Last year I said that Sean Monahan would and should stick with the Flames for the entire season, and even speculated that he might be a Calder Trophy candidate.
Well, I was mostly right, and given the fact that Sam Bennett was drafted 2 slots ahead of where Monahan had been taken the year before, you might think I would do the same with Bennett, right?
What to do with Bennett is going to be the biggest storyline when it comes to Flames camp this season, and many will point to the success of Monahan as a reason to keep him in Calgary.
There is a significant difference in the two players as well as their situations. The Flames will be as bad this year as they were last year, or at least pretty similar. The difference is what they would be returning to if they were sent back. Bennett’s Kingston Frontenacs should be among the better teams in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, and have some unfinished business after an early playoff exit last spring. Bennett would also be a lock to play for Canada in the World Juniors, and likely play a key role on the team. The same could have been said for Monahan, but the Ottawa 67’s were going to be dreadful as well, in the midst of a top-down rebuild and playing in difficult surroundings in the second year of a two year rejuvenation project in their home arena.
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Monahan could have went back to Ottawa and carried the 67’s on his shoulders and then been traded to a contender for the playoffs, but he had the maturity of an NHLer and aside from the World Juniors, didn’t have much left to prove at that level.
Sorry, Flames fans, your team isn’t going to be very good this season. And as good as Sam Bennett might be in the future, he still has something left to prove in junior. The Flames shouldn’t fall into the trap that their rivals to the north fell into. The Oilers have rushed almost all of their first round picks to the NHL in the past 7 years and quite frankly it has stunted their development.
The Flames need to allow their prospects the time to mature and wait for them to develop properly and don’t rush them to the NHL. Monahan should be considered the exception rather than the rule.
Give Bennett a couple of exhibition games and then return him to Kingston.