What a difference a year makes.
This time last year Jordie Benn began our list of Impact Player Rankings. You know, the spot Kevin Connauton occupies this year. That of the pretty decent defenseman who might or might not be on the team this time next month. Wait, no, tell a lie. Patrick Eaves kicked off our rankings this year. Woops. How could I forget about Patrick Eaves? Anywho, last year, along with Benn's place on the squad being far from guaranteed, there was also some concern about the brand new contract he'd been given. A three-year deal, with only the first year two-way.
Anybody still concerned about the wisdom of that deal?
During the course of last season, Jordie Benn went from being the endearingly named older brother of Jamie Benn who was a borderline NHL player, to the endearingly bearded older brother of Jamie Benn who is a fixture on the Dallas blueline. And while the injury to Stephane Robidas last season certainly gave JoBenn more playing time, he had already staked his claim to a starting role. Which is why this season it's no longer a question whether Jordie will find himself in the top six. In fact, the question is now whether Jordie will skate on the second pairing.
It's significant that during the playoffs the elder Benn saw the third highest time on ice, clocking in at an average of 21:56 per game. And while a healthy Brenden Dillon should have been ahead of him, he still earned his opportunity.
So what can we expect this season from Jordie? What can we expect?! I mean, are you kidding? We can expect a lot more of this for starters:
Well, maybe not a lot more.
As for what we can really expect, it's still kind of hard to know. Last year was Jordie Benn's first full season in the NHL, after a cup of coffee in 2012-13 and a shot of espresso in 2011-12. And in that first full season he had 3 goals, 17 assists, and, wait for it #fancystats lovers... he led all defensemen in plus/minus with a +16! He also was third among defensemen in even-strength CorsiFor and CorsiRel if you must know. (Phew... How'd I do Taylor? Did I please everyone?)
Not bad numbers for a first-year player, and while he's a defensive defenseman, he can still flash some skill in the offensive end. So does he wind up on the second pairing with Brenden Dillon to begin this season? Does he see time with Trevor Daley, with whom he had some pretty good chemistry last season? Or does he wind up with Sergei Gonchar or one of Patrik Nemeth, Kevin Connauton, or Cameron Gaunce? Or Jamie Oleksiak, or John Klingberg, or...
If it's one of those last options, take note that this season it will be Benn who is the steadying influence on his partner, and not the other way around. And yes, that includes Gonchar.