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.
Is Sam Bennett finding it? Off season training? New coach? Or simple young player evolution? Or never mind sample size is too small?
— D'Arcy McGrath (@calgarypuckcom) October 14, 2018
Sam Bennett. Good again?
— Brad (@brad_1729) October 14, 2018
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.
Is Bennett back? If he turns into what we all thought he can be, would you consider his contract a steal?
— I’m an anonymous student bruv (@LeaveMuhAlone) October 14, 2018
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 Sam Bennett continues to look as good as he has, do the flames keep him or look to trade him? Is he worth taking a risk on for another club the way we did with Lazar?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 14, 2018
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.
Lazar has looked good down in Stockton? Do you think he can be a staple on the big club down the road? Is there a way back for him?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 14, 2018
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.
How do you get the most out Neal?
— Southern_point (@Southern_point1) October 14, 2018
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.
When Hamonic comes back, do you think Rasmus gets sent back down? If so, what would he have to do to get a starting role in Calgary? Is it realistic if Stone remains a flame?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 14, 2018
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.
Are you also scared of Mike Smith?
— redofsea (@redofsea) October 14, 2018
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…
should Flames forget the 55/25 ish split btwn Smith and Rittich and simply alternate goalies? Seems like however long a streak you leave Smith in for, it's always 1 game too long.
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) October 14, 2018
… 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.
Why don’t more coaches call time outs when they actually need them…. clearly it did something for the team.
— Tyler Leduke (@TylerLeduke) October 14, 2018
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.
— ? (@orangejoe24) October 14, 2018
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.