Most people in the Stars organization thought Jamie Benn
was going to be a good player and have an impact this season. Most believed that impact would be primarily with the Texas Stars, not at the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Not this early, at least.
As it turns out, Benn has indeed made an impact – at both spots.
Benn scored the game-winner in overtime Tuesday night for the Texas Stars in Game Seven of the AHL Western Semifinals over the Chicago Wolves. In overtime, the Stars outshot the Wolves 9-2 and continually pressured the Chicago net. Benn won a battle along the left-wing wall in the Wolves zone, then snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle that deflected off the pads of goalie Drew MacIntyre and into the net at 4:57, giving Texas the 6-5 overtime victory. Texas advances to the Western Conference Finals in their inaugural season in Cedar Park, Tex.
The 20-year-old leads Texas in playoff scoring with eight goals and seven assists in 11 contests, averaging 1.36 points-per-game. He also has a +10 rating.
When Dallas was eliminated from playoff contention, the decision was made that Benn would join the Texas Stars for their playoff run. He didn’t waste time getting to Austin, driving down the same day the Stars had their exit meetings in mid-April. Benn and the Texas Stars got right down to business, sweeping the Rockford IceHogs in the first round before taking on a very good Chicago Wolves team in the second round.
“The playoffs are the time when you want to play hockey,” Benn said right before departing Dallas for Cedar Park. “Unfortunately we’re not doing it here (in Dallas), so I’m going to go down and try to contribute to the (Texas Stars) and we’ll go from there.”
The experience can’t help but be valuable for Benn. Defenseman Mark Fistric
was in a similar situation last offseason with the Manitoba Moose; he entered this season strong and finished with a team-high plus-27.
“Those (Texas Stars) are important in our young kids’ development,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. “It’s great to get a taste of big-league playoffs. But you can’t assume he’ll go down and dominate. He’ll have to find his way through.”
It shouldn’t be that surprising that Benn’s doing well in Austin; if this Stars season was any indication, the youngster has no problems with adapting and transitions.
Benn wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas this season. Well, he probably wasn’t supposed to be here the entire time
The Stars forward was like so many other young players who entered the September training camp: hopeful of making the team, but on a roster that was already pretty well set, that chance was up in the air. And even with making the team, as a rookie, chances were he’d hit a lull at some point in the season and get sent to the minors for some work.
But when you break through and play like Benn did, you make people notice. You prompt the coaching staff to make room available for you on the big-club roster. And for Benn, once he was here, he wasn’t going anywhere. His play assured him that he didn’t need a minor-league stint to adjust or work on this or that; he was staying put in Dallas.
“The emergence of Jamie Benn
is the number one thing for me,” Nieuwendyk said at the Stars’ wrap-up session. “We had penciled him in for Austin for however long, but he stepped in right away and had a terrific season. It’ll be challenging for him again moving forward, but he has the attributes that are going to make him a very good player in this league.”
Benn’s rookie NHL season was a memorable one, as he turned heads and became a go-to player for the Stars in 2009-10. He recorded 22 goals this season, second-most for a rookie since the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 (two fewer than James Neal
’s rookie outing in 2008-09). Benn also had 19 assists. It didn’t matter that Benn was new to the big NHL stage and all the pressures that came with it. He can play, he’s not rattled easily and he’s giving the Stars a lot of reasons to smile in future seasons.
“I got to experience a lot,” Benn said. “It’s pretty special coming here as a young guy and making the team out of camp. I definitely got a lot of advice from the coaches and players. I had a fun year.”
He came in and impressed early. He stayed consistent throughout the season; if he wasn’t scoring off that big shot of his, he was still skating strong and fast and bringing a great physical edge. And when the Stars decided to move him to center, a position he’s never played in his career, he adjusted just fine.
“It was another challenge; we had fun with it and I wanted to do it,” said Benn. “You just go out there and have fun. You’re going to make mistakes, and I knew that as a young guy. I think it worked out well.”
That describes Benn’s entire season, really. Was it a pleasant surprise? Somewhat. But it was more just the repercussions of a young player who put in the work and was more than ready for the big stage.
Now he’s taken his show to Cedar Park and the Texas Stars for the Spring.
And they’re not done yet.