Flames Notebook: Is Sam Bennett turning a corner?

Calgary-Flames-Sam-Bennett

Calgary Flames' Sam Bennett scores on Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit. (Mike Drew/CP)

After a successful seven-game homestand ended in November, the Calgary Flames have struggled to string together successful outings, and thus successful results, in the nine games since. While the team attempts to stop its meandering trajectory, there might be some positive traction with one embattled player.

Prior to Calgary opening a four-game homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 28th, head coach Glen Gulutzan made an interesting declaration on the struggling Sam Bennett. Bennett had just three points in 23 games heading into said homestand, yet Gulutzan revealed he was coming off one of the most successful 10-game segments of his career.

Gulutzan cited scoring chances as his evidence and a little digging seems to back the coach’s claim. Per NaturalStatTrick.com, Bennett has created 14 individual high danger scoring chances over his last 13 games (Gulutzan’s referenced 10-game stretch and the three games since). That number means more when you compare Bennett’s scoring chance outputs prior.

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At the time of publishing, Bennett has played 26 games this season and has created a total of 19 high danger chances at 5-on-5. That means he had manufactured just five in the first 13 games this season, as opposed to 14 in his 13 most recent outings. That’s a significant shift, so it becomes less surprising to see Bennett with five points in his last three games.

The next step for Bennett is to rely less on creating off the rush and start dictating a little more in the offensive zone. While there’s no doubt he’s been far more dangerous the last month or so, Bennett’s possession metrics are still largely unimpressive. Below is a look at Bennett’s shot-based data in the two 13-game stretches we’ve referenced.

Period CF% OZS%
Oct. 4 – Nov. 4 47.2 58.4
Nov. 5 – Dec. 2 46.3 65.2

Despite getting fed with some of the team’s highest offensive starts, Bennett is still spending far too much time defending. From a team perspective, that’s easier to swallow with Bennett generating meaningful opportunities, but it still points to an area of growth for him and his line.

Bennett has been playing almost exclusively with Mark Jankowski and Jaromir Jagr since the latter’s return, and they’ve certainly had their moments. But with all of them well over 60 per cent on the zone start scale, continually being outshot at 5-on-5 isn’t ideal. If they can get things closer to even, Bennett’s trio could really become a dangerous depth line.

So, has Bennett really turned a corner? That answer isn’t totally clear, but there’s no doubt he’s been a more dangerous player. If and when his all-around game follows in step, I’ll be a little more convinced the answer to this query is yes.

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