It’s pretty clear that Jamie Benn - who recently hit some big career numbers and declined to elaborate on how he personally felt about it - doesn’t like talking about himself.

So let me give him an assist.

I’ve been around the Stars captain since he was drafted, so I’ve watched him grow into the player he is now. We’ve used this space in the past to meld hockey with movies, and it seems like a good time to return to that vehicle. As we wait for Wednesday’s showdown with the Oilers and a chance for the team to set a franchise record for consecutive wins, let’s look at a few key moments in motion picture history that might lend some insight into the Benn saga.

“The Force is strong with this one.” - Darth Vader in Star Wars

Benn was drafted in the fifth round by the Stars in 2007, so there was little fanfare around his emergence with the organization. Taken 129th overall by the Stars between Austin Smith (128) and Ondřej Roman (136), Benn was playing in the BCHL and off of the radar for even the most diehard of fans. But he moved up to Kelowna in the Western League and put together a nice 2008-09 campaign with 46 goals in 56 games. He also joined James Neal at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, and the two drove the Dallas team to its first championship there.

You could see from the start that Benn had something special. In his rookie season at age 20, he clearly showed he had something different inside. After 22 goals and 41 points in 82 NHL games, Benn joined the Texas Stars for the AHL playoffs and helped lead the team to the Calder Cup Final. Benn had 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 24 games and made a statement that he clearly had a chance to be a force in the NHL.

“A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.” - Gordon Bombay in The Mighty Ducks

When Jim Nill took over as GM in 2013, one of his big decisions was naming Benn captain. Brenden Morrow was traded the year before, so the position was open, and Benn seemed like the right candidate. He had just turned 24 and was coming into his own as an elite scorer. Nill added a nice complement in Tyler Seguin and installed offensive-minded Lindy Ruff as the bench boss, and Benn took off. He posted 79 points (34 goals, 45 assists), behind Seguin’s 84 points, and it was clear he was establishing himself as a player to be watched.

Benn grabbed a spot on the 2014 Canadian Olympic Team and won a gold medal. The next season, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer. But maybe his most important accomplishment was how he grew into the captaincy. He is now the longest tenured captain in franchise history and is viewed as one of the great captains in the NHL.

He has helped the team through both good and hard times. He has earned the respect of veterans like Morrow, Jason Spezza and Vernon Fiddler. He has also provided leadership for young players like Wyatt Johnston, Jason Robertson and now Logan Stankoven. And all the while, he has shown the wisdom of Gordon Bombay. Yes, winning is the end result, but you have to go through the process to get there.

“The true hero is flawed.” - Po in Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda offers a lot of life lessons, and while Benn likely won’t appreciate the comparisons to Po, his nickname is “Chubbs” for a reason.

Benn came into the league a little chubby. He started in Junior A. He was tabbed as just an okay skater and definitely had some flaws. That’s why he went in the fifth round. But there’s real value in overcoming your shortcomings. Often, the ones who have the hardest battle are the ones who end up reaching the highest level. They also earn the most respect.

Po is such a wonderful character because even he doubts himself. In addition to battling the doubters, he needs the support of his leaders and his friends. Benn is the same way. As much as he gives to the team, he also draws energy from it. Benn’s greatest strength is how much he is respected and supported by his teammates. It’s what allows him to lead.

He understands what they are going through, because he has gone through it himself.

One of the toughest moments for the captain came in the playoffs last season when he took a game misconduct for cross-checking Mark Stone in the Western Conference Final. The penalty obviously cost the Stars in a tight series, and there was much external criticism, but Benn’s teammates had nothing but words of support. They know that players make mistakes and they know what their captain means to the room.

The same process continues today. Benn continues to work through whatever hiccups he might have, because he feels the responsibility to do just that.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” - Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own

One of my favorite characters in a sports movie is Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Jimmy Dugan. As the former MLB slugger forced to coach women’s baseball, Dugan takes a journey. He learns about the women on the team, he learns about himself, and in the end they teach each other a thing or two.

This quote typically makes me think of Benn sitting alone in the postgame dressing room after losing Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final to Tampa Bay in the bubble. It was such a heroic experience. There was so much belief. Until the Lightning were actually given the Cup, you could tell that the Stars thought it would be theirs.

Benn was the driving force in that chapter of Stars history. During the pandemic, teams were told once they entered the “bubble,” they wouldn’t leave until they were eliminated. For some, that was a huge mental battle. For Benn and the Stars, it was an adventure. They wanted to stay. They wanted to bond. They wanted to win the whole darn thing.

When you consider what that team went through – watching Jim Montgomery get fired in December, watching the season get shut down in March, and then rebuilding under a patchwork coaching staff and unthinkable circumstances in the late summer – their resolve was unbelievable. But nobody embraced the “we’re not going home” mantra more than Benn, and nobody pulled his teammates into the experience like him.

So when it all ended in a 2-0 Game 6 loss, you could see how hard it was for the captain. This is the same guy who had been heavily criticized along with Seguin over the past few seasons. This is the same guy who had been doubted as maybe wearing down, maybe being past his prime, maybe not being worth his contract. This is a guy who had to have his own doubts about whether he was ever going to get the chance again to win it all.

And yet he dug in, worked hard, changed his training and made himself faster. He now fits right in with Johnston and Stankoven. He now seems to have the Stars in a place where they can seriously think about winning it all again.

And that’s a big part of what makes the game beautiful.

“Great men are not born great, they grow great.” - Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather

The introduction to Don Vito Corleone is one of the most memorable movie quotes of all time, and it resonates for a lot of reasons. One, everyone has a story. Two, those stories continue every day.

Benn is passing some impressive milestones. He recently played in his 1,100th regular season game. He notched points No. 900 and 901 on Thursday in Vancouver. He ranks second in almost every significant franchise statistic behind a guy who just had a statue unveiled outside the American Airlines Center. If you want to have the discussion, the guess is that the next number to go in the rafters will be 14. That’s a heck of a career already.

But the great thing about Benn is he’s not done growing. He’ll turn 35 this summer and finishing up his 15th NHL season, all of which have been spent with the Stars.  The job of a professional athlete is a great one, but it’s also a difficult one. That’s true for Benn. He’s been through different coaches, different managers and a lot of different teammates. He has tried to be the driving force behind this franchise for years, and that hasn’t always been easy. But this season is a perfect example of how he’s done it.

Yes, his numbers are down from last season’s resurgence.  He has 18 goals after tallying 33 in 2022-23. His points are down from 78 to 54. With the miles on his tires, it would be easy to say that he’s wearing down, but he just finished a six-game goal scoring streak which tied a career high from 2011 and he has 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in the past 14 games – a stretch where the Stars have gone 12-2-0.

That’s significant. It’s important for Benn. It’s important for the team. When asked about his scoring exploits after the big win in Vancouver, Benn shrugged it off and said he preferred the two points for the win to any points on his personal ledger.

“He’s the worst guy in the world at taking compliments,” teammate Jake Oettinger said. “He’s a hell of a player and an even better person. Even if he doesn’t care, we all are really happy for him.”

And maybe that is the story of Jamie Benn. When he tallied four points in the last game of the 2014-15 season to win the NHL scoring title, his teammates went crazy. Maybe nobody was more proud than his older brother Jordie, who was part of the magical season. Ironically enough, bringing joy to others probably is the biggest accomplishment in his eyes.

So as we wrap up this tribute, let’s think of the words of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather.

Great men do indeed grow into their greatness, and Benn still is growing.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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