I think most of us would agree (well, maybe opposing teams wouldn't) that there is no such thing as too much Jamie Benn. Benn has been spectacular for the Stars since he returned from his shoulder injury seven games ago against New Jersey. In that first game, even with the Stars putting a goose egg on the scoreboard, Benn was named the 2nd Star of the Game, and no one would argue that he (along with Kari Lehtonen) was the best Stars' player on the ice. He tied with Stephane Robidas for most SOG, with 3, and lead all forwards with 20:25 of ice time. He also had two other scoring chances (one shot was blocked and he missed one), 3 hits, 2 takeaways and one blocked shot. He only went 3 for 8 on the faceoff dot. Even with that last stat, it was pretty damn good for a player who missed 10 games with a shoulder injury.
That was just the beginning. In the seven games since he returned from injury, he has been one of the Stars of the Game in all but two of those games (against Detroit and Nashville). In addition to being the 2nd Star in the New Jersey game, he was the 1st Star in two games (Phoenix and San Jose) and 3rd Star in two games (Anaheim and Los Angeles). Here are the stats for all Benn's games since he returned.
A few things to note about Benn's stats. The first thing is that Benn has led all forwards in TOI since he returned, with an average of 22:27 minutes and 30 shifts per game. His first game back was his lowest total TOI (20:25). One can easily assume that Marc Crawford saw how easily Benn slipped back into the game after being gone for so long, given how his minutes and number of shifts have increased since then. The shorthanded TOI stats are a little skewed - the three games where Benn has his lowest SH TOI are also the only three games in this span when he took a penalty. As we've seen the last two games, Benn on the ice when the Stars' are shorthanded is a very dangerous thing. Antti Niemi is probably seeing Benn coming at him in his nightmares, and Drew Doughty is wondering how the hell he lost a puck to Benn AGAIN.
Benn's average SH TOI (2:09) is only eleven seconds less than his average PP TOI (2:20). During this stretch, Benn has shown that he can be just as dangerous on the power play, as one of his four goals came on the power play, a goal which won the game against the Coyotes with just 4.8 seconds left in regulation.
No Stars' fan can complain that Benn doesn't shoot the puck. He had 21 shots during the last seven games, out of 175 shots total for the Stars. Jamie Benn had 12% of all the Stars' credited shots. Of those 21 shots, four went to the back of the net, meaning that he scored on almost 20% of his credited shots (19.04%). He had an additional 9 shots blocked by the other team and 9 missed shots.
Benn has also shined in his defensive game. He has accumulated 9 hits (3 of which were in his 1st game back after injury), 8 takeaways, and 7 blocked shots. He only had two giveaways during that period. The Stars lost one of the best two-way forwards in the game when Jere Lehtinen retired, but Jamie Benn, along with Loui Eriksson, has shown that he can step in there as well.
If there is an aspect of his game that he needs to work on, it is faceoffs, where he averages just slightly over 41% (won 33 of 75 faceoffs). However, he did step up in the LA game, when Steve Ott got tossed from the game at the end of the 1st period. He took 17 faceoffs, his highest total in this seven-game stretch, and won almost half of them. With Brad Richards returning tonight, Benn will probably see the number of faceoffs he takes decrease as he goes back to playing wing more.
Benn certainly doesn't seem to mind the extra work. Here he is, talking to Razor before the LA game about how he feels about being double-shifted. He seems to shrug it off, as if it's no big thing. He also talks about what Kari Lehtonen has meant for the team during this stretch.
He again seems to downplay what he's done for this team since he returned, as seen when he spoke to reporters after the game.
As Craig Ludwig and Ric Renner discuss after Benn's interview, part of what makes him so dangerous to opposing teams is that he doesn't have a single move that he uses. He changes things up, making it harder for teams to defend against him. Even though he is young, and opposing teams likely don't have a feel for him yet, this aspect of his game will make it hard as the years progress for other teams to come up with a sure-fire defense against him.
Even if Jamie Benn downplays his own contributions to the Stars' current streak, others know what he has done for this team. In their commercial for the Stars' next game against the Flames, FSSW chose to spotlight Jamie Benn - a spot which more often than not has been reserved for Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow or Kari Lehtonen.
The Stars obviously realize what they have in Jamie Benn, given how much they've been playing him the last seven games. His minutes will probably decrease now that the Stars' are getting their last injured forward back tonight. But we - and the opposing teams - will still see plenty of Benn, as it is highly likely that he will be skating on the top line with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson, the place formerly occupied by James Neal. No one can argue that Benn hasn't shown himself more than worthy of the faith and trust the Stars are placing in him. That can only be a good thing for both the Stars and the continuing development of a young player that many are seeing as the future of the franchise.
Author's note - This piece was posted before the Stars' 4-3 SO loss to the Calgary Flames. Even with Brad Richards back in the lineup, Jamie Benn still led all forwards in TOI (24:38, 34 shifts). Benn was third on the team in TOI, only behind the first defensive pair of Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski. Of that time, 1:49 was on the PP and 1:12 was shorthanded. Once again, Benn was a Star of the Game (3rd), with a goal (his fifth game in a row with a goal), +1, 6 SOG (leading the Stars), 2 takeaways, and 67% on the dot (won 2 out of 3). He did have two missed shots and one giveaway. In other words, Jamie Benn was still Jamie Benn out there and was still leaned on quite heavily by the Stars.
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