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Benn ready to help Stars move forward under Hitchcock

Stars captain will get more responsibility as leader with Hitchcock back in town

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock loves to talk. Stars captain Jamie Benn, well, not as much. Benn has been more of a lead-by-example kind of guy, picking his spots when to exert some vocal leadership. But Hitchcock wants Benn to be more vocal as he enters the fifth year of his captaincy with the Stars.

"He's quiet because he only thinks it is not his place, but now he has found out it is his place," said Hitchcock. "In this generation, dealing with millennials, you can't have leaders that aren't vocal. They have to be vocal. He's understanding. Some of it is things that I have learned that could help him, but he is going to become a vocal, determined leader and I think it is going to help us go in a positive direction."

That's fine with Benn, who said he is ready to grow more and expand his responsibilities as a leader under Hitchcock, who was named the team's head coach last week.

"There are steps I need to take as a leader. I think Hitch is going to help me out in that department," Benn said. "There's going to be a lot more responsibility, and these are steps that I need to make as a captain and as a leader in helping this team win."

The arrival of Hitchcock, who coached the Stars from 1996-2002 and led the team to a Stanley Cup in 1999, will mean change for the Stars. And the new Dallas bench boss said a coach's relationship with a captain is key in getting any team to buy in with the program, so the Hitchcock-Benn dynamic will be an important one.

"It's everything," Hitchcock said. "If you don't have it, you have chaos."

To get things rolling and prevent chaos, coach and captain met last week, one day before Hitchcock was officially on the job. It was an opportunity for Hitchcock and Benn to hash out thoughts on what needs to be done to get the Stars back to where they want to be after a disappointing 2016-17 season.

"The talk was probably a little uncomfortable for both of us, but we weren't glossing over things," said Hitchcock. "We had to dig deep so we could fix what needed to get fixed. I felt very comfortable after we met that we can get this thing fixed and turned the other way."

Benn said the meeting lasted about 90 minutes.

"He's got a game plan set, and he's really well-prepared already. It's very detailed and structured," said Benn. "He's ready to lay down the laws. It's up to me and the rest of the leaders on this team to execute his game plan.

"There's going to be a lot more responsibility for me as the captain in communicating with him and getting a better feel for our team. It's something I am excited for."

Benn and Hitchcock have a history together. Benn was a player and Hitchcock was an assistant coach when Canada won the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Hitchcock was in charge of the forwards, so he worked with Benn often during the tournament.

"He ran our video sessions. He was detailed, structured," Benn said. "His experience and his knowledge is up there. You could notice that right away."

Hitchcock came away impressed with Benn, whose role with Team Canada grew over the course of the tournament. Benn started out down the depth chart and then ended up being a key player as Canada won its second straight Olympic gold medal.

"Benner always started at the back of the bus and ended at the front of the bus," Hitchcock said. "When anyone was struggling or emotionally overwhelmed, we just played them with Benner. I've seen Jamie perform when everything is at stake, and when everyone else is barely able to breathe, he just plays.

"And we really hit it off. He's just a guy I knew I could trust and believe in and get everybody to follow. He's got a lot of sincerity in his personality, and he's got a lot of sincerity in his game. And he's got game to back it up."

And now Hitchcock will lean on Benn heavily as he tries to get the Stars headed in the right direction, and that means he'll need more from Benn. And the Stars captain said he is ready to deliver.

"We're ready, and it's going to be a challenge," Benn said. "Hitch wants a little more out of me, and I am willing to give it to him."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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