Jamie Benn is in his first year as captain of the Dallas Stars and as such, he’s learning lessons about the subtleties of the role. For example: “You gotta talk after games when you don’t really want to,” he said.
Being ornery after a loss is no black mark on Benn’s leadership qualities. After all, most fans hope players take setbacks to heart.
Though he’s just 24 years old, Benn has become the cornerstone of a Dallas team finding its footing in a downright diabolical Western Conference. He and linemate Tyler Seguin lead the Stars in offense by a country mile and no Dallas forward had thrown more hits than the Victoria, B.C. native, either. “He has a great night every night,” said teammate and center Shawn Horcoff. “If he can’t find it offensively, he finds a way to impact the game physically. In my mind he’s a no-brainer Team Canada pick. In my mind he’s the best power forward in the league.”
Luckily, Benn doesn’t have to be ‘The Man’ in every facet of the game for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen is a great goalie, Seguin is fulfilling his offensive promise and there are plenty of veterans to help in the leadership department, even if Benn has taken on the role with vigor. “I didn’t know Benny at all until I got here and there’s not much we really need to help the kid with,” Horcoff said. “But it is nice to be surrounded by other veteran guys. You can’t say and do everything all the time or guys will drown you out.”
On the ice, Benn is a specimen of versatility. Not only is there the heavy shot he unloads on goaltenders, but he also doesn’t mind dropping the mitts when necessary. One recent bout with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf was extinguished by the officials before the action really got rolling and Benn wasn’t too happy about it. “There’s a time to fight and a time not to,” he said. “The refs got in there pretty quick, so I’ll leave it at that.”
Benn’s greater battle will be getting Dallas into the post-season for the first time since 2007-08. They were on the outside looking in through mid-December, but climbing the ladder isn’t out of the question as the Stars have shown they can get hot. “We know what we have to do to win,” Benn said. “It’s taking care of the little things that’s going to win hockey games. It’s putting in the hard work every day.”