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Dallas Stars Season Grades: Jamie Benn and a Tale of Two Seasons

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Jamie Benn’s injury-plagued, down-then-up season may have captured what happened to the Stars better than anyone.

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Poll

How would you rate Jamie Benn’s 2016-17 season?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    A - Playing through what he did and still scoring nearly 70 points is more than enough
    (74 votes)
  • 52%
    B - I don’t love it, but I can live with what happened given the circumstances
    (176 votes)
  • 19%
    C - He missed his own impossible to live up to standards
    (66 votes)
  • 4%
    D - No amount of potential injuries makes me feel better
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    F - I have confused him with the dummy they use to practice screens
    (3 votes)
333 votes total Vote Now

There was a lot of (deserved) talk this season about how the Dallas Stars forward corps was riddled with injuries. From before the season started, when Tyler Seguin and Ales Hemsky got hurt in the dog-and-pony show that was the World Cup of Hockey and Mattias Janmark was diagnosed with a degenerative knee condition, the Stars were never able to ice a full, healthy lineup.

And while those 300 man-games lost at forward got the attention, what was perhaps more impactful were the injuries that were never official confirmed by impossible to miss via the eye test.

Which brings us to Jamie Benn, who just didn’t look like himself for long stretches of the season. He did have offseason surgery for an “abdominal strain” (sports hernia? other hernia? only he and the team doctors know for sure), and it was evident in the early months of the season that he just wasn’t himself.

His point totals in the first half of the season were respectable but driven mainly by assists. Before the All-Star game, he put up 41 points in 46 games on 13 goals and 28 assists to go next to a problematic minus-10 rating and pretty bad possession numbers.

Things picked up in the second half though, particularly in the goal-scoring department. He had 28 points in his final 31 games with a 13-15-28 split and a major turnaround in the possession department as well. His best month, and the one he looked the most like himself, was February, where he went on a small run of 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 12 games. And this was about the time he started to look like himself as well, with the return of a corner-picking wrist-shot and ability to physically bull through opponents.

So what was going on early in the year? We may never know, but there were vague statements from both Lindy Ruff and management when Benn missed a stretch of early season practices. It never reached, say, Patrick Eaves level, but he was clearly managing something nagging.

And that, you could very much argue, hurt the team as much as the loss of Hemsky, Janmark, Eaves and Cody Eakin along with stretches of Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp. Tyler Seguin is the head of the dragon on offense, but Benn is the wings that allow it to fly, and when those wings are partially clipped, nothing works as well as it should be.

In all, it was a very difficult season to evaluate for Benn. The team clearly fell short of its goals, and as captain, he both caused some of those problems and answered later-season questions. It was the first season of Benn’s career he finished in the negative in CorsiRel and the first since 2012-13 that he didn’t push into positive in 5-v-5 Corsi percentage.

The drop really came at even strength. Despite the up-and-down power play, Benn’s 12 power play goals were around his average, but his 13 even-strength goals were well off his usual totals. His shots per game were also markedly down. Perhaps it was injury related, or perhaps it was related to the fact that it was the first season since 2011-12 that he started more shifts in the defensive than offensive zone.

In all, it was a mixed bag season for Benn, but even in a year clearly hampered by injuries both to him and his teammates, he still managed 69 points and stretches of dominant play. With the long offseason to allow all the bumps and bruises to heal, there’s no reason to think next season should be anything less than the dominant self he showed in February.