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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

Mark Jankowski shouldn’t be the Flames’ savior

Through the first eight games of the season, a common refrain among those who follow the Calgary Flames – be they media, fans or other followers – is that Sam Bennett isn’t exactly setting the world on fire at center. But that comment is often followed by a furrowed brow and a question: “What about Mark Jankowski?”

While Bennett has been struggling up the middle in Calgary, Jankowski has been eviscerating the American Hockey League. Through six games the 2012 first round pick has been a beast for the Stockton Heat, factoring into their offense in every single game. As the undisputed best center prospect the Flames have right now, it was only natural to ponder a recall.

Now that it’s happened, it’s probably a good to remember to keep expectations in check – at least while the whole team is struggling to find their game.

When Jaromir Jagr signed with the Flames, Brad Treliving went back to a phrase he’s uttered quite a bit whenever a new player is acquired or someone asks about a promising prospect: “He won’t be a saviour.” (Also phrased as: “We’re not expecting him to be a saviour.”)

Treliving has said this a lot. Sam Bennett in 2014? Not expected to be a saviour. Dougie Hamilton? Not a saviour. Matthew Tkachuk? Not a saviour. Mike Smith? Not a saviour. Jagr? Not a saviour. Heck, when Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan signed their extensions, Treliving would only go so far as calling them good young players. The guy is very, very deliberate with his word choices.

The reasoning for Treliving’s catchphrase seems to be two-fold: hockey’s a team game and it’s very difficult for anybody not named Connor McDavid to dramatically tilt the direction of a game. But also, why put pressure on any one player in such a way? It’s natural to throw cold water on expectations for any one player because it gives everybody involved breathing room.

Heck, Treliving’s actions this summer screamed “We’re going for it!” but he was significantly more measured in his verbiage, to the point where it was almost like pulling teeth to even get him to admit to raised internal expectations. He gets the expectations game and does his absolute level best to keep them realistic (or even low). The team has acknowledged that he’s good enough to play in the NHL, but now that Jankowski is up – whether he’s playing the role of warm body, cavalry, or somewhere in between – it’s important to remember Treliving’s words: nobody’s expected to be a saviour.

Let’s also not forget Sven Baertschi, a lesson the Flames learned when it came to prospects and expectations management.

Back in 2011-12, the Flames were a frustrating team: full of talent but not quite good enough to get over the hump. The Jarome Iginla trade, which began the rebuild in earnest, was still a full year (and a lockout) away. And the Flames were absolutely devastated by injuries. They had already recalled Guillaume Desbiens, Krys Kolanos and Greg Nemisz from Abbotsford, and somehow they still had fewer than 12 healthy forwards. At wits end, then-GM Jay Feaster utilized a loophole in the CBA and recalled Baertschi from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL on an emergency basis – meaning he had to go home as soon as the Flames could have 12 healthy forwards without him.

Baertschi had three goals in five games. The Flames won four of their five games. They had lost five of seven before he arrived. They lost seven of their final eight games after he left. By gosh, the solution must have been Sven! As a result of that late season emergency recall, expectations were impossibly high for Baertschi when he came to camp in 2012. He couldn’t live up to expectations and began a tailspin that saw him eventually shipped to Vancouver for a draft pick.

With Jagr on the injured reserve, Jankowski is finally in the NHL. But bringing him in while the team is struggling to find its footing could serve to set him up for failure. So yes, be excited – but remember to keep your expectations in check.

  • The Fall

    Saviour no, but he (hopefully) forces lesser players into diminished roles. And forces even lesser players off the roster.

    I’m not one to be down on the vets just yet, but Freddie and Glass should be in Stockton.

    • deantheraven

      Freddie has outscored Bennett by… in how many minutes? No, he stays as ubiquitous 13/14, Till Dougie Do Us Part. If anyone goes, Bartkowski, Tanner or Brouwer go. Okay that last was, was… Who wouldn’t pay a season tickets worth of dough to see that happen? We should start a fund. The “How Much Will You Take to FINALLY Get Rid of Brouwer” fund, and we give all the money to an account in the Caymans in Tre’s name.

      Seriously though, all the guys mentioned have value. If Jankowski plays and stays, a deal will happen, hopefully for one of Those Three and/or Stajan. If you ask me, it’s all part of Tre’s diabolical scheme. Signs Jagr to a sweet deal- $1 mil salary + bonuses for games and playoffs (do the bonuses count as salary on the IR List? that would be truly..) – to be a Top 6 RW (but not a saviour, right?). Jagr gets signed very late, missing camp, then he gets his 45-year-old body injured after a few games to go LTIR until either a) Tre swings a deal to unload a body or two (at or before the deadline) for a proven Top 6 Scorer, or picks depending on the progress made by Janko and The Incumbents. Tre wants to get back a few picks…. I want him to get back a few picks, and get rid of the dead weight to make space for Jagr & Janko and maybe another winger from Stockton. Or,

      b) Tre demotes the top 3 candidates (and brings back only 1 to the active roster) and when Jagr returns (as a saviour) , Steeger slides down the rotation to 4th line with Lazar and Ferland and/or (your call up here). Ferland and Jagr and Versteeg can slide up and down the line up in the event of injuries. F. Ham and maybe Hathaway make 13/14.

      JM+Money+Jags/ Ferly

      3M

      Benny+Janko+ Jagr/Ferly

      Over the weeks between now and April we could see:
      Steeger/Klimmer+Lazer/Staj/F. Ham+ /Hathaway/

      Wouldn’t it be swell?

  • RustySteffansson

    Many fans around Calgary are looking at this move as a pass fail for Sam Bennett. The facts is that Mark Jankowski is more physically and mentally and thus likely has more tools than Sam does right now. To get Sam’s development back on track is to move him to left wing and let him flourish. This does not mean that in a year or two he can not be moved back to the Center position.

    Mark won’t be the savior but it is quite likely that he is the cog to give Calgary 3 lines up front. It kind of excites me to think of a Bennett – Jankowski – Lazar line.

    • Kevin R

      Mark is a very intelligent kid & sometimes the hockey IQ can make the difference between two talented players from being successful at the NHL level. The centre position just seems to be something Sam is struggling at & Janko has the better head at the position. Doesn’t mean Sam isn’t a very talented player. I look at this as not just a temporary solution but a long term potential that Mark & Sam can form chemistry & become an offensive threat. 2 young guys that can’t maybe help each other make their mark in the NHL. Sorry, just can’t resist, but all GG has to do is move Tkachuk to the other wing on that line & when you think that all these kids are 1st round picks of the Flames, that could be our future rock star line. Sorry had to add that.

      • TurkeyLips

        “all GG has to do is move Tkachuk to the other wing on that line & when you think that all these kids are 1st round picks of the Flames, that could be our future rock star line”

        Amen.

  • Stu Cazz

    Bennett was a Treliving draft pick which happens to be the highest in Flames history. He will be given the balance of his 2 year contract to develop. Unlike Janko his development will have to be at the NHL level. Interesting how high draft picks like Galchenyuk, Sam Reinhart & Sam Bennett have the potential to be duds…nothing is ever guaranteed!

    • Kevin R

      But they are all young & sometimes take a little longer. One thing I hope Treliving & with Maloney being there is they don’t forget what happened with Turris & how his career exploded. Last thing we want is to give up on a 21 year old & watch him flourish with another team while we all question what the return was. Doesn’t mean Sam can’t get back to centre down the road, but boy, this could solve our need for a young bluechip winger. No shame for Sam potting 30 goals as a winger & he still will get a great contract in 2 years.

      • EhPierre

        How has Bennet’s play been horrible? Because of his lack of points? I can agree to his poor track record in regards to penalties taken but as for Bennet’s play, he’s one of the few Flames that gives his all every single game.

          • EhPierre

            I’ve seen you and BT2.0 (and a couple of FN writers) talk trash about Bennet ever since the start of the season but the only two points both of you have ever stated was his high PIM and his lack of points; two factors that are extremely weak to conclude that Bennet is a bust. If you or anyone else that supports the whole notion of “Bennet is a bust/bad player” can provide any better evidence I’d love to read it.

        • Skylardog

          So being a defensive liability, that has the worst HDCF% of all Flames players that have played more than 1 game, has the 2nd worst Flames forward Corsi% behind only Glass of those that played more than 1 game, and no points to show for his season to date, despite being given PP time and decent linemates for most of the games, is not horrible? I get that possession stats aren’t the best judge of his play, but they do tell a story. Its not a good one. Its an indicator of what is happening on the ice.

          He needs a message, and that is best done by a demotion to the 4th line and or a night off. However, with Janko here, I think you put them out together, and see what develops.

          Not giving up on Bennett, but his play has been far from what should be expected.

          • EhPierre

            Do you watch the games or do you just look at the fancy stats after a completion of the game? I understand that stats paints a picture however, if you watch the way Bennet plays the game, he’s never going to be putting up Godly corsi numbers because of how his style of play. He hasn’t been given decent linemates because Versteeg and Bennet do not have good chemistry despite the fact that many ppl on here believe they do because of an extremely small sample size from the playoffs last year. I agree a message needs to be sent however before that message is sent, the Flames organization needs to stick with the idea of whether they want Bennet as a winger or a centre. Regardless, I believe the only two players that can complement the style of play that Bennet executes is JG and Tkachuk and unless the organization decides to pair one of them with Bennet, this team isn’t going to improve

      • Not Ryan Pinder

        all i would say to this is let the kid go have fun again. let him gel with johnny and put up a couple points to get his confidence up. He would be more effective than ferland

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      “..the only two points both of you have ever stated was his high PIM and his lack of points…”

      Yeah but dude, for a player who was supposed to be an impact center those points we make are, like, pretty important. They might even be important, you know, enough.

      But there’s two more points I usually make: he’s never been consistent-ever-and we’ve waited on Sam for over three years with no improvement, no indication he’s learning and growing.

      But if he’s on the wing, there’s a chance, however small.

      • EhPierre

        Yeah but dude, it’s hard being an impact centre when you miss out a full year due to an injury, then the very next year you’re being shuffled around the line up playing a different position with different linemates every other game and then the year after, be saddled with a teammate called Brouwer. If you’ve consistently watched Bennet play throughout the years and not just look at his stats, you’d notice that there are only a very few players on the Flames team that can play with a style that contributes with Bennet’s playing style. I hope that quells your point about his lack of consistency.

        As for your “no improvement”, Bennet has vastly improved, learning how to be a top two-way centre in the league. He’s #28 in the league for FO% and he has the best FO% on the Flames team, better than Monahan and Backlund. I’m not really sure how you can say that he’s not learning and growing when he’s shown more as a centre than Monahan has and will eventually surpass Backlund once Bennet gets proper, consistent linemates.

        Now, if you want to move Bennet to the wing, I’m okay with that, granted that Janko can prove he belongs in the NHL however, it’d be ludicrious to move Bennet to the wing before you move Monahan to the wing since Bennet has proved he is the better centre.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          Bennett better than Monahan?

          You’re gonna need to show me how and where Bennett “proved” this.

          As for everything else…”It’s not Sam it’s everything BUT Sam!!!”

          Tell me if Gully sicks for two full year and we finish last do we say; “Ah he didn’t have the right players and the schedule was bad, give it another three years” ?

          • EhPierre

            You can’t compare a coach to a player; if the team is not performing that’s the coaches fault because a team consists of 23 players. If a player is not performing, perhaps its on the player but there’s also the possibility that it could be the constant shuffling of lines and poor chemistry which is the case here.

            As for Bennet being better than Monahan, yes I totally believe so. Monahan is not a centre. He’s a forward with a great shot but a defensive liability due to his slow skating. His FO% is also below 50% which is not what you want from a centre. Monahan has a better shot than Bennet but that’s it. Everything else, from skating to two-way play to puck handling, Monahan is inferior to Bennet which is why I think Monahan should be moved to the wing.

        • Southboy

          What is ‘FO%’ ? Not sure if i have ever heard of it. And if it shows Bennett to be a better centreman than Monohan, you might be reading it wrong, or its not trustworthy. I mean you call guys out for ‘fancy stats’ and tell them to watch the game. Than you say Bennett ( who has a worse pts/game ratio than Yuckapoop ) is better than Monohan ( who has more goals than anyone in his draft year ) because of ‘FO%’….. Are you Sam Bennetts agent????

          • Southboy

            And yes i understand it is Faceoff percentage. Just unsure how ‘that’ one stat makes him superior? RNH has a better FO% than McDavid, i mean that explains all centreman.

            Just because some guys have a difference of opinion does not mean we cannot have a conversation about it eith real stats and te eye test.

            I am one who does not see Sam as a centreman, if he ever develops into one i will be the first to admit i was wrong, but untill he shows he can be ‘ on his own ‘ than it is a moot point really.

      • oilcanboyd

        Look no further than up north on Highway 2. Puljujarvi was drafted higher than Tkachuk who made the team as a rookie. Puljujarvi is in his second year in the AHL and still struggling. Some players get it right away, and others take time.

        Saving grace for Bennett is the two playoff performances where he was outstanding. Just need to re-focus and at 21 he still has time.

      • Southboy

        I agree. I believe he needs a full year at wing to unlock his potential. Because as a crntreman he does not think the game fast enough, or play a good 200ft game, and that is 3rd line minutes against other 3rd liners.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I would like to see Bennett on the top line but I am reminded that the Ferland experiment on the top line emerged from the Nasville game where Ferland scored 2 quick goals and was the start of a commanding line. Janko will made a difference.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    Off topic but off the Mavericks website today …

    Carrying The Load
    Rookie goaltender Tyler Parsons came to Kansas City as the top-ranked prospect within the Flames’ system per NHL.com’s prospect rankings, and he has lived up to the hype so far. Not only does the 20-year-old lead the ECHL in saves with 104 on the young season, and average of nearly 35 per game, but he has taken the lead in the Mavs’ first two wins with 39 and 43 saves, respectively.

    Parsons impressing, being Mavs saviour.

    • Baalzamon

      He got LIT UP in the game he lost, though. To the point where his stats through three games are actually… Mason McDonald-esque.

      He was quite good in the two wins though, so those numbers will probably normalize over time.

  • Arminius

    Keep your expectations in check? Lol
    I get a kick out of everyone saying he is the answer… The same ones that dumped all over him 5 years ago.
    Janko developed as expected and hoped.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I don’t expect him to be “the answer” but I expect t him to be a big upgrade.
      It is not often that you an bring 6’5″ 215lb Center who skates well, thinks the game and has a great shot into the line up.

  • RKD

    Of course not if the guys making the big dough can’t produce consistently then you have bigger problems on your hands. No organization should be relying on call ups and prospects to bail them out, it is up to the exisitng players to work out. Janko isn’t here to save the Flames, he is here because he earned it and maybe able to infuse a spark in the lineup.