Yeah, that's right. All-World, all-star, reigning scoring champ Jamie Benn clocks in at No. 6 in this year's impact player rankings. Why don't you take the next few minutes to hurl insults at the monitor? It's fine, I can wait. All I ask is that, when you're finished, you at least hear me out.
Because, on the surface, it does seem crazy. Jamie Benn just completed his finest season as a professional hockey player. He set career highs in every single offensive category with 35 goals, 52 assists, and 87 total points. That last number is significant because nobody in the NHL - not Sidney Crosby, not John Tavares, not Alexander Ovechkin - did better.
Along the way Jamie managed to overcome significant hip troubles to play in every single game. He played a lot (19:57 ATOI) and he played well. Underneath the gaudy offensive totals was a player who won almost 300 faceoffs (298 / 51.7%), racked up 120 hits, and with a 99.2 PDO, Stars fans can salivate over the fact he might have been a little unlucky along the way. Corsi? 54.2%. Fenwick? 53.2%. These are the building blocks of a "best in the game" argument.
All of which makes me an idiot for putting him just ahead of Ales Hemsky and Patrick Sharp on the impact list. Actually, no. I would argue it just makes me a fan of semantics.
To me, Jamie Benn is undoubtedly the Stars best player. He excels in all three zones, in all situations, and does so matched up against lines built for the specific purpose of slowing him down. He's a nightmare of a player equally capable of going around the opposition, through the opposition, or, frankly, doing both should the mood strike.
But he was the same thing last year, and arguably, the year before that. What Jamie Benn isn't is a goaltender, a defenseman, or a player capable of taking the scoring burden off of Jamie Benn.
Do you maybe see where I'm going with this?
Yes, the Stars' season would be wrecked utterly if Benn went down for a significant stretch of time. Also, any success the Stars do have will certainly be built on and carried by the younger Benn's burly shoulders. Again, nobody is crazy enough to claim that five players on the current roster are better than Jamie. I'm just not sure Jamie Benn can be the guy to push the Stars into Chicago Blackhawks territory all by his lonesome.
Once again, the Stars are drawing praise for another stellar offseason. Talk of playoff contention, Stanley Cup windows, and joining the West's elite has already started. Maybe Jamie Benn scores 100 points next season and all of the bright-side predictions come true, but isn't it more reasonable to see an improved defense, bounce-back goaltending, and dangerous balance across four forward lines as the cause of a Stars resurgence?
To me, the Impact Player Series is about determining how next year's version of the Dallas Stars gets better than last season's edition, and which players are the most critical to that improvement. With maybe one exception, the guys you'll read about later on this list, the top five, are not "better" than Jamie Benn. What they are is more impactful to the Stars' immediate prospects of improvements.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled insults.