Before the season began, one of the most talked about points in the offseason was how Jamie Benn had moved to center. There really wasn’t any doubt that he could excel in that playmaker role but just how good was he? There can be only one word to describe how Jamie Benn played this season, incredible. He was without a doubt the Stars most dynamic player on the ice and would have had a much better season numbers-wise if he had had any help from his linemates and not suffered a freak injury.
Benn finished the season tied for second on the team in points with Mike Ribeiro with 63. He set career highs in goals (26), assists (37), points (63), +/- (+15), shots on goal (203), penalty minutes (55). You name it and Jamie Benn set a career high in it. The move to center put him in a position where he could control the game. He had some of the most spectacular goals for the Stars this season, including an incredible five-on-one manhandling of the Columbus Blue Jackets defense (not that they have one) early in October. If you don’t remember that goal, Benn stole the puck from two Blue Jackets along the boards just outside the blue line, raced in and deked two more defenders before faking out the goalie and roofing it past him.
That’s basically what Benn would do all season. He started out the year working with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder but when it seemed apparent that Mike Ribeiro couldn’t do anything on the top line, those two moved up with him. Benn was then stuck with guys like Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow, Tomas Vincour and Adam Burish for most of the latter half of the season. Burish and Vincour didn’t reach higher than six goals on the season and Morrow and Ott both had 11. That meant that Benn was doing pretty much everything on his own and you can certainly bet that he was the man that the defense keyed on.
Despite that, Benn continued to produce numbers. He had double digit scoring for the first three months of the season and was well on his way to doing it again in January when he suffered the first of two freak injuries during the season. After a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Benn was forced to undergo an emergency appendectomy and subsequently missed the final five games of January. He then suffered his second freak injury in February in a game against Calgary. He crashed into the boards with a Flames player and unfortunately had the back of leg caught along the opponents skates, cutting his leg open. He would miss six more games during that month.
Despite those injuries, he still nearly reached double digit points in those months (eight points each) and in March, when it mattered most, he had his best goal scoring month of the season. He probably realized that he couldn’t count on his linemmates to score and took on all the trouble himself and put in eight goals in March. He also had the most game-winning goals for the season for Dallas (seven game-winning goals).
There is literally nothing wrong with the way Benn played this season. He was aggressive on the offensive end, worked hard along the boards for pucks and passed a bunch to his non-goal-scoring teammates (which isn’t his fault) and he was an aggressive hard-working defender. There’s no doubt that he’s the Stars number one center and premier player on the team. A full healthy season would have seen him getting close to 80 points on the season.
Next year, Benn needs to paired with some scorers. Put Michael Ryder next to him or give Reilly Smith a chance to prove that he can score at this level. As good as Benn is, even he needs some help every now and then to take some of the pressure off of him.
There is also no reason, absolutely none, why Benn is not or should not be working the first unit power play. He was criminally underused this past season on the man-advantage and it’s no surprise that the Stars power play was one of the worst ever in the history of the NHL. Benn only had two PP goals on the season and eight PP assists.
Benn was the clear offensive MVP for the Stars this season and is the face of the franchise. He’s still just 22-years-old and has already reached the perennial All-Star level. He had a lot of responsibility to take on coming into this season and he easily carried all of it. He deserves nothing less than a A+ for his play this season.