Teammates saw a different Jamie Benn come into training camp this year. They saw a Benn who seemed to put a little extra into his conditioning over the summer and they saw a Benn who was conducting himself a little different off the ice. You could say it was a sign that Benn was ready for a bigger role with the club. Dallas Stars management obviously agreed, naming Benn the new captain of the team Thursday.
“He’s a fierce competitor, he leads by example and he wants to win,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in making the announcement at a news conference in Frisco. “The bigger the game the bigger he plays. We’ve talked in the organization about being an every day player and Jamie exemplifies that. It’s 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.”
The Stars have been without a captain since Brenden Morrow was dealt to Pittsburgh just prior to last season’s NHL trade deadline, and Benn immediately became a leading candidate.
“I knew there was a bit of a hint I might be captain this year and I definitely took it seriously,” Benn said. “I had a good summer of training and coming into this year I wanted to be the captain of this team. I am looking forward to it.”
Benn said he doesn’t expect to be a vocal leader. He’s not much of a talker, so he’ll lead by example.
“I am not going to change anything just because I am wearing the “C.” I am who I am,” Benn said. “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.”
The 24-year-old Benn is entering his fifth season with the Stars. He’s emerged as one of the top young players in the game, and is seen as a cornerstone of the Stars franchise.
“He really wants to take his game to the next level. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to be the leader of this team and he deserves it,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “He’s mature as a player even though he is only 24. He’s really matured since I first saw him. It’s a real evolution and that’s a positive sign. We’re very fortunate to have a young leader like that, a guy who can take a game over and be our leader.”
Benn found out a couple days ago that he would be captain and perhaps his outstanding performance in Wednesday night’s preseason game against Florida was an example of his leading by example. Benn scored in regulation, tallied in the shootout and led the Stars with six shots on goal. He was the best player on the ice in that game.
“Like he said, he’s not a rah-rah guy, so you leave it to the old guys to do that and you lead by example,” said Stars forward Ray Whitney. “You saw his game last night. He wasn’t happy with his first (preseason) game, wanted to play the second game and you could tell he wanted to prove himself. He was by far the best player on the ice. This organization is going to need him to lead like that every night.”
Whitney and Robidas will be the two alternate captains this season. Benn will have plenty of other help in the leadership department as well. There will be vocal leaders like Whitney, Shawn Horcoff and Vernon Fiddler. And the Stars have players who know what it takes to win.
“We have plenty of leaders in that locker room. We have several Stanley Cup winners in that locker room,” said Whitney. “We have plenty of guys who can speak up when they need to. He’s not alone in this. I think it will be a fairly easy transition. All he is going to have to focus on is the on-ice stuff, all the off-ice stuff he has help with.”
Having a new captain is just the latest in a series of changes for the Stars, who have a new GM, new coach, several new players and a new look. Now, Benn said, it’s time to get the Stars back to the playoffs.
“It’s all on us now,” Benn said. “Not making the playoffs for five years is not what we want. With the players we brought in and the people surrounding them, it’s our time to do it and this is the year.”
And the Stars believe Benn is the guy who can lead them there.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars.