On Saturday, Sportsnet Analyst and Hockey extraordinaire, Elliotte Friedman dropped a pretty big bomb on (some) Flames fans. In the weekly Saturday Night Headlines segment on HNIC (Hockey Night in Canada), Friedman said that Flames forward Sam Bennett has asked for a trade. He mentioned that Benny’s agent (Darren Ferris) told him that he’d like a change of scenery.
Bennett who was drafted by the Flames back in 2014 (4th Overall), has suited up in 371 games and has put up 129 points (63 goals and 66 assists). Not up to standards for a player drafted that high but still not too shabby. He’s been known for being that physical player who can play pretty decent on both sides of the game.
What went wrong?
Well to start things off, the team has never given Bennett the chance to succeed at all. Since his first year in the league, he’s been buried in the lineups by coaching systems that don’t set him up for success. Went from playing with Mikael Backlund in his rookie year to then playing with guys like: Troy Brouwer, James Neal, Mark Jankowski etc. He never got that chance like some of the new guys get when they come in to Calgary. You can however make a case that he never earned a shot at the top 6 but when you play with guys like Neal and Brouwer (no shade intended towards Brouwer. Was a great guy off the ice but the on ice result just wasn’t there) who did absolutely nothing with the team during their tenure.
How is a player supposed to magically play good when his linemates are not up to grade? The coaching systems also failed him. Bob Hartley was the one that saw his potential and let him play at that level for one year before being fired. Then came Glen Gulutzan who played him on a line with Brouwer and Jankowski for most of his tenure (particularly the 2017-18 season. The rise of the Brouwerplay. Don’t you dare mention it). The continuous cycle of him not getting good linemates to play with, is one that has been pretty evident through the 371 games he has played.
Regular Season Sam Bennett vs Playoff Sam Bennett
Bennett had two pretty good years from 2015-16 to 2016-17. In those years he somewhat proved that he’s an NHL regular and someone that can be a key part of the Flames lineup. But then came the 2017-18 season in which he struggled heavily (partly because of his linemates and not being used properly). A sub par season met with a sub par team (a team that had great potential but failed because of the stubborn behaviour of Glen Gulutzan). Then it sort of went downhill from there. We saw flashes of the player we drafted back in 2014 but nothing clear cut that left fans in awe of his play. Sure, his physical play and his tenacity is one that the team has been atoned to over the last 2-3 years. That became his role. A role that he has fulfilled so far. But the production still wasn’t and hasn’t been there.
There’s also the playoffs! In which Sam has always been a huge part. In 30 playoff games Benny has 19 points (11 goals and 8 assists). His playoff play has been a synonymous talking point in the C of Red. Broke into the league as 18 year old Sam Bennett and solidified his spot on the team in the phenomenal 2015 run. He always seems to take it up a notch come playoff time. Even when guys like Johnny, Mony and Chucky fell cold in the horrifying 18-19 playoffs, Bennett still kept it together and was easily (no questions asked) the Flames best producer in the series against the Avs. He seems to have that extra pep in his step come April (or August? And now May?) and always delivers. Flames fans would take Playoff Sam Bennett any day of the week. Just wish he’d also light it up in the regular season, no?
So what happens next?
It looks like the two parties are headed to a divorce. With Bennett looking for a change of scenery this gives the Flames a chance to look at what’s on the market. If the Flames gauge interest and find a deal that suits them best, then by all means they should pull the trigger. But they shouldn’t trade Bennett just for the sake of it. They should get something in return (if the market is there for him). If Brad doesn’t find a suitable partner or a deal that helps the team, then he should play the waiting game and let this thing run out. Bennett is however in a contract year, so it would be ideal for the Flames to run this out if a trade deal can’t be put together.
The Kraken are already here?
Remember? There’s also the Seattle Expansion Draft! Maybe the Kraken take a look at Samuel? Who knows. With Bennett looking for a change of scenery, Seattle might be a great place for him to go. With them looking to shore up the lineup for the newly enshrined Kraken, Bennett may be one of those players that may interest Seattle. The guy brings in confidence and is always a high energy player whenever he’s on the ice. Maybe the Kraken are looking for guys like that? Only time will tell.
That Glorious ‘Stache
To wrap things up, it sucks that the whole Bennett/Flames saga has salted away like this. Wasn’t that shocked (lying a little bit) when the news dropped because honestly.... I think this was a long time coming for both sides. With Bennett not getting chances to strive and the team just not having that prolonged waiting period for the guy. It just looked like something was going to happen sooner rather than later. Now here we are with the news that Mr. No Pull-ups at the draft combine has asked for a trade. Mr. Samuel Bennett, wherever you go I hope you kill it. We’ll miss that Stache.