One month from today, the Dallas Stars will open training camp in Cedar Park with three on-ice sessions. They will assemble for the first time in the days before, going through preseason physicals, team meetings and the general getting-to-know-you events that happen at all camps.
There are signs that the hockey season is coming back to life. The Biosteel camp, which features players like Tyler Seguin and other young stars, got started on Monday. Players will slowly start to trickle back into their in-season towns as school gets started and vacations wind down.
Which gives us a good opportunity to take one last look back at the 2014-15 season, specifically the award-winning season of one Jamie Benn.
Benn's conquest of the Art Ross Trophy was well chronicled in these parts, particularly his dramatic win with eight seconds left in the final game of the regular season. But this YouTube video, by GoCanucksGo, puts everything in a little better perspective - it shows every single one of Benn's 87 points from last year.
Set aside a half hour and take a look. It's well worth your time.
A few things spring to mind while watching the entire thing.
First, Benn and Tyler Seguin (the two undisputed stars of this show with hat tips to Jason Spezza, Cody Eakin, John Klingberg and Patrick Eaves) are really, really good at the sport of ice hockey. You can see a lot of the traits that Jonathan Quick mentioned in his write up of the two from a few weeks ago, including Benn's ability to subtly alter his shot and Seguin's unpredictability. There's also some evidence of what a nightmare these two are playing together - once you think you've got Benn bottled up, you realize you've left Seguin open and vice versa.
The Stars offense is so dangerous not just because of the raw talent (though that certainly doesn't hurt), but because they complement each other so well. Benn and Seguin, being opposite handed, provide an ideal trigger man for face offs on either side of the offensive zone, and they have an uncanny sense for when the defense is distracted from the other guy. You also see how a player needs to have a certain amount of speed to fit in there - there's plenty of good moments from Eaves and Eakin in particular in that regard.
To go back to that Quick article, he says "Benn and Seguin have incredibly quick releases, but the most dangerous thing about them is that they’re unpredictable. Almost mischievous." And you can really see that in this video. They cycle and cycle and all of a sudden Benn is wide open in front of the net, and you're not quite sure how. It's a heck of a trick.
I was too lazy to actually break down each goal in sequential order, but it appears that as the year went on, the Stars scored less off the rush and more off prolonged stints in the offensive zone. This would tie into the trend that their defense generally got better at giving up fewer chances as the year went on - they moved away from complete firewagon hockey to speed-based with possession. There is plenty of speed going on, but the ratio of rush goals to possession goals is much better than it was at the start of the year, where practically everything seemed to come off the rush.
John Klingberg is quite good. Stop the presses.
There were times last year when the power play was really, really dangerous as well as those long stretches where it kind of stunk. If the Stars can capture the success early next year, combined with what we hope will be improved goaltending, this could be a very fun team to watch.
As far as Benn himself, he's such a deadly combination of strength and skill. There are several plays in here where he uses his size and/or strength to just shrug guys off - a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets and an assist against the New York Islanders come immediately to mind. He's so strong on his skates that he's very difficult to approach as a defensemen, and that's before you bring in the risk of Seguin streaking down with him.