FlamesNation Mailbag: More Sam Bennett (again)

The neat thing about the mailbag is that it’s probably one of, if not the only regular piece of content on this website that has major reader input. Whatever the readers want to know about, I will provide my answers.

The people want Sam Bennett, and Sam Bennett they will get.

(If you are a regular submitter, please stop sending Sam Bennett questions. If you aren’t a regular submitter, now is your time to shine.)

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Remember that you can email the FlamesNation mailbag at [email protected]!

The weird thing about Bennett’s possession numbers is that they’re mostly the same as last year. He finished last season with a 5v5 CF of 52.55% and currently rocks a 52.16%. If anything, some of his possession numbers have gone down. His Fenwick for has gone from 52.11% to 50.56% and his shots for have gone from 50.20% to 48%.

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What has changed is the context. Bennett has been receiving the hardest zone starts of his career, at 50.72 OZS%. Still leaning a bit towards the offensive side but it’s about 9% harder starts than last season. So if Bennett can put up the good results without the extensive sheltering, that’s a very good step forwards. The knock on Bennett was that he couldn’t ever produce despite given the on-ice opportunity to (his linemates hampered him, but not the deployment). If he’s being trusted to do more two-way work, his possession numbers are fine.

The real step forward, and what Bennett needs to keep doing, is up the intensity with high-danger chances. He’s currently first on the team in terms of individual high danger chance generation, and has been on the ice for six HD goals for, compared to one against. That number is going to balance out, but if he can keep doing good work in the dirty areas, he’s probably going to start seeing sustained production.

I would like to see them try that top line again. I didn’t mind Elias Lindholm as the 3C between James Neal and Dillon Dube, which was a pretty threatening unit whenever they were deployed. The top unit of Gaudreau-Monahan-Bennett didn’t have a great showing against Washington, but given the defensive deficiencies of that line, which haven’t been resolved with Lindholm’s presence as hoped, it might be worth it to try and leverage all the offensive talent to make a superweapon line and let the 3M/MMA and third lines handle shutdown duties.

Bennett’s secondary position might be back to being Neal’s buddy, as that’s a pairing that has been working. Peters is a bit unpredictable when it comes to making lineups, but I think he could give Sam a spin with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund.

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It’s a tricky question. The Flames are moving into a contention window where they simply can’t wait for Bennett to be better, so it makes sense to trade him. That would be four years of Bennett not going anywhere. At some point, you have to cut your losses and move on.

On the other hand, if he’s going to be reliable ~30 point guy who can play up and down the lineup, you can keep him around on the cheap for his remaining RFA years. There’s not really any impressive depth that could use his spot, aside from Andrew Mangiapane, but that’s replacing a known asset with an unknown one, and I feel the Flames are hesitant to do that. This current management group has invested a lot into Bennett and probably wants to stick with the project until there’s no more excuses left.

As usual with Bennett, it’s going to be about waiting to see whether Good Bennett or Bad Bennett emerges. Thankfully, those two dates are very far away so we’ll have time to figure it out.

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Yes. He’s had Bennett-esque scoring luck with plenty of dangerous chances but no goals. He actually ranks second behind Bennett in individual high-danger chances/60, so one day, those pucks will go in. I’d suggest trying the Bennett-Dube-Neal line, because you have three players who are generating chances (the three are third, fourth, and fifth respectively in individual scoring chances for/60) but are due for more goals than they actually have.

I think it depends on what he wants to do with Michael Frolik. Based on ice time, it’s easy to say that Frolik isn’t one of Peters’ favourites. But given that Austin Czarnik had three straight healthy scratches when the Flames were hurting for goals, it may be that he really doesn’t have any favourite second line RW.

Like most things Peters does, I think it’s a situational thing. The MMA line has been the go-to for the majority of games, but the times the 3M line does come out is when the team has to face another mega-line. The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line against Boston is such an example. But those lines are often few and far between that I feel Peters would role with the MMA line for the majority of the time and use Frolik to boost a bottom six line. Maybe 3M reunites against Toronto at some point given their depth, but we’ll see.

Given the overall performance of the Juuso Valimaki-Rasmus Andersson pairing and the trust Peters has in them (putting Rasmus out in an extra attacker scenario is a pretty neat sign), I’d probably say that Micheal Stone is going to be eating popcorn for the next few games. He’s been passed over by two rookies who at least demonstrate better defensive sense and certainly demonstrate better offensive instincts.

But, there’s the overall instability of the defensive corps and the typical overreaction to bad performances that make things less written in stone, pardon the pun. Peters could certainly blow it all up if he feels that something needs tweaking (i.e: third pairing TJ). I think Stone isn’t permanently banished to the press box the same way Dalton Prout is, but I say with confidence that his usage will be sparing this season. Unless Valimaki and/or Andersson have major goof ups, the defence seems set.

Noah Hanifin has been just a guy to me so far this year. He’s got great skating, but not much more than that. Perhaps you factor in the instability of his partner going down with injury in the first game in addition to him having to essentially raise a rookie who is also playing above his head, but he hasn’t been up to snuff. A few egregious defensive zone turnovers and some passive play made me cringe, but he’s still just 21 and has room to grow. Perhaps things being back to normal settles him down, too.

However, I think Valimaki is more likely to be a #1 D than Hanifin. The time frame is a bit generous, but Valimaki has looked pretty solid for a freshly 20-year-old player, and it’s not unfeasible that he rises the ranks quite quickly. He checks pretty much every box for a #1 D-man, and it’s not going to be long until he reaches that potential. Valimaki has been compared to Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, who is already the Flyers’ best defenceman in his third season of hockey. If that comparison holds, perhaps we can expect great things from Valimaki in the future.

Cory Schneider is an obvious target. He’s been a very, very solid goalie since being appointed to the starting position in New Jersey, but his recent injury history leaves me worrying. He also has a $6M/4y contract that will run until he’s 36, so he’s kind of one to avoid. I doubt the Devils will trade their starter just as they enter a potential contention window.

Kinkaid is interesting. He’s somewhere between “meh” and “potential starter” that makes him an interesting get. Again, I think the Devils being contenders (their next best option is Eddie Lack) and him being good makes Kinkaid a tough buy. He’s a pending UFA though, so perhaps they lower the prices. I would also want to see more of him before making a move.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Finding a starting goaltender out there is almost impossible, especially being only a few weeks in the season.
    Tre would have to mastermind a blockbuster trade to pry a quality goaltender from another team, seems there’s not an abundance of great goaltenders out there. This should have been addressed a long time ago, Tre was too occupied aquireing forwards and defensemen. If there is one downfall with Tre GM duties it’s his and staffs inability to pick and develop goalies, think back of all the duds we’ve had.

    • Flint

      Smith, Brodie, Bennett, Neal, Frolik…

      It’s so obvious that these guys have talent and skill. They also all have had their moments this year. But they are so often on the wrong side of of game deciding plays or these moments that just get us dug into a hole.

      I don’t know how we get them going or what’s going to need to change, but it can’t continue being 1 step forward, 1.25 steps backwards with these guys.

      Neal and Bennett seem the least likely to stay on this trajectory for different reasons – Neal, it’s been only 11 games (small sample), Bennett (is he trending up? fool me once…). They’re all very key players in their own way… they are important pieces… we’re not talking Czarnik or Prout here.

      We can’t bench all those guys. If they don’t get going or Peters doesn’t figure something out…. we’re dead.

  • Skylardog

    And there it is.

    “I think it’s a situational thing. The MMA line has been the go-to for the majority of games, but the times the 3M line does come out is when the team has to face another mega-line.”

    Frolik and Backs are the go to guys in a shut down role, but apparently, when you need offense, you throw in Czar and the whole world looks much brighter. Makes assessing the Frolik vs Czar impossible if you use any kind of statistical criteria.

    But somehow adding Czar to the right side of Backlund, who can’t score, will make it an offensive line. He is a career 1.54 GF/60 guy coming into the season, and that has now producing at a lower rate in Calgary at 1.48 GF/60 despite playing with one of our best, Tkachuk, and Backlund. His offensive numbers are lower despite getting premium time on the second line. None of this is a surprise to me. Some players just can’t move from AHL success to the NHL.

    How bad is it? Remember – Czar gets the easy minutes.
    Czar Backs Tkachuk – 1.59GF/60 3.17 GA/60. 1GF and 2Ga in 37 minutes+.
    Fro Backs Tkachuk – 3.44 GF/60 and 3.44 GA/60, 3 GF and 3 GA in 52 minutes.

    Both are awful, but at least with Frolik, they can handle tough minutes.

    • cjc

      I think the samples are too small to judge at this point, but yeah, it’s trending that way. I think the hope was that they would find the next Marchessault. As far as FA signings go, Czarnik is the least of our worries right now though.

  • Skylardog

    BT’s summer UFA signings are turning quickly into a disaster. Neal, Ryan, Czar, Prout, Peluso are the main 5. The first 3 represent $10.15 million in salary per year, so far, they have produced 4 goals, and 4 assists, a 0.28 points per game rate, in 29 games with 4 games spent in the bleachers.

    Lets leave Neal alone for the moment. He is showing signs of coming around and getting his 20 to 25. That’s what he is here for. In 2 years this will be an albatross. 5 years at $5.75. OMG.

    But Ryan at 3 years at $3.15 is looking like a horrible signing. He has been sat, got 8:25 in icetime last game, and is now on the 4th line. Put him on the trade block and get a bag of pucks for him, retain 50% if you have to. He is a buyout candidate, which means we are paying him half for the next 5 seasons anyways. A bag of pucks and 3 seasons at $1.625 is a deal. Take it and run.

    And if there are no takers, put him on waivers and send him down to Stockton. Graovac, Rychel, Foo, Mangi, Lazar, and even Gawdin are better options. At least we would be developing a player with potential and upside.

    As for Czar, his value right now is as good as it gets. He gets taken on waivers. 1 way deal. WTF?

    Prout. His presence made Kulak expendible. But we are left with a guy that has no place in the lineup, and gave up a serviceable NHL defenseman. That decision meant Stone, or Brodie, or whoever are no longer tradeable.

    Peluso I get. Better him eating popcorn over Lazar, or some other young player that needs to play.

    Brouwer, Grossman, Jagr, Ryan, Neal, Czar… First round picks… Hamonic in for a 1 and 2 seconds. Still say, and you all disagree, that he is our 7th D behind Stone. No top line RW last season when everyone else in Calgary knew that was what the team needed. No goalie this season when everyone in Canada knew the Flames had and have had for years a goalie issue. GG hired, after he blew the Hartley firing. Peters hired when a coach with a history of playoff appearances is what we needed (time will tell here, and I like what Peters is doing, but early signs say the “culture” has not changed).
    Starting to really think BT is the issue here. Lets rephrase that: BT is the issue here.

    Morning rant done.

      • Off the wall

        Czarnik had 20 teams interested in him. They had to sign him to a ONE way deal.

        Sorry, but my jury is not out on this kid yet. He’s got the same number of points as Neal, with 3 less games played. $1.25M vs $5.75M

        Yah, we so wasted $1.25 M on Czarnik didn’t we?

        • Skylardog

          They had to NOT sign him. Its a roster spot that could have been used for a prospect, with an upside, that would have relished the chance to play with Byng and Backs, and would have put up more than 2 5v5 assists.

          • calgaryfan

            all your ideas are good but I don’t think it is as easy as what you say. The trading of draft picks is showing now, with no depth in Stockton. I think someone mentioned the Flames made an error in how far along they were in the rebuild, which I believe is true. All the trades and signings, just have the team treading water. There are good young players on the Flames, just not enough yet, they need to get back to drafting and stop trading picks.

          • buts

            If we had goaltending this would all be mute and we would be in first place. I posted in may that goaltending was BT’s #1 priority and he did squat. If Rittich gets handed the reins and plays at the same level (which I don’t think he can) we have a chance maybe.

        • HOCKEY83

          If neal was the guy playing on the top line from the beginning of the season he would have more points. You’d all be wondering about lindholm instead of Neal if their roles were reversed. Ryan and Czarnik were mistakes. I’d rather have a guys like Foo, Mangi, gawdin or even lazar up over these useless signings.

    • MontanaMan

      Panic much? I laugh when I read comments like “trade Ryan for a bucket of pucks” or send Czar to the minors. It’s an 82 game season with a new coaching staff and many new faces so it’s going to take some time for the team to gel. Peters clearly doesn’t have favourites so he’s going to call out anyone on the team to get their attention. I am very interested in what the team looks like at the 25 game mark and if we’re still having this conversation after 40 games, I’ll get concerned. Until then, I will be patient.

      • Skylardog

        Not panic. Cut the losses while we can still fix it. By 40 games there is no fixing Ryan and Czar.

        I am telling you now what we will all understand by game 40.

        I came on here in November 2016 and said that GG needed to go immediately. All of you hated it. The first 11 games with Peters behind the bench has proved how right I was (along with everything else he screwed up along the way). Bennett, Janko, and Brodie are all paying the price for him being here. I said GG was a development disaster.

        I said Andersson was our second best defenseman at the start of the season, and last year said he should have been on the roster. His role here is rapidly becoming very apparent. Rookie mistakes will happen, but he has been a great addition. Is he the second best, the jury is out, but many are calling for him to play top pair minutes. (I disagree with that happening by the way).

        I have said Backs line has to be line 3. Jury still out. Right now we sit in 5th in the Pacific, Arizona is just a point back with a game in hand. Only Anaheim got off to a fast start, the rest floundered. Now Anaheim is falling and the rest are coming (and passing us). Backs line plays 1 game in a true shut down role, and we easily beat Boston on that night. Backs still can’t score. Byng has just one goal at 5v5. Real good use of the teams heart and soul.

        I said Smith shouldn’t have been traded for on the day we got him. With all the questions out there now, I was right. You don’t bring in 34 year old goalies for 2nd round picks and hope they take you to the promised land, especially when there was evidence he was starting to have injuries.

        Ryan is a dog that we will want bought out in the summer – Book it.
        Czar will get only 20 points, while Graovac or someone else could get 30.
        Ryan signing was at best poor, if he and Janko were in the lineup. If only 1 of them is in the lineup (in other words Ryan in for Janko), the signing is horrific. $3.15 for a 4th liner? Or was the plan to push Janko to line 4 all along. Nice development move on a guy that potted 17 goals in his rookie season.

        I could go on

        • Avalain

          So I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’m really stuck on this idea of Backlund’s line being line 3. The general idea is that we have a top line that is mainly used for scoring and a 2nd line that is mainly used to shut down the scoring line of the other team. The 3rd line tends to flip back to offense and get the high ground against hopefully lesser players and the 4th line is meant to give the other lines a bit of a longer break before they get on the ice again and hopefully don’t get scored on while doing so. So what you’re saying is that you want Backlund to be on our 3rd line, aka our second scoring line? Or do you just want our shut down line to be the 3rd line? I mean, that makes sense. You just need to convince the other team to stop playing their top line so often and that will definitely give the Flames a better chance of winning.

          • canadian1967

            For most of us, the numbering of lines has more to do with ice time than roles.
            Take the Backlund line.
            Against Boston who have a Monster line, Backlund/3M will be used to match up against the Monsters as much as possible meaning the Backlund line will likely have more ice time than our other lines.

            This Shut down 3M thingy only needs to happen against teams with Monster lines like the Pens, Caps, Bolts, Leafs and Oil. This means against those teams 3M may be the 1st line.
            For the rest of the league, Backlund (without Chucky) needs to be the Center/line with the 3rd most minutes, thus the 3rd line.

            That’s the way I see it anyway.

        • Off the wall

          Definitely all good points Skylar.
          I get what you’re saying.

          Treliving fired his gun a bit early.
          With the acquisitions our development has been put on HOLD with our forwards. I agree.

          Jankowski has been short-changed no doubt. Foo, Gawdin, Klimchuk, and Mangiapane won’t get a chance this season.
          If they do, it means our season is probably toast.

          Our UFA signings have been horrible for the most part.
          Treliving should stay away from free agency and stick to drafting and development. This is probably his biggest short-sightedness.

          I’m interested to see where we are – on American Thanksgiving.

          • Rudy27

            I don’t know about Janko being short changed. I really haven’t seen him playing to his potential much of this season. Seemed to have much more hunger last year. Throwing out a few hits with that 6’4″ frame wouldn’t hurt either.

          • Off the wall

            True Rudy. He had a very good game against NYR, when the team played absolutely horrible. Then the Penguins eat us alive and he sits. He wasn’t good against the Penguins, but nobody was.

            If Peters’ wants to teach Jankowski, he needs to get playing time. Keep him in the games, work with him. But let him play.

            Our rookies on D are making mistakes, yet they’re playing. I don’t have a problem with that.

            I agree we haven’t seen the real Jankowski, however are we going to see it, if he wastes away on the bench? His development is just as important too!

        • Toma41

          Janko had a good rookie season last year. Better than most here thought he would have. Many wrote the kid off years ago. So the flames go and sign an old, below average center (that will steal Jankos playing time) to reward Janko for his good season. And guys are wondering why he isnt playing like he did last year? He is still probably in shock. Or angry and wants to leave to play for a team that will give him a proper shot. If he only gets 4th line minutes or sits on the bench, how can we expect him to develop into anything more?

    • Flint

      You think Hamonic is the 7th best defenseman on the team, worse than Stone?

      He did more positive things last game defensively vs Wash than Brodie has done defensively in eleven games and that’s being generous. I could almost say one penalty kill alone. If Hamonic was one of our problems we’d be in great shape… is he an all-star defenseman, no, certainly not. But a problem with this years roster? No bloody way.

      There are about 16 players on the team who are far and away more problematic than Hamonic. You don’t like the trade, fine, but you’ve gotta be able to objectively see past that. The trade is a separate issue from how the player is performing on the ice.

      • Flint

        and I should add… although it also is a seperate issue than on-ice performance, Hamonic’s contract is a steal @ 3.8. The guy makes almost 1mil less than Brodie and only 350k more than Stone. He makes less than Frolik… and only a presser more than Ryan.

        So, not just in on-ice performance are there about 16 more problematic players than Hamonic. He may be one of the best contracts we’ve got for a veteran/non entry level player.

    • LannyMac

      Loved your ufa rant Sky and then I see you have 3 more trashes. Don’t know how people can argue with your comments unfortunately it isn’t just the new recruits and I could argue the majority of the returning players are leading the way with subpar performances the new recruits are just falling in line.

  • 左翼二

    I’d like to see Sam get a few games with Johnny and Monny. Give him some time to see if he can fit there. If that doesn’t work, swap Sam and Byng.
    Off1: Johnny – Monny – Byng
    Def1: Sam – Backs – Fro
    Off2: Dube – Lindy – Neal
    Def2: Hath – Janko – Czar – Ryan

  • JoelOttosJock

    The Flames need a #2 centerman. If the coaching staff continues to insist on using Backlund as a #2 center, this will be a long season. I agree with what Rhett was saying this a.m. for the most part. Although, instead of targeting, why not better use of all the centers on the team? Lindholm and Monahan should be the top 2, Backlund at 3, and Janko or Ryan at 4. Playing Backlund at an offensive spot is like playing Gaudreau on a checking line. Just ludacris!

    • Avalain

      How is the 2nd line an offensive spot? It’s the top defensive forward spot because the other team isn’t going to put their best on the ice for only 15 minutes a game. I mean, I guess you could CALL it the 3rd line. But then give that 3rd line more ice time than the 2nd line because that’s how often the other teams 1st line is going to be out there.

      • JoelOttosJock

        Well putting guys with offensive talent like tkchuck with offensive anchors like backlund and frolik is ridiculous. The flames should run two offensive lines, 1 checking line and one energy line. Call them what you will, but Backlund should not be on an offensive line, tkchuck should be on an offensive line.

      • canadian1967

        The Shut down line might end up with more ice time than our “1st line” on a night where we need to employ them as a shut down line against a Monster line like McD, Bergeron, Kucherov etc and the other games against “normal” team Backlund should be getting the 3rd most ice time Hence 3rd line.

    • Jessemadnote

      Backlund is 41st in overall points for a center in the past three years while be incredibly reliable defensively. That’s exactly where a second line center should be.

  • Flamethrower

    The line of Bennett, Dube and Neal is a no brainer and should be so. All three play well together. Just need time to make things happen. One game here and one game there does not allow for chemistry to happen.

  • Alcanivorax

    2017-2018 problems
    Poor special teams
    Bad defensive zone coverage
    Questionable desire / commitment

    2018 – 2019 plan to change the above?
    New coaching staff
    New players acquired via trade of players with “questionable desire / commitment”

    2018 – 2019 results so far?
    Overall record is virtually the same
    The power play appears to be as bad as, if not worse, than last season.
    The defensive zone coverage does not appear to be any better.

    I’ve mentioned this to a co-worker and he thinks I am crazy (so trash away) but I think it is time to trade a core piece.

    By core piece I mean Monahan or Gaudreau (either one packaged with Brodie (and/or Smith)).

    The results and on ice performance so far suggest little has changed from last year. To me that means “The Trade” (you know, the Museum piece that was sent away) didn’t solve the issues within the team.

    As such, it seems like a more significant move involving a core player is necessary. A) to send a message to the team and B) to get something decent in return even if it is significant draft picks.

    23 and 13 don’t know defence.
    23 and 13 given their scoring records MUST get you something decent in return as part of a package.

    Having said that if management stands pat which, lets be honest, is the most likely short term activity, and results don’t improve then there should be a virtual fire sale at the trade deadline for as many high end prospects and draft picks (over the next 2 years) that we can get.

    Fire sale would include one of Gaudreau or Monahan, Brodie, Gio, Ryan, Frolik

  • oilcanboyd

    We have to listen to SN East announcers tonight? With the Leafs stud centre out of action we will have to listen to more diatribe about holdout Nylander. Suck it up Leaf boosters…coach says you play with the players that you have…