Hip surgery, eh? It's always fascinating to have the season's veneer peeled back to unveil just how battered and war-torn most of these players are by season's end. When a player's condition is revealed, often it's a surprise--I bet you had forgotten that Alex Goligoski was skipping all those practices earlier this year--and less often it provides something of an excuse for why that player's performance mysteriously dipped or never quite matched expectations. These factors play into the general manager's job in ways that we don't usually address, mentally. Most of our access to the game comes through the contests and the numbers, and we have to base our kind, reasonable suggestions to the about how its players should be configured on those rather objective pieces of information.
The team (wisely) shields its players from the fans to an appropriate degree, and this almost always means that questions about production or play go largely unanswered. Coaches or managers usually won't reveal anything that could be construed as an excuse unless it prevents players from doing their job even somewhat as awesomely as they are supposed to. This season, Ruff alluded to Benn's struggles when questions arose, and you can tell just how proud he is of the captain in the video at the end of this post.
With Ruff and Nill two years into their rebuild of the Stars, there is both frustration and hope. Dallas made the playoffs last season, and the duo badly wanted to build on that momentum. But they also know that with adversity comes the opportunity for the players and the team to dig in even deeper.
"We want to be the best, and I think we’re on the right path," Nill said. "It’s going to take time, we’re going to go through some bumps and valleys. You look at teams that are successful, they go through these."
Benn didn’t want to talk about his health or his upcoming surgery. But he was asked if the captain’s "C" weighed heavily on him this season.
"It has its ups and downs," he said. "This being my second year [as captain], I’ve learned a lot. It was a bit tougher this year, because of the expectations we had and not achieving our goals. I’m still growing as a captain, and this is just part of the learning process."
Drawing respect for his ability to fight through the hip pain is part of his leadership-by-example style. Benn struggled at times earlier in the season when he wasn’t scoring, but he didn’t use the injury as an excuse, Nill said. There were several games when Stars management felt he was going to need to sit, but during every flare-up, Benn said he was playing.
Obviously this isn't always the right thing to do. John Klingberg had hip surgery last year and missed some time--by the way, here's a flashback HF Boards thread about John Klingberg that started in 2011--but no two injuries are alike. We assume Benn wasn't risking some catastrophic career-threatening injury by playing, because the team would take that decision out of his hand long before Benn would even think about it, even when the team is six points back with five games to play or something like that. That's really all you need to know about what kind of captain Jamie Benn is. Go watch Trevor Daley madly screaming in Benn's ear after that Art-Ross-Winning secondary assist the other night. This team is desperate to win alongside their captain, and while desperation is on its own insufficient to accomplish great things, the building blocks are coming together. I can't wait to see what this team looks like when the rest of the employees are up to the task of following their leader's example.
That picture up there is just about perfect for where Morrow was able to take this franchise and where Benn is relative to that. I love Brenden Morrow--he was a beast with the Portland Winterhawks even before the Stars brought him up--and I'll never forget that image in 2008 of Mike Modano shaking him by the shoulders with delirious delight after that goal. Trevor Daley's reaction after Eakin scored reminded me of that, though. The stakes were higher back in '08, and of course the players couldn't be more different. But this is Jamie Benn's team in a way that few of us dared to hope for upon the announcement back in summer 2013. Hope still must be peddled this summer, but I'm going to be buying again as eagerly as ever.
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I don't want to gloss over Hemsky's hip issues either. Everything about his year screamed "weird," and even though there was talk from Ruff (if you'll recall) of his fighting through an injury earlier on, it's weirdly good to know that we weren't getting our full compliment of Ales this season. I look forward to getting the Hemsky that Jim Nill signed next year, because then at least we'll know what Nill has got. The majority of people in hockey pretty much loved that deal for Dallas when it happened, and I hope we'll really see why next year.
By the by, Jamie Benn was the NHL's first star of its last regular week. Not bad. [NHL]
Ralph Strangis is still saying "wow" after the end of season. Seems appropriate. [According to Ralph]
Do you remember all of the wild and wacky (not to say zany) antics of the Dallas Stars scoreboard this year? I forgot them all, but now I remember again thanks to this article. [DMN]
Jamie Benn's league-leading points total was driven by relatively miniscule power play point accumulation. And this trend is nothing new, either. Ain't 2006 anymore, folks. [NHL Numbers]
Surprise, surprise, Patrick Kane is ready to play hockey again. [Chicago Tribune]
Except for Mike Richards, that is. Would the Kings buy him out? Remember, this isn't easy like it was the past couple of summers. Here is how messy such a buyout would be. [LA Kings Insider]
Nail Yakupov has been signed for another couple of years, or until C-Mac gets nervous about his job again and trades the Russian player to preserve his job like a big xenophobic coward. Not saying he is, though. [CBC]
Are the Leafs making the deep cuts they need to in order to start anew? Brendan Shanahan surely thinks so. [Globe and Mail]
Neat story here: four Allen Americans players are interning as firefighters in Allen, the city. Hockey players. [DMN]
Down Goes Brown, your weekend wrap. Always great stuff, and this one is no exception. Everyone does love them some Rangers right now, but I'm thinking it's mainly just because all the series are so impossible to pick this year. [Grantland]
The NHL is starting to get drunk with power and nostalgia as evidenced by this weird Willy Wonka candy bar silver ticket bracket thing promotion. It sounds kind of cool, but I bet the chocolate is like barely Hershey's grade. Puh-lease. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, I'd highly recommend Lindy Ruff's scrum video from yesterday. Lots of good questions, and you can tell he had lots of things he wanted to say but thought better of when Mike Heika asked about Goligoski and Daley's possession numbers ("analytics").