Fighting is dumb and should never happen in an NHL game. Full stop, no exceptions. Fighting is especially stupid when it serves to remove players capable of meaningful on-ice contributions. Fighting is unforgivable (seriously, there should be a fine), when the player in question is the Dallas Stars’ former Art Ross-winning captain, Jamie Benn.
Forget the usual arguments. Sure, every time he fights Jamie risks injury or impairment to his goal-scoring mitts. Yes, each fight comes with a five minute time out, during which the Stars are stripped of one of their most impactful assets. The bottom line, and the real reason fights are pointless, is that they don’t work.
On ten separate occasions since the start of the 2014-2015 season, Jamie Benn has seen fit to drop the gloves and rumble. Ten separate “messages sent,” ten instances of “rallying the boys,” and “sticking up for his teammates.” If we adhere to old school thinking, ten times Benn acted as a bold leader and sought to inspire his troops.
Those troops have responded by going 4-6. In fact, until Benn’s March 16 scuffle against the Canucks, the last time Benn chucked knuckles in a Stars win was
October 14, 2014. If we limit ourselves to the current season, in addition to the lone win, they’ve been shut out (3-0 versus Columbus), blown out (6-3 versus Boston), and lost a heartbreaker (3-2 versus Ottawa). Boston was up a goal before Jamie took his second shift, by the way.
But the wins, you say, every point is so critical! That’s the point!
The Stars were already winning in three of the four victories, and tied in the fourth. Furthermore, one of the winning fights came in an end-of-game kerfluffle and literally could not have impacted the result.
Chew on this: at no point during the past three seasons have the Dallas Stars responded to a Jamie Benn fight by over-turning a deficit to win a game. Hasn’t happened. The Stars did rebound against Ottawa in February to force a 2-2 tie, but would ultimately go on to lose. That’s as close as they’ve come.
One could also argue that motivating teammates was a secondary objective. A lot of the time (30%, in fact) it seems like Jamie just wants to beat on David Backes. That is not a productive use of a team’s best player. Seriously, even Mike Millbury would take that trade off.
Jamie Benn is a tremendous hockey player, and has grown into a fantastic leader. He is, in every possible way, a worthy successor to the likes of Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, and Brenden Morrow. By all rights he should have nothing to prove.
Unfortunately, there is a very real pressure in NHL culture for players like Jamie to be tough (aka to fight). It’s a throwback, an anachronism. It’s also, by all observable metrics, a side-show. Keep your foggy claims about momentum shifts and deterrence. The threat of Jamie Benn did nothing to dissuade Dimitry Kulikov last season.
It’s time to enter the modern era. No more fights. Stars fans (and management and teammates) should instead push for their best player to remain on the ice doing meaningful damage via the scoresheet.