When the Dallas Stars made it official on Thursday that Jamie Benn would be the club’s next captain, it was an announcement that made total sense. After all, Benn, who turned 24 over the summer, is the face of the Stars franchise going forward and if Dallas is on the cusp of a big turnaround as many think they are, then it will be the talented kid from British Columbia who is moving back to his more natural position of left wing that will play a prominent role in the Stars’ potential return to the upper echelon of the National Hockey League.
No. 14 has only been around new Stars general manager Jim Nill for just a few months and there might not be a bigger fan of him and his game than the former longtime assistant GM for the Red Wings.
“He’s a fierce competitor, he leads by example and he wants to win. The bigger the game the bigger he plays,” Nill said at Thursday’s presser at American Airlines Center. “It [being an everyday player] is about guys that come to play every day, bring it in practice every day on the ice and off it. That’s what Jamie is going to bring as we continue to grow this organization. He’s respected on and off the ice, he’s humble and he’s a good person. He’s also one of the up and coming stars in this new NHL game.”
Benn is set to enter his fifth season in the league and current Stars coach Lindy Ruff is the third different coach he’s played for, joining Marc Crawford, who he played for in his first two seasons and Glen Gulutzan, who coached Dallas each of the past two years.
Not only has he played for several different coaches, but he’s also played alongside countless great veterans like former captains Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow. In fact, when the Stars dealt Morrow to the Penguins prior to last season’s NHL Trade Deadline, Benn’s name was one of the first to be mentioned in any discussion about who should wear the “C” after No. 10.
The Stars chose not to name a new captain last season, possibly because they wanted some final assurance that Benn was indeed someone who would embrace the responsibility. But Jamie worked extremely hard this off-season and arrived back in Dallas in incredible shape and ready for what figures to be an interesting season of Stars hockey to say the least.
He figures to line up at left wing on Dallas’ first line, where he’ll skate alongside newcomer Tyler Seguin at center and veteran Erik Cole on the right. But part of the genius of Benn is that it doesn’t matter who he’s skating with, what time of year it is or whether he’s the captain or not, he’s always going to bring the same fire and determination to the pond, which is a big reason why he was tabbed to wear the “C” for the Stars.
“I am not going to change anything just because I am wearing the ‘C’. I am who I am,” Benn said, channeling his inner Popeye. “I want to go out on the ice and lead by example. That’s what I do best-play hard for my teammates. I want to keep doing that and set a good example on and off the ice.”
And even though he’s not the most talkative guy when addressing the media or on the ice that lead-by-example mentality that he has each and every time he hits the sheet whether it’s for practice or for a game is something that everyone notices about him almost immediately.
Benn also views the opportunity to serve as captain as a way to maybe pass along some of that same advice he received from the likes of former teammates like Jere Lehtinen, Modano and Morrow to his younger teammates, his way of paying it forward.
“I’ve been surrounded by great leaders since day one of being part of the Dallas Stars’ organization,” he said. “I plan on providing the same kind of influence for the great young players we have here today.”
Of course, it’s great to hear Nill and Ruff both endorse their next captain, but the most ringing endorsement might come from a longtime member of the room who has played with his share of captains, three to be exact and he too feels Benn is more than worthy of leading the club going forward.
“I think Jamie has been here for a while now. He’s learned from older guys. I can see him progressing in his game and in his maturity too, the way he handles himself off the ice and the way he prepares himself for the next season over the summer in the gym. It’s all little things,” Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas said.
“When you come out of juniors, there’s stuff that you don’t understand but he became a pro. He’s a pro now,” Robidas said. “He understands what comes with the status that he has with this team.”