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Leading by Example

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

When Jamie Benn became captain of the Dallas Stars in September, he said he wanted to be a lead by example kind of guy. Well, he’s been doing that lately. During the Stars’ current 5-1-2 run, Benn has 6 points (5 goals, 1 assist) and a shootout winner, as well.

“We need our big players to be difference makers, and he’s been a difference maker in all the games recently,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

Benn came up big recently on the Stars’ road trip, scoring the only goal of the shootout in the win at Ottawa. He scored the Stars’ first goal in the win over Boston. And he had a highlight reel goal that tied the game in the third period of the win at Detroit.

“I think every player on this team wants to be a game-changer,” said Benn. “When you are down in games, you want to score that goal and when games are tied, you want to get that game-winner. It’s something I take pride in; I want to be the go-to guy, and I want to score the big goals. Sometimes you are going to do it, and sometimes you are not. Hopefully it is more times than not.”

“You’ve got to practice like you play. If you are not sharp in practices, you are not going to be sharp in games. I think it starts in practice, leading the way out there and doing the right things all the time.”Jamie Benn

But Benn’s done more than just score goals for the Stars recently. He took a couple hits to get the puck out of the Stars’ end of the ice when the team was protecting a one-goal lead late in a game against Buffalo. He kept his cool and stayed disciplined when Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid tried to engage him in a fight. The Stars ended up with a power play when McQuaid went to the box for roughing.

“We were on the road in a tight game, and it wasn’t the right time for fighting,” Benn said. “It’s picking your spots and doing the right thing.”

And when it comes to being captain and leading by example, doing the right things are important for the 24-year-old Benn.

“It starts in practice; it starts off the ice,” said Benn. “You’ve got to practice like you play. If you are not sharp in practices, you are not going to be sharp in games. I think it starts in practice, leading the way out there and doing the right things all the time.”

His teammates notice.

“If you look at his practice habits, they are the same every day,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “He gives his all. You look at (Thursday) night’s game (at Detroit); he put us on his back and got us back in the game. That’s the type of player he is. It just shows the type of leader he is, too.”

Talk to some people around the Stars, and they’ll tell you there’s been a serious demeanor to Benn, the captain. Perhaps it’s the job. Perhaps it’s just maturing. Nobody on the team knows him better than his brother, defenseman Jordie Benn.

“He’s definitely taken the ‘C’ and run with it,” Jordie said. “You can see he is maturing a lot. Every year he has been in the NHL he has grown up a little bit more. Ever since he has put the ‘C’ on his shoulder, he has taken the lead of this team. You can see it on the ice, see it in practice, the way he presents himself and the way he brings his game to the rink every day.”

When the Stars traded Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh back in March, that opened the door for a new captain for the club. Benn was considered the leading candidate from the start, and a week into this season’s training camp Stars GM Jim Nill and Ruff made it official.

“I didn’t know a lot about Jamie. I banked on Jim and the relationship with all the people that have been here and where they thought we could get him to,” Ruff said. “I think he deserves a lot of credit. He’s starting to come out, to be that leader. He’s starting to feel comfortable with that role; he’s getting a little bit more vocal. Those are all great things, and that is part of his growth.”

Benn admitted he is still learning the ropes, and relying on some of the team’s veterans as he navigates the waters of being a first year captain. But he is feeling more and more comfortable in the role.

“I think so,” he said. “As I said at the beginning of the year, there are a lot of great leaders on this team and the older guys have definitely been helping me out as a first year captain.”

As with fighting, Benn picks his spots when it comes to exercising the vocal aspect of leadership.

“There are times you need to talk and times you don’t,” he said. “I’ve said my piece sometimes this year and other times I’ve kept my mouth shut.”

But he’s let his play do the talking recently and, according to Ruff, that’s the way to go for a team captain.

“First and foremost, before anything else when it comes to being a captain, you’ve got to do it on the ice,” Ruff said. “He’s doing it on the ice, and the rest of the stuff will follow.”

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 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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