation for the kid all over again, instead of Chris Neil he gets to stumble along with Troy Brouwer. Lazar will get a long look with better linemates to see what he’s got.

          • The Fall

            Brouwer will get every chance to rebound. He will play with Bennett and Steeg to start. Last pre-season Bennett and Brouwer worked extremely well; the flames stumbled out of the gate, and Brouwer never recovered.

          • piscera.infada

            Fair, I guess, but I’m not sure saddling Bennett with Lazar is much of an upgrade for Bennett either. If anything then, we’re probably looking at a Versteeg-Bennett-Lazar line. I honestly don’t see the Tkachuk-Bennett-Lazar thing happening, and I’d rather keep Tkachuk with Backlund-Frolik if that’s the way they’re going to go (and I say that as someone who would really like to see Tkachuk-Bennett experimented with).

          • The Fall

            Johnny – Sean – Ferland
            Matt – Backs – Frolik
            Brouwer – Sam – Steeg
            Lazar – Janko – Stajan/Hathaway

            Doug – Gio
            TJ – Hamonic
            Stone – Kulak

            1 – Smith
            2 – Lack

          • OYYC

            piscera.infada. Not sure where the reply button disappeared to, but if the Versteeg – Bennett – Lazar line gets thrown together then you’re left with Jankowski on the 4th line. Assuming you want to have your top 9 playing the most minutes, and a balancing of the lines…any combination of Versteeg NOT on the 4th line hinders one of the youngsters if they are stuck with Brouwer.

            GG likes his pairings, and Tkachuk should be given a shot with Bennett. I don’t see Lazar as a throw in on that line. It wasn’t that long ago that he was playing 1RW with some phenom up north at the World Juniors.

          • Baalzamon

            And any situation where Versteeg is on the fourth line in favor of a scrub like Lazar hinders the Flames as a whole. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lazar isn’t good enough to make the team. That will be obvious come training camp.

            I’m also not in favor of Jankowski on the wing, btw. If Bennett’s development should have proven anything it’s that young centers should NEVER be moved to the wing unless you intend for them to stay there.

          • Off the wall

            Question more than anything?
            If for instance we go with the lines as suggested, do you think that Lazar gets a look with the Backlund line?

            Or do we go with what will seem to be GG’s lines?
            JG-SM-MF
            MT- MB-MF (3 M)
            Versteeg- Bennett- Brouwer
            Then what?
            4th line with Janko- Stajan- Lazar

            Are we underutilizing our young en’s….

      • OYYC

        If you want to keep the 3M line together, it affects every other line. Then the 3rd line figures to be Jankowski – Bennett – Lazar. No thanks, far too much inexperience there.

        Put Jankowski with the 2M’s to learn from Master Backlund, and have Tkachuk boost the confidence and numbers of both Bennett and Lazar.

        • piscera.infada

          Why does everyone repeatedly forget about Versteeg? He’s a much, much better player than Lazar is. I’ve been operating under the assumption for much of the offseason that it’s a foregone conclusion he’s slotted alongside Bennett.

      • Eggs Bennett

        @The Fall

        So if you take the “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” approach, would you say it was a mistake breaking up Gio and Brodie and forming Gio and Hamilton? Just because something is good doesn’t mean it can’t be even better for the good of the whole team.

    • fumanchu1968

      I would agree with everything, however I wouldn’t give Brower a second chance. Buy him out now and keep the cancer from spreading further. Either that or send him to Stockton. He is a risk to all our young talented players.

    • Styxx

      Great line combos. Certainly worth trying out. If they work this could be the best of all combinations, maximize production and have balanced 3 line production.

      Downside is the 3rd line proposed is a high-risk kid combination lacking NHL experience and familiarity with each other. Playmaking capability may also be suspect compared to Versteeg. Reward may be high if it works, but likely only a 30% chance of success. That said, I am sure GG will employ many different combinations to see what is most effective in different scenarios eg. road/home, balanced lines vs front-end loaded, defensive focus, winger changes to 2-man units.

    • The Real Slim Brodie

      I think jankowski Bennett lazar could be a great line aswell and Bennett and jankowski could switch off centre duties. Is lazar a natural centre too? If so they all could be tried

      • OYYC

        Lazar is a natural centre. When Backlund was rested at the end of last year vs. San Jose, Lazar took his spot centering Tkachuk and Frolik. Tkachuk to Lazar resulted in a goal down low.

    • oilcanboyd

      NOPE! Can’t break up one of the league’s best lines in Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik. Jankowski-Bennett-Versteeg. Shouldn’t break up Bennett-Versteeg either. Played well together at year end. And I do not think Lazar is ready for prime time. Should spend a year in the AHL.

      • OYYC

        Lazar’s ship for playing in the AHL has long since sailed. He would have to clear waivers, and there would be multiple claims for him. A second rounder pick given up, and a two year contract says he’s made the team already. Now it is up to the coaching staff to figure out where to play him and how the 4 lines shake out to maximize the overall benefit.

    • Carl the tooth

      As long as the 3 Rd line gets lots of mins I like the line combos and I’ve posted similar. I don’t really like Tkachuk on a3rd line but if they roll those 3 lines we would have possibly 3 dangerous lines . What do you think of Tkachuk bennet and ferlund? Or. Jankowski bennet lazar ?

      • OYYC

        According to Treliving, Ferland starts the year on the top line which is where I’d play him as well. Jankowski – Bennett – Lazar doesn’t really work, too many unknowns and not enough NHL experience.

        Janko sheltered with the Mikes. Tkachuk looked like a 5 year vet out there already, his hockey IQ is very high, and gets to be a driver on the B-L-T line.

        • Carl the tooth

          Yeah I agree I threw it out there . But after I thought that would not work 3 guys that haven’t proven themselves enough yet or experience I take it back .

          • Carl the tooth

            Are we totally set on these duos
            Once again just throwing it out there
            Tkachuck monahan versteeg
            Johnny bennet ferlund
            Jankowski backlund frolik
            Klimchuck stajan Brouwer

    • Skylardog

      What that really means is that Brouwer’s only place where he will not drag someone down is in the pressbox. The contract is a sunk cost, where he is at game time is a factor of usefulness, not contract size.

  • BurningSensation

    Of all the things that might propel Calgary into serious contender status, Bennett becoming a possession driving pivot with decent offense is at or near the top of the list (along with; goaltending, Monahan holding serve as a #1 C, and Hamonic being good enough to really unleash Brodie).

    If Bennett develops into a killer C in his own right, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to match lines against us.

    • Atomic Clown

      Hahaha I love the “unleash Brodie” part. Dude was severely hampered by Grossman, Wideman and Engelland. Peak Brodie is better than Gio in my humble opinion, I’ve never seen a better and more efficient skater in my life

      • The GREAT WW

        Especially since we traded away our first round pick. There is no room for error this season. If we are not winning we need to make changes. We can’t wait until next year….

        WW

    • Mr. J

      Can you imagine the flames missing the playoffs and that pick turns into a lottery pick. I mean they already don’t need a table at the next couple drafts but that would sting some kind of bad wouldn’t it.

      • TheoForever

        Your are consistent, but in a bad way. You guys have one of the worst defenses in the league, bottom 8 without Sekera for sure and not that much better with him. The crappy part is that when you guys miss the playoffs for 11th time in 12 years, I’m sure you will ‘win’ another lottery… and this time, not like the other times, it will be different…….

        • Mr. J

          Hey theo in case you have not been tuning in… most of the top hockey folks at SN and TSN are saying edm has the best chance at winning the pacific. Even the fellas at flames for thought just did an article where they asked who would finish first in the pacific. Who do you think even the flames writers picked to win? Yup the Oilers:) Don’t let treburke fool you guys into thinking that it’s all about defence. Did you see the d corps for the Stanley cup champs this year? Must have some scoring and grit mixed in there wouldn’t you say. So us missing the playoffs and winning the lottery again? ….. very unlikely. Don’t forget the bafoons (macT and K Lo) are no longer steering this ship. We actually have a real GM now.

          • TheoForever

            The trinity of suck is still there festering like an infection, Chia is not on a stable ground.
            Chia has a vision but he does have his faults: bad cap management and bad trades are two of his worst problems. As for predictions, last year everyone was predicting that Sharks would be a force after their trip to the final. I have seen predictions were Montreal is listed as one of the contenders for the cup, which is funny. As for the oiler predictions, they go like this: no depth and bad defense, yes but they have mickyD, so they must be winning. During the decade of suck every summer, people where predicting something special in brewing in edmonton on account of all those number one picks, and every year it was a disaster. So, I wouldn’t get too cocky thinking that your team is somehow entitled and destined to make the playoffs…… Oiler regression in 2 months…..

          • Carl the tooth

            Who cherrelli ask Boston (seguin trade ) absolutely nothing left to show for that trade what so ever .throw in a hall and eb and soon nuge too .loolololol what gm are you speakith of ?. Also the more people are analyzing the flames and oilers, now the more there starting to see flames my actually have the edge . Lots of analysist have flames as the team to beat in the west mot just the weaker pacific but the central division also will kneel down to flames all on paper of course you never really know .ladt time flame were pegged as the team to beat or one of them they never even made the playoffs (2005) flames are much more than defence. We have a young forward core that’s getting better and more consistent and mutiploplayers on the cusp of breakout seasons the strata have aligned and very good reason that flames are considered to make some noise in the future .

          • TheoForever

            Lets not forget the Reinhart trade, never forget that one, for it was a statement of continued ineptitude…….., a passing of the torch Low to Chia etc………
            Just Like Tre with Hamilton, different results but signature never the less.
            Sure, Reinhart wasn’t NHLer, but Chia thought so, and so did the trinity of suck.
            and they think we gave up too much for Hamonic……………..hahahaha……. just to quote woody wood pecker.

  • Lucky 13

    Anyone think Foo has a chance of making the lineup?
    If so, with all the lineup configurations still up in the air, where would he fit in?

    I speculating of course, however my assumption is that Brouwer gets a chance to redeem himself on the team. Anyone have Brouwer slotted in above 4th line?
    I think GG will give him 3rd line minutes and let him sink or swim… not saying that’s ideal or preferred, just my gut feeling.

      • oilcanboyd

        I think the ship has sailed on Vegas taking him! With Captain Mike Fisher retiring from Nashville, maybe Nashville will try to get Brouwer? Two chances: slim and none?

      • Southboy

        Hey man. Not to be that guy. But you yourself are one of the first guys to call out the Oiler trolls on FN, why would you than go to ON and do just that. Kinda embarassing lol’ing all over the place.

        I Enjoy your input here. But…….

        • Carl the tooth

          I was curious. Fine fine I’ll reel it in . I just wanted see if I could take on all the trolls in on by myself .lots of lolol but I don’t think I lost many arguments. My apologies they were saying some pretty rude threads about flames fans and ludicrous comments . They gave me too much firepower it was like a knife though butter . Had to be done

  • Squishin

    There is no question that Brouwer was a boat anchor last year. However, I think he will rebound slightly and become easier to play with. Word is that he was playing with a significant hand injury for much of the latter half of the season. This would explain why he was more reluctant to shoot and also why he shied away from physical confrontation. If a fully-healed Brouwer shows up to camp ready to work hard, I think he’ll have a better year, and also be much easier to play with for those on his line.

  • Pizanno

    If Brouwer is as bad as everybody says that he is why are the flames still playing him? Players have been bought out with five or six years remaining on their contracts. If he is going to make our team this much worse I just don’t get how he can be used in any situation. What gives? I mean, the evidence seems to be staggering.

    • TurkeyLips

      His detriment is overplayed. It’s the contract that has people barking over how ineffective he is. For how much Brouwer is lambasted you’d think he was a turnover machine to the extent of Wideman, which is simply not the case. His play by play is passable.

      • Carl the tooth

        No he was a passenger and played with no passion or emotion he didn’t stick up for team or players .we all knew his contract was overpaid as most of the top ufas always are . Does he bounce back and shut everyone up well it wouldn’t be the first time ( Hamilton)

        • Off the wall

          Geez I can’t believe it, but I’m agreeing with Carl here.

          Passenger #36 is what Brouwer was last year. No emotion…ditto, no pulse…ditto, didn’t hit, didn’t engage , didn’t get involved for teammates and definitely didn’t produce. I hate to say this but after Gaudreau was given the 21 slash salute, Brouwer didn’t give a F***. Merely stated I get slashed too… what a di**
          I think it was Karma when Versteeg accidentally injured him with a dump-in shot…

          If I had the GM role and thank goodness I don’t, I would have booted his ass off the team and sent him down to Stockton after the comment about JG. I don’t like Brouwer, you can’t make me like him… strip his ass of the “A” and give it to Backlund!

      • BurningSensation

        No, it’s not overplayed. He was a possession vampire on every line he was tried with, literally making everybody worse by being around them.

        Even if he was only a $1m a year, his contract would have been an overpay.

        Can he rebound? It is possible, but his age and playing style make that unlikely.

        As with Engelland and Wideman, taking him off the roster is addition by subtraction. In pareticular, we should keep him the hell away from Bennett if we want him to grow as an impact player.