Should Sam Bennett be moved to the wing?

There has been a lot of internet electricity spent on wondering what the heck is up with Sam Bennett over the past two seasons. I am guilty of if myself, it’s a tantalizing subject to be sure. At this early stage in his career, I think that a fair position is “let’s all just friggen relax and let this thing play out for a bit,” but allow me to not do that for a little bit here.

One of the most frequent topics of discussion surrounds whether or not Bennett should be playing centre and many options have been discussed for him so far. I still think that it is entirely possible that Bennett will turn into a very good NHL centreman one day, but I am just not sure if that is going to be this season.

However, what if Bennett was moved to the wing, not simply because he hasn’t really produced at centre, but because the Flames need additional help on the wing?

During our Slack Sunday discussion, we discussed some of the options for Bennett and both Christian Tiberi and Christian Roatis discussed the viability of moving Bennett to a wing and the Flames’ lack of options at the RW spot, even with the addition of Jaromir Jagr. As Tiberi noted, Bennett’s play at centre hasn’t been all bad this year. In fact, despite a minuscule sample, the Versteeg – Bennett – Jagr line has managed a CF% of 60.1, which is certainly not bad.

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This discussion, like seemingly every discussion on this website, has an important connection to Mark Jankowski. The Flames are probably tempting the injury gods at this point by keeping him in the AHL. After his good camp and hot start to this season, Jankowski has certainly done enough to merit a longer look. You already know that. A lot of people have already said that.

However, perhaps if/when Mark Jankowski is given a chance at a call-up, that could be the moment to give Bennett an extended look at wing. To question the efficacy of moving your franchise’s highest draft pick out of his natural position to give Jankowski a look at centre is fair, but if Jankowski was ever to be given a chance in the lineup, burying him on the fourth line makes no sense to me.

This is one reason that sending Jankowski down when the season started made sense to me, given the already twisted logic that a fourth line needed to have Tanner Glass on it. While I am free to long for the day when the Flames are able to roll four functional lines, currently that isn’t really the organizational logic. Belief in the viability of Glass et al remains strong and, as such, calling up Jankowski to centre a line with two of Matt Stajan, Freddie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Tanner Glass, or Troy Brouwer on it, well, doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Wotherspoon, Mark Jankowski

It is important to note that, in order for this to happen, one body from the current lineup would need to be removed (unless Micheal Ferland’s injury is more serious than just day-to-day, which doesn’t seem to be the case). Operating under the assumption that Ferland will be fine after four days off, for argument’s sake, let’s imagine that Freddie Hamilton clears waivers and Jankowski is called up at some point in the future. It’s entirely possible that the call-up will come due to an injury in the future, making this discussion pointless, but let’s imagine the call is due to Jankowski’s merit rather than circumstantial desperation.

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In that case, and forgive me for posting another theoretical lines list, but:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Jagr
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
  • Bennett – Jankowski – Versteeg
  • Who – Really – Cares

With apologies to Ferland, who is good and is certainly not as bad as this season’s start has looked, as long as the fourth line is constituted like this, there is no reason to put much thought into it. We all know exactly what to expect from it.

The impetus to move Bennett to the wing then comes not out of a desire to give up on him as a centre altogether, it would be to help out the Flames on the wing and allow Jankowski to get a fair shake when he’s given a shot. To my thinking, the worst case scenario for Jankowski is a call-up, eight fourth line minutes for a couple of games, bounced around to the wing with Stajan as centre, then eventually returned to Stockton.

The sad truth is without one of Emile Poirier, Spencer Foo, Hunter Shinkaruk, Marek Hrivik, or Morgan Klimchuk emerging as viable options, the Flames’ options on the wing are not good at all. The most NHL-ready player they’ve got at the moment happens to be a centre and Bennett hasn’t had a great deal of success there. So, if Bennett can become a reliable NHL winger, that would be valuable for the franchise as well. Plus, it would give the Flames an opportunity to see what Jankowski could do without burying him on the fourth line.

  • I am Batman

    To the wing of the New Jersey Devils ir anyone who will take him…..

    Seriously, I’m not trolling, my opinion is that he is one of the weakest forwards in the Flames.

  • Cheeky

    At the end of the day what is the harm of trying him at wing (either side doesn’t matter) again? Isn’t winning what we are trying to do, regardless of where Benny plays? I get it that BT drafted him as a centre, and GG is determined to have him play centre no matter what, but if he’s better suited as a winger then it’s a no brainer…

      • Cheeky

        I was talking in general, meaning if we are winning and he makes us better it doesn’t matter where he plays. But if switching him to winger makes him better and us more so, then switch it. If it makes him worse and us the same, back to centre…

  • JusAFlamer

    I do not see why everyone hung up on Bennett “holding” Jankowski up. He is not the reason, if bring him up let him start on wing if no other spots open. Little less responsibility, more time to learn, and actual nhl time for evaluation.
    With all the face off kick outs, having extra faceoff man on wing is good thing.

    I think prob with Bennett is still linemates however i do think that line versteeg, jagr, bennet has been better than the mony line through whole games thus far, so do not see why focus is completely on Bennett and trying to move him with majority of reason being to get Janko up.

    I “could” see moving him to wing for a few games with gaudreau (who he has chemistry with) and monahan. Just because i cant see them splitting those 2 up (i would but i cant see GG doing it) to see if they cant spark his offence. BUT i do not see him doing a bad job and needing replacement as center

  • Off the wall

    I understand everyone wants Bennett to be successful. Our recent lineup configurations have made this a blender mess and no doubt haven’t contributed to Bennett being complete.

    GG also mentioned that he needs to stabilize this team and the lineup.

    With Jagr coming in, we saw a lot of variations of line mixing.
    I actually didn’t mind that, it gave us a preview of possibilities.
    We honestly don’t know what we have in Jagr yet. He’s looking better each game. Where does he best fit?
    With Gaudreau and Monahan?
    Or with Bennett and Versteeg?

    I’m not sure honestly, they are both equally intriguing. Can Jagr keep pace with first line minutes? Not yet.

    It’s probably the best option to keep Jagr with Bennett and Versteeg for now.
    If Bennett can be successful with Jagr, we’ll have our answer soon enough.

    The talk on moving Bennett to the wing will not happen UNLESS they decide to bring up Jankowski. That would only happen if Bennett is still struggling with Centre duties.

    This would logically be the only reason to move Bennett to the wing. When or if that happens is a mystery.

    I’d love to see the pressure taken off Bennett ( centre), however I honestly think he needs to work through this and prove it to himself that he’s capable.

  • Skuehler

    Monahan and Gaudrea are a thing. They need a scoring winger. Jagr fits the bill, with the odd shift subbing out for a Bennet or Ferland.

    Backlund and Frolik are a thing. Sure Tkachuk is great with them, but they can groom the next guy for a while. I see Tkachuk, Bennet, Ferland being a line long term. These three guys would be hell to play against and being around the same age could really gel into a unit. Bennet needs some consistent mates. If that means Janko anchors the 4th line, then let’s roll four lines and move Stan over and throw Versteeg in there too to mentor Janks.

  • freethe flames

    Until the Flames bring Janko up there is little need or chance of the Flames moving Bennett to the wing. With who is here maybe the way to go is Versteeg/Monny/Jagr Ozone starts (cycle,cycle,cycle). Johhny/Bennett/either Ferland/Lazar; Ozone starts and center ice starts to use their speed to create O. The Backs line well that is a no brainer Dzone starts drive possession and create their own offense. The last line well; just hold your own.