I hate the phrase "Happy Friday" with a lot of my rather-depleted reserve of hatred. It worships the weekend and seems to suggest that one cannot enjoy oneself on the other four days of the week to the same extent as one can on that grand Venusian day that wraps up our 40 hours of drudgery. It encourages us to live parenthetically to an absurd extent. All that said, it is the freakin' weekend. Go outside and enjoy some awesome summer weather.
Great piece about Jamie Benn by Mike Heika on Wednesday if you didn't see it. (As always, read the whole thing; it's well-worth your time.) In the piece, Heika recaps some of Jamie's struggles and triumphs over his still-young career, and if you can read this without smiling then you are a make-believe sort of person:
While some wondered if Benn’s quiet personality might be a hindrance, the young winger embraced the mantle of leadership, ended his summer vacation early and was one of the hardest working players in Frisco last August and September. He’s doing the same thing again this year, not only getting himself in better shape but forcing his teammates to follow his lead.
Which is exactly what we all want, right? The Alpha Male, as Razor so frequently called him even prior to his assuming the captaincy, has set the tone, led by example, and done just about everything you could possibly want your captain to do. We can recap Benn's ascent from summer snub to star winger with Team Canada, but to most Dallas fans, it was a fulfillment of the promise we had seen in person for years prior, beginning with his first NHL goal late in a game at Vancouver in 2009 (skip to 5:50) to tie it up:
There was a reason Glen Gulutzan kept leaning so heavily on Benn during his time here, and it wasn't just because he's been suspended like twelve fewer times than James Neal. Jamie Benn has been building his game, growing stronger, and proving his immense value regardless of how little-known he might be. Again, from Heika:
[Moving back to left wing] helped him first earn a spot on Team Canada when he was left off the summer orientation camp roster. It helped him move up once the Olympics started and he became an important part of Team Canada. It helped him earn a ton of respect when he was named to the NHL’s first All-Star Team at left wing, the first time a Stars player has ever been named to the first team.
The Great Stars Summer Jubilee that brought Spezza and Hemsky into the fold was made great because of Benn and Seguin's monstrous efforts last year in leading their team back to the playoffs. But how well the Stars do at living up to their now-rising standards will doubtlessly depend more on one of those players than the other. And you'd be a fool to think there's a better candidate on the team to bear the weight of those expectations than Jamie Benn. Even that not-quite-awkward stint with the microphone after the Stars clinched their playoff spot testified to who Benn is becoming in the larger context of the franchise. While Seguin grinned in the background (as I would have done), Benn addressed the fans with calm, steady words, not rushed, not over-the-top or pump-it-up ridiculous. He wanted to show how serious he was about leading this team back to its former glory, and he managed to do it. How many captains would have taken the mic in that scenario?
And I have to believe that he felt a lot more butterflies while holding that microphone than he ever did while beating the tar out of Jarome Iginla. I therefore grant you permission to feel good about Jamie Benn and the Stars. It's Friday.
* * * * *
Friday Links, y'all. Get them before they're all stale and chewy.
Mike Heika has some new thoughts on the Joe Nieuwendyk years and the Stars' defense. Good stuff on Joe N., whose coaching choices and roster decisions probably should balance out the rapturous reactions to his developing draft picks. [DMN]
The newly-Gagliardian Texas Stars just might be sporting a familiar shade of green next season, says Jim "Marlboro" Lites. [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
Huge contract extensions are nothing to get your jimmies rustled over, per Down Goes Brown. [Grantland]
Could we see a version of WAR for hockey players in the near future? We are close. [A.C. Thomas]
This piece about female sports fans seems especially relevant for some reason. [Hockey Broad]
Sarah Kogod defends athletes' rights to paternity leave. I approve of this, which matters to like the six people who listen to me when I start long Saturday night monologues. [SB Nation]
This is....you can't....you can't do that. A video of a Russian girl breaking her stick over another player's head, thankfully doing no damage (to the head). [Puck Daddy]
The NHL and KHL have extended their "memorandum of understanding." Isn't that also the only thing keeping the International Space Station operational right now? [Pro Hockey Talk]
The Philadelphia Eagles just might be following in the footsteps of the Texas Stars. Not in winning something significant like the Calder Cup, but in switching to a better shade of green. [USA Today]
Non-hockey Friday link: I cannot stop looking at this site. I was late to a meeting last night because of it, but they didn't know that. You do! Do not tell them. [Awesome People Hanging Out Together]