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Myth Mode: Offensive Inconsistency, Team Success, and Jamie Benn

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We’ve all read the stories. Jamie Benn goes cold every season, like clockwork. Fans lament as the 0-fer games pile up, but should they? More to the point, is Jamie Benn streaky, relative to his peers across the league?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks
Should Stars fans expect more from their captain?
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This article began to rattle around in my brain around Thanksgiving. The week before, specifically, after the Dallas Stars suffered back-to-back losses to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Jamie Benn skated off the ice that night in Pittsburgh without a goal. It was the Dallas captain’s seventh consecutive goose-egg. His seasonal slump, my turkey-enhanced gut declared, had arrived early. So of course he scored in Dallas’ next game (a victory versus Ottawa) and in five of the next seven (five wins).

Such is the Beast Mode Benn experience. That’s how it felt, at any rate. Really, that’s how it’s felt for much of the Jamie Benn era in Dallas.

First the captain would tantalize by kicking off the season with four goals in four games. Then he would traumatize with a seven game 0-fer (be tee dubs that’s NOT the streak I referenced in the first paragraph). For all of the talk about secondary scoring, the story always seemed to circle back to Feast-or-Famine Jamie Benn. If he could just put it all together - said fans casting covetous glances around the league - he’d be one of the greats.

But was that really true? Do Jamie Benn’s scoring numbers back up his hot-and-cold image, and while I was at it, how streaky, really, is Jamie Benn compared to his peers around the NHL?

Let’s start with the man himself. The 2018-2019 season has had both ups and downs. Jamie Benn has twice gone seven consecutive games without a goal, and also has a six game pointless streak to his credit. On the other side of the ledger, he’s twice scored goals in at least three consecutive games, and tallied points in three or more games three separate times.

Historically, the story is about the same (for the sake of clarification, a streak is 3 or more games):

Jamie Benn

2017-2018

  • Longest Goalless Streak - 11 games
  • Longest Pointless Streak - 5 games
  • Total Goalless Streaks - 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks - 3

2016-2017

  • Longest Goalless Streak - 9 games
  • Longest Pointless Streak - 5 games
  • Total Goalless Streaks - 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks - 1

2015-2016

  • Longest Goalless Streak - 7 games
  • Longest Pointless Streak - 4 games
  • Total Goalless Streaks - 9
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks - 3

2014-2015

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 11 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 4 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 6
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streams: 1

2013-2014

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 11 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 3 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 4

Eleven games! Three different times! Those numbers evoke a visceral reaction; tears, anger, the gnashing of teeth. Of course the Stars haven’t won anything. How could they possibly succeed when their best player so regularly hits the skids? Nay say the naysayers.

But are they right?

I needed confirmation. I needed to know (™), so I went right to the top of the heap. Alexander Ovechkin! The go(a)ld standard. The Russian Machine and top-scorer from last year’s Stanley Cup Champions. He would be better, right? I wouldn’t even have to feel bad. Ovechkin is among the game’s true, undeniable greats.

2017-2018 - Alex Ovechkin

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 6 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 4 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 4

Wait a minute. Those numbers are supposed to be different, and wildly so. Ovechkin is Ovie. Benn isn’t. Only, he is, or at least close. Comparable, even. For kicks, and because I was stunned, I dug further. I looked at the top scorer for every Stanley Cup champion since 2013-2014.

2016-2017 - Sidney Crosby

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 7 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 2 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 6

2015-2016 - Sidney Crosby

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 7 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 5 Games (started season)
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 11
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 3

2014-2015 - Jonathan Toews

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 11 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 4 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 10
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 1

2013-2014 - Anze Kopitar

  • Longest Goalless Streak: 10 Games
  • Longest Pointless Streak: 3 Games
  • Total Goalless Streaks: 7
  • Total Goal-Scoring Streaks: 2

I’ll save you the cross-reference. A game here, a game there, and none demonstrate much more in the way of consistency than our beloved captain. These players, the best of the best, all seem prone to fits and starts, ups and downs, and yet, somehow, their teams managed to attain the ultimate prize.

There are differences. Notably, only Benn and Ovechkin play the wing. The rest of the list is comprised of centers, and centers tend to carry more than just an offensive burden (I understand that is a massive generalization).

There are also individual accomplishments to consider. Crosby and Ovechkin can match Benn’s Art Ross, and the duo can add both Hart and Conn Smythe trophies as well. Toews can also boast a playoff MVP selection, and Kopitar has twice earned the Selke. Accolades for days, in other words, but each was still prone to offensive irregularities.

I guess the point is that scoring is hard, and that fans will always want more. In many ways, heightened expectations for players like Jamie Benn are a consequence of his obvious gifts. It’s time to accept that even the greats are prone to not just occasional, but routine slumps. Those slumps, furthermore, are not immediate disqualifiers from postseason success.

It is, perhaps, time to retire the notion that Benn is any more or less consistent than the rest of the NHL’s offensive upper class.