How Modano's departure affects Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell

Modano's departure opens the door for Jamie Benn to flourish.
The "Mike Modano Watch" continues and Stars fans tremble in fear at the thought of Modano in a Wings uniform wait patiently for our local legend to choose his new team. While most fans have come to terms with the fact that Mike is now part of the on-ice past, we can't forget about the future. 

Joe Nieuwendyk's decision to not retain Modano has major ramifications for the young Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell. And that is exactly what Joe intended. It is now safe to assume that the organization is fully committed to developing Jamie Benn at the center position, and Wandell made strides last year before succumbing to an ACL tear. These two players are the 'direction' that Joe wants to move the franchise towards. So how will their roles change next year?

First, a question of value....

With no Mike Ribeiro trade anywhere near, Jamie Benn will likely assume the role of 3rd line center this season, replacing Modano. The question is, is Jamie Benn a better player at this point than Mike Modano?  

Games

Goals

Assists

Points

Plus/Minus

Faceoff %

Jamie Benn

82

22

19

41

-1

46.2

Mike Modano

59

14

16

30

-6

50.4


As you can see, Benn bests Modano in all the offensive categories, except for faceoff percentage. However, their goals per game are nearly equal (Modano: .51, Benn: .50). So assuming Modano had played a full season, he could've matched Benn's numbers. But there is where Benn becomes more valuable. His durability is significantly better than Modano at this point in their respective careers, not to mention the fact that Benn's goals per game jumped up when he made the move to center this season. So not only is he more durable, but Benn clearly has room to grow and improve at center. Mike's production obviously had tapered off. So at this point I would say that Jamie Benn is a more valuable producer for the team than Modano.

After the jump, the new role on special teams for Jamie Benn and how Tom Wandell will benefit from Mike's departure...

More power play time for Jamie Benn

Besides the obvious opening Mike's departure leaves for Benn on the regular depth chart, the move gives the soon-to-be sophomore a chance to learn how to contribute on the power play. I've talked before about how Fabian Brunnstrom's power play time was taken by Benn last season. Similarly, Modano's presence on the man advantage kept the rookie Benn off the ice most of the time. Here are the top forwards with PP time last season:

(Note: I excluded Brad Richards for this, because on the PP he plays the point, not a forward position. And obviously, he's at the top of the list anyways.)

PP TOI/G

1. Mike Ribeiro

3:32

2. Brenden Morrow

3:25

3. Loui Eriksson

3:12

4. Mike Modano

2:58

5. James Neal

2:45

6. Steve Ott

1:59

7. Jamie Benn

1:54

8. Fabian Brunnstrom

0:54

That's really not any surprise to anyone, is it? Veteran, proven asset on the PP, or a rookie....yeah, duh. Even Steve Ott had just about the same amount of PP TOI/G as Benn). So expect that to change, with Benn playing on the second unit with (likely, I'm guessing at lines here) Neal and Ott. Considering Modano only managed 3 goals last season on the PP, and Benn scored 2 while averaging almost a minute less PP time than Modano, the power play could potentially become more effective next season. 

More time to rehab for Tom Wandell

The Modano departure does stand to benefit Wandell significantly. An ACL injury is no easy thing to come back from, and the Stars would probably want to handle Wandell's recovery differently than that of Brenden Morrow. Last season, Morrow immediately began receiving about 18-20 minutes of ice time per night right off the bat, and his offensive production didn't really take long to get going. But Wandell is not the player Morrow is. Morrow is a physical player who battles in front of the net. Wandell relies on his speed through the neutral zone to carry the puck in offensively and backcheck defensively. That ACL is going to take awhile to get back up to speed. 

Because the Stars have four solid NHL centers, they can afford to stick Wandell on the 4th line for the first month or so. That way they can limit his ice time while continuing to progress his development. 

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