Calgary Flames: What’s going on with Sam Bennett?

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 19: Sam Bennett
CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 19: Sam Bennett /

The Calgary Flames highest-ever draft pick has been struggling since he was ever drafted. We need to talk about Sam Bennett.

Sam Bennett has been a special case since he was drafted. First, he was the highest ranked North American skater at the 2014 NHL Entry Level Draft. But then at the NHL combine, he failed to do a single pull-up and he dropped to the fourth-overall pick. And the Calgary Flames definitely hopped on that and picked him up with no question. He became the highest-ever draft pick in their franchise history.

However, that pull-up wasn’t because of nothing – he had a shoulder injury and required surgery. So he missed almost the entire 2014-15 season, except for the very last game of the regular season and picked up an assist. That year, the Calgary Flames made the playoffs for the first time in six years and Sam Bennett made that playoff lineup. In his first ever Stanley Cup playoffs and basically his first few games at the pro level, he had one goal and four points in 11 playoff games. And he looked like a natural out there.

But that hype soon dwindled down. Since his one regular season game in 2014-15, Bennett has just 62 points in 166 games. This year, eight games into the season, he has none.

Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames /

Calgary Flames

All Troy Brouwer’s fault?

After being on a line with Troy Brouwer for the majority of last season, it seemed like Bennett was somewhat being dragged down and wasn’t quite excelling because of Brouwer. According to Natural Stat Trick, last season Bennett had a CF% (at even-strength) of 48.70%. Meaning that the opposing team had more shot-attempts than the Flames did with Bennett on the ice. But not by much.

When playing with Brouwer, he had a CF% of 44.25% and 52.38% without him. On a line with Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer, that was the worst CF% of line combos that Bennett had last season at 44.6% and the worst CF+/- at -38.

NOTE: The only other one worse than that was when Bennett was on a line with Versteeg and Micheal Ferland, but they only spent 51 minutes together in the entire season.

So not playing with him should help him improve, right?

So far this season, Bennett has a CF% of a mere 42.49%. But on the line that he’s spent the most amount of time with, with Versteeg and Jaromir Jagr, he has a CF% of 58.82%. Another one of his successful line combos is with Curtis Lazar and Johnny Gaudreau. But that’s about it. Every other line combo that he’s spent at least two minutes with, he’s under 50%. Meaning that with Bennett on the ice, the team isn’t generating shot attempts. Or they are, but the opposing team is generating more.

So maybe we were all a little too harsh on Brouwer.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to be harsh on Brouwer. But we can’t completely fault him for Bennett under-performing.

Something else is that Bennett definitely doesn’t have this year is shooting-confidence. He only has five shots in eight games and only four at even-strength. In the 84 minutes that he’s played at even-strength in those eight games, four shots is simply unacceptable. He does, however, have 82 shot attempts (at even-strength), but at the end of the day, if those attempts go nowhere, you’re not going to score goals and you’re not going to help your team win.

At even-strength, Bennett has also only generated about six scoring chances.

Tonight, with Jagr out of the lineup and Mark Jankowski in, Bennett will finally be playing on the wing instead of at centre. He’ll be on a line with Janko and Curtis Lazar.

Next: Jaromir Jagr injured, Mark Jankowski in

Let’s just hope that this is the change Bennett needs to start generating chances because I can honestly say that I’m not sure how much longer the Calgary Flames coaching staff and management can continue to hold out for Bennett to potentially hit his peak.