NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn:
Jamie Benn is ready to get started by making his preseason debut Tuesday. It feels like a long time coming for the Dallas Stars captain.
"I wish I could have healed a little bit faster but that's the way it goes," Benn said. "I worked hard to get to where I am today in being able to play in a preseason game at least. I'm happy with that for now."
Benn admittedly still hasn't gotten the sour taste of the Stars' season-ending 6-1 home loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round last season. Two months later he had surgery to repair a core muscle injury. His recovery forced him to withdraw from playing for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Benn, who was among the original 16 players picked by Hockey Canada, watched Team Canada win the World Cup championship without him last Thursday. He didn't miss a game even though it wasn't easy to watch.
But he's ready to get going now, ready to make his preseason debut against the Florida Panthers at American Airlines Center. Benn spoke about his recovery, missing the World Cup, his training camp so far and his expectations for the upcoming season in a phone interview with NHL.com.
Here are Five Questions with… Jamie Benn:
Your recovery from surgery lasted longer than you thought it was going to last when you had it. Originally it was a six-week prognosis, but you're nearly at 12 weeks now. What has the process been like to come back, having to miss the World Cup, miss the start of training camp? What has it been like in terms of just understanding and coming to grips with how long this has taken?
"It's been frustrating at times. Obviously it wasn't the best that I couldn't make it to the World Cup and be a part of that team. That was kind of hard. But having hip surgery last summer helped me through this one in terms of knowing these things take time, that you have to make a game plan with your trainers and really stick to the game plan just to make sure everything goes according to plan. Everything is right on schedule and I'm ready to go [Tuesday] night."
Can you take me through your thought process and what it was like for you when you had to decide that you can't play in the World Cup? A lot of guys who played in it were saying how great of an opportunity it was, how great the competition was, so what was it like when you had to come up with that decision that you can't do it?
"Obviously I wanted to be a part of that team and I wanted to represent my country in a special tournament like the World Cup. Especially having it in Canada, it would have been pretty cool to be a part of it. But the main thing was being smart with the decision I was going to make, not rushing back right after a surgery. The biggest thing was to focus on the Dallas Stars and make sure I'm healthy for this season, and hopefully make a long run."
Did you watch the World Cup and what did you think about if you did?
"Yeah, I did. I watched a bit of it. I obviously watched all the Canada games and the North American team was pretty exciting to watch. It was great hockey. It looked pretty fast out there and I thought it was a great way to kick off the start of this hockey season. It was tough to watch at times. I wish I could have been there, but I was OK with not being there if it meant being ready for my season with the Stars here in Dallas."
This has been an interesting preseason for the Stars with all the injuries. Tyler Seguin goes out in World Cup training camp. You were unable to go at the start. Mattias Janmark had to have surgery and he's out 5-6 months. Cody Eakin is out. Valeri Nichushkin left to play in the KHL. I know I'm missing a few more. I even saw that Lindy Ruff, your coach, said he hasn't seen anything like it. How do you keep it together, both as the captain and leader of the team, and just as a teammate in general?
"It's crazy. I don't think any of us players have really been around something like this, where it's just kind of freak accidents out there with our players. But we're getting through it. It's going to give a chance for some of these young kids knocking on the door to step up their game. They're realizing it too, that there are some spots open on this team and it's making those guys work even harder. I think the veteran players on our team have done a great job of mentoring those young guys with leading by example.
For me, I'm trying to balance focusing on what I have to do to get ready and just trying to keep the injured guys feeling like they're still a part of this team. It's not easy being out, especially to start the year. Janmark, it looks like he's going to miss quite a bit of time, so you want to keep those guys up and their hopes up while at the same time preparing the team for a quick start hopefully in a tough division, a tough conference. That's the biggest thing."
How do you view this team now compared to how you viewed it at this point last season?
"I think we're more experienced. There is more drive and a different mentality. Us losing in the playoffs last year at home, and just the way we lost, it wasn't the Dallas Stars. I think we have something to prove now. We're not going to be a surprise to anybody in this league. We have to back up the season we had last year, but then again it's a whole new season, we've got some new players and had some players leave, so it's time to step up again. We need to have that underdog mentality and be a hard working Dallas Stars team even though we're not the underdog anymore.
"I think any time you go into a new season it's a fresh start. We're all on the same playing level, but the expectations for us are high, maybe even higher than last year. We obviously want to improve on the season that we had, and we had some great success last year. It's a new year. We have to go out there and prove ourselves again."