Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bennett’s role is becoming more clear

Sam Bennett is perhaps the most polarizing member of the Calgary Flames. Some love how hard he plays and believe there’s offensive potential yet to be unlocked. Conversely, others see flashes of promise mixed in with long stretches of general ineffectiveness. While I tend to be in the latter group, I also don’t think it’s time for Calgary to move on. In need of a new contract, Bennett looks to be an affordable forward for the Flames at worst, which isn’t a bad thing.

The story so far

So much of Bennett’s four years in the NHL has been defined by where he was drafted. Being selected fourth overall in 2014 brought with it excitement and sky-high expectations. Approaching half a decade in the league, though, I think it’s time to forget where Bennett was drafted and start looking at him for what he is. Doing so allows for an evaluation with less emotion attached.

Bennett’s fourth NHL season was very much in line with what we’ve seen from him throughout his career. Playing largely as a middle six winger, nothing about Bennett’s counting numbers or underlying metrics jumped off the page.

GP G Rank PTS Rank G/60 Rank P/60 Rank CF% Rank OZS%
71 13 9th 27 12th 0.67 11th 1.57 14th 53.5 14th 54.1

The career path for Bennett has been odd, mainly because things got off to a promising start. Bennett was a junior hockey beast prior to debuting with Calgary late in the 2014-15 campaign; he had an assist in his only regular season game and made an impact in 11 playoff appearances. Bennett followed that up with 18 goals in his first full season, but hasn’t been able to get back to those rookie totals.

Season GP G A PTS
2015-16 77 18 18 36
2016-17 81 13 13 26
2017-18 82 11 15 26
2018-19 71 13 14 27

The same is generally true from an underlying perspective, specifically when it comes to production. For whatever reason, Bennett just hasn’t been able to impact things offensively the same way he did as a rookie. It’s not like you can point to unsustainable percentages, either; while slightly higher as a rookie, Bennett’s shooting percentage has been fairly steady throughout.

Season G/60 P/60 SH% CF% OZS%
2015-16 0.86 1.67 13.2 48.7 54.0
2016-17 0.48 1.21 10.7 48.7 56.0
2017-18 0.61 1.41 7.0 52.6 59.2
2018-19 0.67 1.57 11.3 53.5 54.1

Bennett’s NHL body of work is over 300 games now and everything I’ve seen suggests the statistics above, counting and underlying, are representative of the way he’s played. He belongs in the league, he’s not “terrible” by any means, but he’s not a big time impact maker.

Of course, there are other ways that Bennett impacts a game and those can’t be completely discounted. He’s one of Calgary’s few forwards with a physical edge to his game, which has endeared him to home crowds numerous times. Bennett works hard and is consistent with that ethic; to this point, it just hasn’t paid off where it matters most.

The playoff bump

Give Bennett credit: he brings it in the post-season. While the sample size is significantly smaller, Bennett has been more effective in playoff action than in the regular season. That’s plain to see by watching and is backed up by the numbers.

Bennett has 11 points in 20 career playoff games and was the Flames’ best forward for most of their short-lived 2019 playoff run. He led the team with five points in five games against Colorado and made a far bigger impact at the most important time of year. That is a trend we’ve seen in three playoff runs for Bennett.

Game Type GP G/60 P/60
Regular season 311 0.66 1.43
Playoffs 20 1.01 1.77

What’s interesting is how people value what we’ve seen from Bennett in the playoffs. Some believe his ability to thrive in the postseason environment puts him a whole lot closer to “untouchable” than others who are more dismissive due to sample size. Where Calgary values Bennett’s playoff work likely lies somewhere in the middle.

A fair evaluation

My opinion on Bennett’s role with this team also lies somewhere in the middle. By no means do I believe an untouchable tag is warranted and I understand if the Flames see him as a potential trade piece. In saying that, I don’t believe it’s time for Calgary to move on and/or to be actively shopping him.

With a July 27 arbitration date in the offing, we’ll get clarity on Bennett’s next deal soon enough. One thing is for sure, though: we’re not talking about a massive raise on Bennett’s $1.95 million AAV from the last two seasons. Bennett may never live up to the expectations of a fourth overall selection, but he’s fine as a middle six winger on the Flames.

With Brad Treliving’s contract history, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll keep providing Calgary value for the next number of years.

  • Chucky

    It is interesting that the title of this article is exactly what has not happened. Bennett’s role has never been defined and he has always played on a line that has no clear purpose.
    Bennett is a guy who will go get it out of the corners no matter who is in that corner but success relies on having a pair of linemates that will be there to put the puck in the net when he digs it out. For two years he has had Jankowski as a centre and while Mark is good at the defensive role that he fills on the PK he plays the same way 5 on 5 and that puts him to high in the offensive zone to score regularly. His right wingers have been too slow to get to the dirty zone or perimeter players (Neal, Brouwer, Jagr or Czarnik).
    Bennett needs to play with guys who complement his style, maybe Dube has that type of grit and Frolic definitely does.
    I expect that he will play with Jankowski again next year but Janko needs Joel Otto lessons to make him effective.
    Regardless of what happens with line combinations the way Bennett succeeds to his potential is on a line that fights tooth and nail to get the puck, keep the puck and take it to the front of the net so that hey can bash it though the defense and goaltender, nothing fancy just overwhelming aggression.

      • cjc

        I don’t think anyone is saying give up on Bennett. I think people are saying that Bennett shouldn’t be overpaid for what he provides, and it’s probably not realistic to think he’ll develop into a star at this point. As for playing with Turkeys, Bennett has had plenty of opportunity. He played a lot with Tkachuk and Backlund last year, and while he didn’t suck there he wasn’t particularly noticeable either. His time with Gaudreau and Monahan went badly. Bennett can be a good filler on the wing in the middle 6, but he doesn’t drive play on his own.

        Mangiapane’s story is quite different and yeah, his ceiling is higher than Bennett’s right now. Unlike Bennett, Mangiapane has never been given a shot in the top 6, but even playing in the bottom six it is quite clear that he can create offense on his own. He averaged over a point per game in the AHL as a 21/22 year old, which usually portends good things at the NHL level. His even strength scoring rates last year were ahead of Bennett’s (1.79 P/60 vs. 1.57 P/60; he actually led the Flames in goals/60 at even strength, just ahead of Gaudreau). His defense was also better – his goals against/60 shots against/60 and corsi against/60 were all lower than Bennnett. Mangiapane’s underlyings were also better than Bennett’s – he led the team in scoring chance% and high-danger chance% at even strength, and was also better in other categories. His statline and the eye test suggest Mangiapane could be ready to explode.

      • Herringchoker1971

        I agree Major 1000%.

        We always hear the comment…….Bennett has a low hockey IQ. I totally disagree, this is where I think people count stats without looking at the player. With his line Bennett is forced to carry the puck into the zone and then forced to try and go by everyone and because he’s had no finisher, he’s forced to take the stupid shot. He’s then forced to go to the front of the net because there’s no one else there. At that point he is relying on his teammates to get the puck to the net. Your never going to be success playing that way even in rec hockey

        People will say why doesn’t he pass more. I’ve wondered that too. Then I tell myself….Bennett tries to do too much because Janko is always thinking defence first and Neal (hopefully only last year) couldn’t hit the boards with a puck let alone the net. If Neal was as advertised……both Bennett and Janko would be pushing 40-50pts. That’s simple math. If Neal scored his usual 20-30 goals with 10-15 being on his own line. There’s 8-10 more points for Bennett and Janko. If Neal gets his usual 20+ assists, there’s 5 more points for Bennett and Janko. Then consider the confidence bump and how it would also generate more opportunity. It seems really common sense to me.

        • Kevin R

          Good post & I agree. If Pelletier has the same kind of IQ that Gaudreau has on the ice & tenacity of Fleury, would love to see him with Bennett in preseason games. Might be fun.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Bennett is not and will never be Joe Nieuwendyk, he is Gary Roberts, and that’s just fine…. as long as we don’t shoot the moon for him, the next 4-5 years will be productive and effective, just not first line high producing…..

      • Speed Kills

        This is not a slight on Either player… But I think the Flames would be lucky if Bennett turned out to be as good as Curtis Glencross. Compare their Stats together if you want to know what I mean.

      • Flamethrower

        Different time and a different league. This team is better with Bennett than without. There is not a team in the league that wouldn’t like to have his services.

  • Garry T

    Chucky. . Looked at 2018 lineup, who is possibly going, and who is staying incl. fringe players . Bennett stays period, salary approx. $ 3,000,000.00.
    Lots of writers in this blog worried about size, skill, speed.
    So attached is speculative lineup, lowering costs, yet adding considerable speed, experience and size. cap is $77,427,000. Without Brouwer hit at $1,500,000.00.

    Forward lines

    1. Gaudreau. Monahan. Quine
    6,750,000. 6,375,000. 735,000
    2. Tkachuk. Backlund. Bennett
    6000,000. 5,350,000. 3,000,000.
    3. Neal. Lindholm. Robinson
    5,750,000. 4,850,000. 700,000
    4. Mangiapane. Ryan. Jankowski
    2,000,000. 3,125,000. 1,675,000.

    spare forwards. Czarnik. Dube Froese
    1,250,000. 780,000. 700,000

    Forward costs $ 46,310,000.

    Giordano. Anderson
    6,750,000. 756,000

    Hanifin. Hamonic
    4,950,000. 3,900,000.

    Valimaki. Brodie
    900,000. 4,650,000.

    Spare Kylington. $731,000.


    Talbot. 2,750,000. 1A
    Rittich. 3,000,000. 1

    My thought process incorporated a little common sense. Quine played in the NHL prior and had a terrific season in the A. We have to graduate players or why have them in the fold. We needed size and speed and Quine and Robinson add that, and both have been around the block, both have blue paint presence and are 200 foot players. Both are great at coming out of the corners with the puck.

    With this lineup you see Stone traded or he and salary are in Stockton.
    Frolik is eventually traded for picks. Brodie is kept as Stone was essentially moved, retired or traded.

    Defence costs. $ 22,637,000.


  • Trevy

    Trade rumours between the Flames and Oilers are not going away. This time, as per Gregor, sees Lucic/Russell for Neal/Frolik. At least we have rumours to keep us amused so far

  • Derzie

    Sam’s weakness (hockey IQ) has become evident over the past years. He’s strong, feisty and a solid depth player. His dumb penalties and lack of scoring are mostly due to his brain not keeping up with his body. We’ve had enough time to know what he is. Like Backlund, it took a while to sort out who is is but we know now. And we need players like them. Stop thinking he’ll ‘break out’ and you’ll see is a solid team member.