FlamesNation Mailbag: The usual points of discussion

Hey are we talking about Sam Bennett again? You know it. The goalie situation? You better believe it. What Michael Stone is still doing here? Three for three, buddy.

I don’t know. All (or some) of those things could be true (or not) but the only one that is definitely true right now is the last one: it’s been five games so it’s much too early to make any sort of statement as to whether Bennett is back or not.

Bennett, at various points in his career, has made fools of us all. Take this article, for example, which is not even a year old. At that time, Bennett had found a groove, picked up 16 points in 24 games, and looked like he gelled with the third line. After that, he finished with 10 points in 44 games, including none in the final 13 games of the season. If there’s one consistency about Bennett, it’s his inconsistency. Maybe we should wait for things to swing the other way before making grand declarations.

Not to say that he’s been punching above his weight class; Bennett has been a man possessed so far this season, but he is just as likely to stop playing like that next game. Having better linemates is certainly going to help (I’m very intrigued by the Bennett-Mikael Backlund-James Neal line that debuted against the Avalanche), and all of those other factors could play in, but the onus is on Bennett to continue his good play and not crumple again. It’s going to come down to the individual more than any other factor.

I would say wait maybe 20 games before declaring Bennett to be back, but even that may not be enough. If Bennett is still doing well at around game 40, we’ll say he’s found it.

I think his current $1.95M contract is a steal enough as it is, regardless if he produces 20 points or 50. It’s not expensive enough or long enough to fret about if he underproduces, and it sets a strong precedent for future contract negotiations. If he hits 50 points this year, the Flames can argue him down to something in the $2.5-4M range on the basis that he picked up around ~70 points over two years. That would be a steal, provided Bennett can keep doing his thing.

But the Flames better be cautious. They’ve been burned before on players they liked who seemed to take a step forward (Lance Bouma, Stone) taking a step backwards immediately after signing a contract. If Bennett does put up the scoring numbers, the Flames have to carefully sift out whether it was actually thanks to his own contributions or the contributions of his linemates (i.e. the Backlund Bump) that propped up his numbers. It would be a real pain if they finally got a good year of Bennett, overpaid him, and then he regressed back to being his inconsistent self.

If this is just a starting point for Bennett and he can grow into a 40-50 point player, the Flames keep him. He’s not going to be as expensive as the rest of his top six compatriots, but could feasibly produce at a level just under what the expensive players are making.

I think they’ll look at any trade provided that the return is right, but they’re probably so invested in Bennett that they won’t give up on him when he gets good. Based on Elliotte Friedman’s report, contenders like Montreal, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, and Philly have been calling about him in recent years, and probably had some good things to offer in return. If the Flames didn’t take those assets in return for bad Bennett, they probably aren’t going to take them for a good Bennett.

The Curtis Lazar comparison only works if Bennett continues to struggle. If he regresses to his 20-point self, the Flames could try and rid themselves of him by trade deadline. I can’t say who would be interested in him (he has strong similarities to Nail Yakupov), but it wouldn’t be for much.

It’s hard to say because of the uniqueness of Lazar’s situation. I can’t think of any other NHL player who came out of junior, played just about 250 games, was demoted to the minors, and managed to make a comeback. If Lazar were to do it, it would probably be an NHL first.

I don’t invest much into his stats with Stockton. He’s easily the player with the most NHL experience on that roster, so it’s not entirely surprising that he goes down and starts kicking butt in a lower league. Just like Bennett above, his early season success in a handful of games is no indication that he’s suddenly turned a corner.

Unlike Bennett, Lazar’s future success is likely going to be meaningless. At least Bennett is doing well against top six NHL competition. If Lazar does well against a bunch of players who are below replacement level, does that tell us anything? He needs to get better against NHL players, not AHL players.

If he does turn into Lazarus halfway through the NHL season, he does feasibly have a way in. The 4C and 4RW spots are the only ones that have been seen healthy scratches, so if situations don’t improve for Mark Jankowski/Anthony Peluso/Garnet Hathaway and Lazar can conceivably replace one of them, he’s back. I will maintain that it is extremely farfetched that will happen.

I wouldn’t worry about Neal’s slow start just yet. In the past five years, he’s picked up three (2013-14), one (14-15), four (15-16), one (16-17), six (17-18), and two points (this season) in his first five games. Perhaps he’s just a slow starter.

Playing on a new team with no role yet also stings. He’s been on and off the powerplay, bounced between lines, and pretty much has new linemates every other night. I think with patience and some supportive linemates (again, stick with Bennett-Backlund-Neal), he can break out.

Rasmus Andersson has about 12-ish games to prove he should stick around before Travis Hamonic returns.

He’s had a good audition so far, so I can’t see him going down. He’s been getting better game after game and seems to be earning more leeway from the coaching staff. It’s a big vote of confidence to give him second pairing minutes over Stone. There’s the qualifying factor that they want to keep a rookie-rookie pairing from being exploited (as they were against St. Louis), but it still gives Andersson an opportunity to steal Stone’s job.

If Andersson stays, the easy answer for who to demote is Dalton Prout. Stockton needs RHDs, Prout had success there last year, bada boom bada bing. If roster regulars from last year can be healthy scratched, it’s a sign that no veteran is safe. Stone is probably going to have a press box seat.

Stone will remain a Flame, however. No one is going to trade for him when he’s had his job stolen by two rookies, if the contract wasn’t already enough of a deterrent.

I think every Flames fan should be. He’s had one objectively good 60-minute game all season, and outside of that, maybe just the third period against Vancouver in the home opener? That’s four good periods out of 11. It’s not great when you have to worry about your goalie just five games into the season when he should theoretically have 50 more to go…

… which becomes a larger problem when you really have no one to give those starts to.

David Rittich is a fine backup goalie, but his total NHL experience is limited to 24 games. You can certainly trust him to come in once every few games to provide some solid hockey. Any more and he struggles. He couldn’t hold the fort down when Smith was injured last season and his AHL numbers show similar trends. Fine backup, not a starter. Would alternating starts be a solution to the goalie issues? There’s no guarantee he could be better than Smith, and the consequences are dire. If Rittich is as bad as Smith has been this season, the Flames are almost completely out of options.

But the team has to take a leap of faith on Rittich regardless. Smith isn’t coming back next year; he’ll either retire, and if not, he’ll be too old to consider re-signing. At the very least, they should figure out what they have in Rittich before he’s UFA. If he’s a backup goalie who struggles with a starter’s workload, that’s fine. It clears up decision making for 2019-20. But they can’t know unless they play him.

I’m not sure it matters if a team takes a timeout or not. In my opinion, timeouts are a confirmation bias thing. You can measure what happens before and after one happens and then form your narrative around that. In this case, the Flames won and used a timeout. Are the two events connected? It’s dubious.

Let’s look at situations when a timeout could feasibly be used. Bill Peters could’ve called a timeout when Vancouver scored two quick goals to put themselves up 3-0 in the third during the season opener. He didn’t. I don’t think his inaction is why the Flames lost. He could’ve also used a timeout when Vancouver scored two goals in three minutes (one shorthanded goal, too) in the first the next game. He didn’t. The Flames won regardless. He could’ve also used his timeout to recompose the team after the Blues scored two quick goals in the first period of that game. He didn’t. Again, not why the Flames lost. The non-use of timeouts in these games in situations where it made sense to call one didn’t make an impact on these games.

Now let’s look at the Flames’ actual use of a timeout this season. At 2:40 into the game, they called timeout after a scrambly start saw them fall behind 2-0. But the Flames were still getting outplayed by the Avalanche regardless of the quick break. After the timeout, the Avs outshot them 13-9. Certainly not awful, but given that the Flames outshot the Avs 29-9 after the first intermission, you have to wonder what really sparked the comeback. You could make a better case for Peters ripping them apart during the first intermission as the cause of the comeback rather than the timeout.

So timeouts may not do anything one way or the other. If people actually tracked when coaches use timeouts (I’d guess people not doing this is a sign of how insignificant they are to hockey coaches), we could have a better idea of their actual impact. But I don’t think we need that data to make this conclusion. There are hundreds of other factors that go into winning a hockey game other than when teams do or don’t call timeouts. You only have to ask yourself the question “would Glen Gulutzan still be behind the bench if he called timeouts more often?” to figure out their impact to the overall success to the team.

Dano? I don’t think the Flames pick him up. He’s a Mark Arcobello type player that is too good for the AHL, not good enough for the NHL and will probably bounce around from team to team to do the same thing in a bottom six role. It’s hard to say who he displaces at either centre or the wing. He’s also a redundancy given that the Flames have Andrew Mangiapane and Morgan Klimchuk in their system.

However, he is a 2013 first rounder, and I think the Flames pick him up on that principle.

  • Flaming moe

    The Bill Peters effect is happening in Carolina!!!! That’s never a good sign when a coach leaves then all of a sudden the team starts playing great hockey and having lots of fun doing it.

      • Skylardog

        A Detroit cast off in Mrazek who is “lighting it up” with an 870 save% so far and a perennial bottom of the barrel 35 year old backup in McElhinney who is posting a 900.

        It might be better than what they had, but it isn’t why they have been winning.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          You remember McBackup in Toronto last season, right? 11-5-0-1 last season. 3-0 this season. Cast-off 1-1-0-1 this season. Wins matter. Peters not being the coach has nothing to do with it.

          • Skylardog

            Absolutely true, but he isn’t the reason they are winning with his 900, nor is Mrazek at 870.

            Brindy is a winner. He has instilled a winning mentality so far. When the coach knows how to win, the team usually follows suit and wins too.

            And that goes back to my one underlying concern with Peters. Never made the playoffs.

            Carolina will come back to earth though. They don’t have the talent to keep this up for 82 games. But they will give it a good fight most if not every night.

        • Hockeysense9393

          For one thing…Mrazek hasn’t been with Detroit for almost a whole year, and McElhinney (ex-Flame I might add) hasn’t been a bad backup up goalie for the last 5 seasons say? …but that is almost all I have lol. The goalies have been playing well and the “young” team has been playing well. Yes Ferland has been awesome…but that’s the point? It’s not that the Flames traded a down player…but quite the contrary. The Flames traded a player that they most likely couldn’t afford after this season. How it looks right now…we traded for a comprable (if not better extended) player for a great salary cap signing under 5 mill…for a long time. Sure Dougie for Hanifin kind of hurts…but does it? I don’t think so, but time will tell. I still think the Flames are ahead with this trade and the next few years will show that.

    • Jessemadnote

      Goalies with less than a .900 save percentage: Andersen, Holtby, Rask, Smith, Fleury, Jones, Bobrovsky, Allen.

      Goal scoring is up to start the season, goalies are stuggling with new equipment, everyone needs to settle down and give it 10-15 games.

    • oilcanboyd

      Teams and goalies with good starts (Flames last season) sometimes wind up with mediocre seasons in the long run and teams with slow starts keep improving as the season goes on.(Flames this year)

  • buts

    Sam Bennett will probably end up being a very good bottom 6 player and every team needs those as long as the price isn’t too high. The thing about him I like is he’s the type and style of player that’s perfect for the playoffs. The guy is the type to score a big OT playoff goal.

    • oilcanboyd

      Playing with Backs and Neal, Benny is playing (finally!) with top end talent. I would argue that this is not a bottom 6 line… Peters is still seeking some balance in the scoring among 3 or even 4 lines.

  • Off the wall

    Samuel Bennett might be the tonic that Neal needs to become more physically engaged.
    Bennett’s game reminds me of effervescent tablets. Once he gets started (hitting) he bubbles all night long. That’s the player we believe in. It seemed to spark Neal’s game, as he can be quite a physical force, once engaged.

    The goalie situation is going to be the most important part of our season. If we are able to manage Smith’s workload and give Rittich enough starts, we will probably have a good chance for making the playoffs.

    I’m happy with Peters’ though. He is doing his best to get the team working as a cohesive unit.
    What more can you ask?
    It’s up to the players to support one another, regardless of where they play in the lineup or who they play with.

    I’m excited about our hockey team, I couldn’t say that for the last two years.

  • Skylardog

    Tiberi is right that we need to know what we have in Rittich and playing him is the only way we find out. There is simply not enough evidence to know if he can handle starting duties at this point.

    The team collapsed, not just Rittich, when Smith went down. GG had lost the room, players were done with the lack of on bench leadership. Rittich was not good, but support was at almost zero from the players in front of him.

    He seems intelligent. I am sure he has taken the summer to mentally prepare himself for the challenge of full time duties if called upon. Only with opportunity will we know if he has prepared enough.

    And if Smith continues to falter, we may find out sooner rather than later. I believe he can take the reigns, especially if he knows Smith is there to back him up.

    I do not have the same faith in Gillies (positionally he is just awful), and right now, the current roster in Stockton is getting lit up which cannot be helping Parson’s confidence level.

    If Smith and or Rittich can’t make this work, with the limited cap space we have, a good part or parts of the roster will have to leave if we need to bring in a starter. That could mean a Bennett, or Janko or Andersson, and or…

    Better cross all our fingers.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I think it’s too early to say, like the author of the article does, that Rittich is not a starter. I’m not sure how anyone can write off a player after 10 sub par games, when, as noted above here, the entire team collapsed. Goaltending is a mental game, and with the unholy amount of pressure on that player, a supportive team is also required. No man is an island, especially not goalies. The team will rally around him, he will have had a summer to evaluate and grow, and he will get more starts this season. To expect him to do the exact same thing as he did last season is not entirely unreasonable, but to already be assured of his demise is a bit much.

      I think Ritter will do good. I can’t tell of course from the limited sample size, so we shall see. But it is definitely too early to write him off as a starter.

      When I evaluate players, I make sure to also watch for their highlights, as well as their low moments. We tend to focus too much on the low moments with Ritty, but not enough of his good moments. He is solid positionally, he’s quick, and he moves really well.

      Plus his celebration of Johnny was a classic one.

      • mrroonie

        “I’m not sure how anyone can write off a player after 10 sub par games…”

        Rittich hasn’t had 10 subpar games. He has a 9-6-3 record with one loss being the game last December when he was the goalie of record even though the Flames outscored the Oilers 4-2 while he was in net after having been outscored 5-1 in the first 40 minutes with Smith in net.

        Looking at the other 5 losses, the first 3 were when he suddenly went from playing one game every 9-10 days to playing 5 games in 9 nights. Those 5 games were against BOS, NSH, FLA, BOS, VGK, four of which finished top-5 in league standings. He went 1-3-1, winning against NSH and an OT loss in the second BOS game. There were a few goals that he probably should have had but there were also several defensive gaffes by the players in front of him and several tipped shots where he was functionally sound on the initial shot. He then only got 4 starts in the final 21 games going 2-2 while Gillies went 3-5-1 and Smith went 2-6-0.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Ok…bringing up the past, but…?
      (Backups not given a chance)

      Vernon…check(come on? What he did for Detroit as backup lol)

      Flames are gun shy and hopeful.

      Thick and thin, Flames seem to “not” give a chance on goalies that can handle this. Let’s have some patience FFS lol

  • Hockeysense9393

    On the time outs…I think Peters has better arbitrary experience about it then GG. GG would just save the time out in the point that he “may” need it. Peters is more adept to use it cuz he thinks he needs it.

  • Skylardog

    Having a little fun with the avatar.

    The previous pic was my baby Sierra. She was a sweetheart. We lost her to cancer a year ago at Thanksgiving at the age of 10.

    The new pic is of a rescue we picked up in the spring. He is still a puppy at just 10 months old, but quite frankly, he is just an ass at this point. His name is Jagger.

    It seemed much more appropriate for the picture on my posts to be that of an ass, not a sweetheart. Like Jagger, I am a $h!t disturber, and should be represented by his pic on this site.

    Don’t get me wrong, Jagger is my buddy and a huge part of my household. We are trying to reign him in, but it isn’t working very well.

    Just like having me comment on this site.

    Had a great laugh yesterday though. 19 trashes for a “tongue in cheek” line list that frankly I thought was very entertaining. Guess many of you miss my version of humour.

    And as always, it contained one truth I think we should see Peters take a stab at. Sure got a lot of you riled up.

    Both me and Jagger are asses I guess.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Skylar? You always seem to amaze me. As much as I’m saddened by your story, I’m uplifted by your tenacity to lift everyone around you…even here. Thank you for being a great contributor. Don’t ever stop telling how it is! lol. My best to you and your new addition to the family ?

    • Off the wall

      I’m sorry you lost your dog Sierra. They are part of us.
      As much as my dog-Johnny Sockey can be a handful, I love him unconditionally. He’s also an A$$. But he faithfully watches every game with me, and barks incessantly when the Flames score a goal.

      Jagger- interesting name. Beautiful dog, they can be challenging as pups. He looks feisty.

      I enjoy your posts- I honestly don’t think you’re an a$$, you see things from a completely different perspective, which is a welcome addition to our Nation.

      Besides, remember when I argued with you about Gulutzan his first year with us. You had the guy pegged long before the rest of us. You stuck to your point and never wavered. We, I mean I, was too stubborn to admit you were correct.
      Of course, if I don’t mention WW having the same thoughts, he’ll remind ALL of us. At least you provided EVIDENCE, which made it all the more undeniable.

      Your 3 part blog on Gulutzan was very insightful, and you didn’t even get to finish the grand finale.. #4.

      Continue being an A$$, if that’s how you want to refer to yourself. I’d call it EDUCATED, however I’m cross -eyed, so what could I possibly know?!

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I enjoyed your line list! And also your disruptive approach. I think your trashes May have come from splitting up the dynamic duo. You addressed that well yesterday (but I still think you are out of your f*xking mind ??)

    • everton fc

      You are the only other one who posts here, who supports Hathaway. We had a wild Husky when I was a kid – apparently had some wolf in her, from her mother’s side. Not a growler, but when you let her off the leash, she was free, and loved it that way – wild and free. We had to get rid of her when she killed the neighbours rabbits for fun, after an escape. Her name was “Mushka”. Wild and free! 😉

      • Skylardog

        Jagger is husky number 5. they have all been crazy, wild, and free, but this guy is on a whole different level of crazy.

        Skylar, our first one (and the one I take my online name from) was an amazing dog but killed a neighbors chicken. Fortunately, it had strayed into his yard, not the other way around. The neighbor was very apologetic. Weird.

        As for Hath he looked slow. But according to what I can find that was just his second game of the season. Hopefully he gets more time in the next few games.

        • Raffydog

          That’s awesome. The Raffydog moniker comes from my best friend Raphael, an American Staffordshire Terrier, everybody just called him “the Raffydog”. He’s no longer with us, but he was an awesome dog and there’s not a day goes by I don’t think of him.

        • Cheeky

          I have a half Husky (stubborn), half Lab (so lovable). So awesome and gentle with my kids, still a pup (under 2) so runs up to every dog at the dog park to play. She listens half the time (kinda like the wife). They keep us entertained just as our Flames do. We all have various differing opinions on line ups, players we love or loathe, coaches we keep, etc. but in the end we all bleed red for this team (through winning times and losing skids) and want to win so badly. #flamesforever…

    • JoelOttosJock

      I like your asseness! I’d rather hear your views that are not usually the same as mine..I like getting the different perspective! Sorry to hear about your Sierra!

  • TurkeyLips

    When someone says a player or goalie is “injury prone” what do they really mean? I see this term tossed around all the time in reference to Smith. Poor guy was run into the net during the dying seconds of an Islanders game and now he’s “injury prone”. I just think it’s a disrespectful way to label any player. Imagine labelling Crosby or Elias Pettersen as “injury prone”.

    • Baalzamon

      When someone says a player or goalie is “injury prone” what do they really mean?

      They mean that the player gets injured a lot. Smith wasn’t “suddenly” injury prone when he got hurt last year. He’s had that label for years.

      Also, Crosby is constantly called injury prone, and it’s because he is. He’s extremely susceptible to concussions. This isn’t new, and it’s not disrespectful to say that a player who’s prone to injury is prone to injury. It’s an acknowledgement of a fact.

      • oilcanboyd

        Yeah, I thought injury proner WT heck? However Smitty has played 32, 55 and 55 games last 3 years. The 32 must have been an injury, but the first 55 game stint IDK.

  • Hockeysense9393

    Bennett…Bennett…Bennett! Let’s see if he has now finally found his spot. I still think that it wasn’t so much that he isn’t figuring it out, so much as he is actually being given the chance to show that he’s figuring it out with confidence in him? The Backlund appeal? Yes it’s real! He helped mold Tkachuk…and now that he’s excelling, it’s finally #93’s turn. If I had my way…Bennett and Tkachuk would be fighting for the left side of a Backlund-Neal line all season. …but that’s just me…

    • Skylardog

      Bennett and Brodie just couldn’t play in the GG system. It really drove me nuts that GG wanted guys to play and adapt to how he thought the game should be played rather than look at the roster and formulate a system that worked for the skills his players had.

      Bennett is the guy I believe is key to the Flames going far this season. Every time I would write down a line list, I would look at it and think, “If we could get production out of Bennett, that lineup looks really, really good.”

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I agree. He’s that one player who can tip the scales, so to speak, in favour of something monumental happening in a season (I.e. he gets 40-50 points, along with everyone else contributing well, and suddenly he gives us that extra bit of depth scoring needed at key times in the year).

        I also think his hits in the last game we’re really great for our momentum swing.

        • Skylardog

          I was trying to think back to the game, and while Bennett’s hits were key, it seemed to me that the first one thrown, and the one that got Bennett hitting was by Hathaway. I could be wrong, but that is how I remembered it.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        “Bennett is the guy I believe is key to the Flames going far this season.”

        Seriously? Not Chucky or Johnny or Gio or the goalies? Rather than anointing Bennett the saviour of the 2018-19 Flames, I am more than content to wonder if he is still a Flame at the end of the season.

        • Skylardog

          Not like that. When looking at the lineup, there are guys that will excel, but they need support. If they don’t get secondary scoring teams can focus on the top guys and shut the Flames down.

          Bennett with 20 to 25 goals and 40 to 50 points changes the entire dynamic of what teams would need to do to contain the Flames. Add in 20 to 25 from Janko, and you go from 1 line last season that could score to 3 or even 4 lines that are a handful any given night. It would allow Jg and Mony to face weaker opposition as well.

      • BendingCorners

        I don’t disagree, because I don’t understand. What did GG want Bennett and Brodie to do that they were not good at, and what are they good at that GG wouldn’t let them do?

      • Chucky

        Definitely an insightful comment. I thought that when Bennett moved from centre to the wing last year there was a noticeable improvement. Centre in the Gulutzan system is so far from the way Bennett plays that it was an insult to ask him to play that way. If Gulutzan had understood what he had that improvement would have been enough reason to turn Bennett loose. Peters wants to play an aggressive game and that fits the player so Bennett will have a good year.
        If there is a goals for target it has to be somewhere above 250.
        First line 85
        Second line 70
        Gaudreau, Monahan, Linholm, Tkachuk, Backlund and Neal
        Defense 30
        That means they are looking of a minimum of 65 from the third and fourth.
        Ryan is good for 15 that is the basis that causes him to make 3.1 Million
        Hathaway, Peluso whoever is fourth line right wing will contribute about 5
        That leaves them looking for a minimum of 45 from Bennett, Jankowski, Dube, Czarnik and Frolik. This should be well within the possible so the team makes the playoffs. If Bennett comes through and scores 20 plus then they enter into home ice advantage territory.
        Regardless he is at least fun to watch this year so we will have some entertainment rather than the boring crap we had last year.

    • cjc

      I don’t think we live in a universe where Bennett or Tkachuk will fight over anything – Tkachuk is better and will get substantially more ice time than Bennett.

      Tkachuk is a good player on his own, and when you put him with another good player in Backlund you get 2/3 of a line that can stifle opponents and create a lot of scoring opportunities (low shooting percentages aside). This is my problem with putting Tkachuk elsewhere, is that you lose the dominating aspect of that line – that said, they can always be reunited when needed.

      • Korcan

        The one i see moved to the 3rd line if Peters goes with Bennett Backlund Neal is Lindholm. Not as a demotion, but in an attempt to get steady contributions from the 3rd line. Maybe something like:

        Johnny Mony Tkachuk
        Bennett Backlund Neal
        Dube Ryan Lindholm
        Frolik Jankowski Czarnik

        One thing i am realizing with Peters, the lines will change a lot so its almost pointless to try and guess what they will be.

        • Brian McGrattan's Salute

          If we’re going this direction, I would love to see Janko given a shot with Lindy on the third, maybe with Frolik or Czarnik. I think that would be nice

      • Hockeysense9393

        cjc I think you are right. Bennett will not ultimately battle Tkachuk. We all know that Tkachuk is a special player overall. It’s about bringing Bennett along that we all would like to see? I think Peters is a good line and player avaluator (World Cup +) shows that. He shows a good sense of evaluation and push maybe? Tkachuk doesn’t strike me as a player who cares who his player partners are. He’s good no matter what. It’s about creating push…no? Bennett strikes me as a player that excels in a higher confidence role? Peters will change lines nightly on give right? You need that push… players want to be relied upon…

        It’s not displacement as apposed to just nightly feeds. Through the year you want different players comfortable anyways, in case of injury…so a healthy rivalry is the best way. Nothing stays the same. If Lindholm is having an off night, Tkachuk may be put on the right. We already seen it. Healthy push is inevitable but confidence is key. Healthy push and good play translates to more confidence. Wouldn’t the key player, that is moved all over the lineup be Tkachuk…if he is truly that good?

        Think about it…

      • Skylardog

        Just want to point out something.

        We all talk about the “Backlund Bump”

        Anyone care to attack me if I was to say that Tkachuk was with Backs the last 2 seasons and may have gotten a “bump” too.

        As I said, just pointing it out, but go ahead and bash.

        • Hockeysense9393

          I would actually counter that with Tkachuk being that good because of Backlund? Not taking away from Tkachuk but….seems like everyone “with” Backlund plays well…no? Frolik doesn’t play with him and…bench; Bennett plays with him and best games of his career (going to 1st season). Coincidence? Probably (according to WW)

        • Baalzamon

          Tkachuk and Backlund bumped each other.

          Fortunately, if Tkachuk isn’t playing with Backlund he’s playing with Gaudreau and Monahan. He should be good with them.

          I’m usually annoyed about juggling lines too frequently, but I wouldn’t mind if the Flames ran with the combos from Saturday for a while.

          Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuk
          Bennett – Backlund – Neal
          Dube – Lindholm – Czarnik
          Ryan – Jankowski – Hathaway

          I mean obviously I’d prefer Frolik in over Hath (and for Janko and Dube to get a little more ice) but the combinations are neat. Talk about making matchups a problem for the other team.

        • someone

          Backlund may well have gotten a bump from finally getting to play with some talent. The difference is, Backlund has a much larger sample size with much worse players.

        • Chucky

          There is no doubt that a young winger that has a defensively reliable and talented possession centre will gain, so Tkachuk got a Backlund bump. the big question is does he continue to play the Backlund type role, defense first with an aggressive counter attack or should he be moved to a more offensive role?

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I’m not willing to jump on the Bennett bandwagon for a while yet. Still healing from the injuries from the last time the wheels fell off. Gonna have to show me for the whole season before I’m a believer.

  • cjc

    If the Flames got a substantial offer for Bennett and passed, that is disappointing. The fact that 4 teams were listed suggests there could have been a bit of a bidding war. I know that there are a lot of Bennett fans here, but even if he becomes a consistent 40 point producer, that contribution is replaceable via trade or draft.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Bennett is young… Actually Bennett is still very young considering. Peak years for an NHL player is still like 2 years away (with his projected upside). He should have maybe played a year or two in the minors, with this year being his debut? Nobody would think much less of him maybe? He has the skills…he has the hard-nose hockey want. It’s his sense that matters maybe? What if this was a 22 year old coming up in his rookie season, starting out like he is? Everyone would be happy…no? Think of it that way. He’s only 22….and now finally aloud some confidence building scenarios. The kids been passed over for years…technically. Let him develop with proper guidance.

      • Baalzamon

        He’s also following a similar career trajectory to Brayden Schenn and Kyle Turris. We’ll see if he keeps on, but there actually are a lot of similarities between Bennett and Schenn (more so than just stats). If he learns to work on a consistent basis, watch out.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            I am still not sold on Bennett’s scoring ability at the NHL. I think Schenn and Kadri process the game better and possess better shots. As previously stated, Bennett rarely score a goal while still on his skates. I could see Bennettputting it together in a playoff run and being in the running for Con Smythe.

          • Hockeysense9393

            You have a 22 year old that you know was misused, misplayed, underplayed…whatever. You have a guy that young with that much tenacious intent? It’s gonna translate. The kid has skills! He’s 22 WTF!!!

          • cjc

            Bennett is young, but maximizing the value from your asset means making a call before all the results are in. If you wait a year on Bennett and he doesn’t reach his potential, you’re stuck with a 23 year old whose ceiling is almost certainly solid third liner – there are lots of those around. If you trade him, yes you risk missing out on someone who can contribute more, but a player with Bennett’s draft position and pedigree would garner a decent return. Or maybe not? If the offers were 2nd round picks and depth players, then sure, you hold onto Bennett. If there were 4 teams interested though, that may have driven the price up.

            The problem is that for every Schenn and Turris, there are droves of first round picks that fizzle or become third liners. For me, Schenn and Turris are the best case scenario right now.

            Also, how was Bennett misused? How was he misplayed? He was moved to LW early last year, given easy zone starts and it didn’t make much difference. How was he underplayed? Bennett averaged 14:24/night last year, 7th among regulars and not far off what Ferland was getting.

      • Beer League Coach

        Agree that we let him develop with proper guidance. I can think of two wingers who are now in the Hall of Fame who looked liked busts in the first 2 years of their careers. I know I am dating myself here but any of you remember when Guy Lafleur and Lanny MacDonald were rookies. First 2 years the critics of both of these players had a field day declaring them as a bust. Year 3 both of them showed the world what they could do. 200+ goals later for both of them and they are H of F ers. Not predicting that Sam will be in the Hall after his career but he could still end up having a really good career in the best league in the world.

  • Burnward

    Anyone that wants to trade Bennett when he’s locked in at 1.5 mil for the next two years is high.

    Plus when he turns into Brad Marchand…you don’t want that on your conscience fools.

  • Flint

    I think not giving some props to Rittich based on one rookie season and 12 good games is the same as proclaiming Rittich will never be a starter based on one rookie season and 12 bad games.

    Too small sample size to say at this point. If he plays well, he should earn the confidence to play again soon thereafter especially if it’s coupled with Smith struggling.

    Now, is it more likely that Rittich doesn’t become a starter than he does…. sure, but that’s only because about 20% of the goalies who play any meaningful number of games in this league become quality starters. There are only 31 starting goalie jobs out there. See: Halak, Jaroslav.

    • everton fc

      Jack Campbell has a .938 save percentage, because, by default, with Quick hurt, he’s getting a chance.

      I say let Rittich start the next game. Make Smith mad. Get them both locked in and engaged. Rittich’s recovery last game, topped-off by his premature celebration whilst Gaudreau cruised towards goal for the inevitable game winner, proves to me he’s locked in, confident, and up for the challenge.

  • Derzie

    Enough with the Bennett stuff.

    We are a handful of games into our new-look season. Early synopsis:

    – Coaching: Biggest area of improvement is here. Deployments make sense. Adjustments get made. Special teams get results. Still the honeymoon phase but it’s riding high

    – Forward Depth: Looks to be improved. Not as drastic an uptick as expected but sign of improvement are there. Lindholm has been a good add.

    – Defense: Reviving Brodie and playing the kids. Aces. Makes the Dougie trade easy to move on from. I’ll take growing pains over playing #6/7 vets all day long

    – Goaltending: Sharp decline from 2017 Mike Smith. Rittich looks solid as a backup for now. The gap between the farm and the pros is pretty wide. Still reeling from the ghost of Kipper.

    – Results: We’ve been a bubble team. So far this season we are a bubble team on the scoreboard. The biggest positive trend to date is the comeback spirit has returned to the team. Also, goal differential is sitting at the bubble as well. We are still a bubble team but one with an upward trajectory if things continue. I did not expect it and I’m happy to admit being wrong, so far.

  • R4anders

    How is the term “is Bennett back” even a thing,He hasn’t arrived yet. Having a half decent rookie year does not make a stud. I want nothing more then for him to ARRIVE but this isn’t some aging vet who’s reclaimed his youth. Bennett is going to get his opportunity this year whether he deserves it or not, they need to know what he is moving forward.

    • freethe flames

      The whole Bennett thing is overblown because of expectations of him being a 4th overall. In his 3 seasons he has had plenty of moments showing he can be a solid NHLer. The way he is currently playing: with speed, energy, and a bit of an edge is how he has to play to effective whether it is a top 6 forward, a middle six forward or a bottom end forward. His problem is he sometimes thinks he’s Johnny Hockey and simply put he is not. Keep it simple Sam.

  • brodiegio4life

    If Peters actually keeps Andersson in the lineup and takes Stone out I will never question the man again. Not even in my wildest dreams would I even dream of GG making that move

  • canadian1967

    Everyone realizes that James Neal went back for his last 2 years of Junior, and then played a full season in the AHL before cracking the NHL, Right?
    Sam was poorly handled by the Flames (Stupid Hartley playing him in 11 Play Off Games)
    He would have been FAR better off not playing more than his 9 games, and then returning to Jr and playing on the WJC team in 2015 and then spending a year in the AHL. He’d be a different player then wouldn’t he?
    I’m not ready to give up on Sam, and I’m sure that The Flames aren’t either.

    See where Clouded Judgement can get you when it comes to player development?

    Some time spent in The Minors won’t hurt players, but Time NOT spent in The Minors CAN be pretty detrimental.

    • canadian1967

      And obviously if you follow Burwards link for Marchand you will see that he also followed pretty much the same path as Neal.
      Treliving signed the Depth pieces he did, so that we don’t need to rush the young guys in before they are ready (like with Sam, and Curtis and 100’s of others have been).

      But sure as hell, when Dube goes down some people on here will scream Bloody Murder anyway.

  • BringBackStajan 2.0

    I would love to see an article on Backlund and all of his contributions throughout his career to the flames and the world stage. Some teams have players that fly under the radar without getting the recognition they deserve. Backlund is a value player and great team leader/ mentor. Definitely one of the best two way players in the league today.?

  • Mitchell

    I would love to see Bennetts advanced stats from the past year during his dominate 23 games vs the following 44. When hes feeling it he can completely dominate a game, but when hes not he is either invisible or in the penalty box. He just needs to find a way to be consistent.

  • SeanCharles

    I don’t think I agree with everyone who is so quick to put Tkachuk on the top line RW and bump Lindholm to the 3rd. I agree with some of the concept and hope the top 6 ends up as:


    The top 6 has really benefited from having a skilled RH shot in it. It doesn’t make sense to remove that IMO.

    Have Neal be the primary 3rd line piece and rotate whoever is playing well onto his line until something clicks. I think having him play with faster players is the key.

    • Skylardog

      You asking me Thunder?
      Love Monahan. Top notch centre and a sniper.
      Think the world of Backlund. One of the best shut down centres in the NHL.

      Not sure where you pick up that I hate Monahan. Have NEVER said that. Not once.
      DO believe it is time to spread out the best 2 offensive tools the Flames have, JG and Mony, and put them on 2 different lines where their production will likely not change by very much giving us a more rounded line up, and more offense. It may also improve the team defensively.

      As for Backlund, his continued use as a centre that is tasked to score is a tactical error by coaches. That implies a second line centre. He is not that guy. On a successful team, a second line centre should be capable of putting up 25 to 30 goals and 60 points. Backs ceiling is about 20 goals.

      Tasked to prevent goals, he is a +20 player.
      Tasked to score, he is a -20 player.

      Janko can score 25 to 30 if given the right chance. He needs to get meaner and more aggressive to do that, but he can be that guy. Put him with JG and Neal, and the line pots 70 to 75 goals (JG 25, Janko 25, Neal 25).
      Monahan with Byng and Lindholm pot 65 to 70 goals. (Mony 30, Byng 25, Lind 15 to 20)

      The way we have it now, we get 25 from JG, 35 from Mony, 15 to 20 from Lindholm) = 75 to 80. They give up more than they score.
      Line 2 of Backs, Tkachuk, and whoever (Neal, Czar, Fro) They get 60 to 65 (15 to 20 for Backs, 25 for Byng, 20 for Neal), less by a bunch if it is Frolik or Czar instead of Neal.

      Janko only gets 20 playing anywhere else.
      Backs gets 15 to 20 no matter who he plays with.

      None of that says I hate our centres. To the contrary, I give them more credit than most here by correctly tasking them. Not many others think Janko can score 30. I think he can do that this year and be good enough for 35 in a year or 2. Not happening on a 4th line with Peluso and Frolik.

      • SeanCharles

        Johnny and Monny have been one of the best tandems in the league for the last 3 years. I don’t think you mess with that especially when Tkachuk is on a similar level IMO to those 2.

        If Lindholm and Bennett keep playing well I don’t really see the need to “spread out the offense” as it is already quite spread out considering Neal is in the top 9 as well.

        I somewhat agree with you about the Backlund argument. I think he is a 2nd line center but if we had him as our 3rd line center to shut down the opposition we would be in very good shape.

        I think we need some more growth from Jankowski and Dube before we think that is a remote possibility however. It’s a little early to say Janko can score 30, I would love it but I’m being realistic. He’s been a healthy scratch in a couple game, I just don’t see how he’s already at a 30 goal potential considering this fact. He still has some work to do.

        But yea if we could add a high end center to Monahan and Backlund we would have exceptional depth up the middle that would easily be one of the best in the western conference.