Jamie Benn is a warrior on the ice. During the first round playoff series against the Nashville Predators, he averaged more than two hits per game, which is about what you can count on for his playoff career.
Sometimes, his physicality sets the tone for the game. His hit on Calle Jarnkrok in Game 3 changed the momentum of the game and set the stage for what became physical domination in the series.
“Beast Mode” Benn is a known quantity, and when he hulks up, the team follows. It’s one of the main things that makes him a leader.
It’s also something that gets noticed when it’s missing. If not fully amped up, Benn gets labeled as not engaged. There are fly-bys instead of fighting for control of the hard areas on the ice. Dangles fall off the stick and laser wristers become nudges toward the five hole. To his critics, when not fully Beast Mode, Benn becomes more dainty and less barbarian.
With the St. Louis Blues on the horizon, expect Benn to bring the same intensity that he brought to the Predators series. Playoffs are where you leave everything out there, and this is Benn’s time to shine.
At some point, this playoff run is going to end. If everything works out, there are parades downtown and everybody gets their day with Lord Stanley’s Cup. If not, this team has demonstrated that it is here to compete for that privilege next season.
In July, as we are starting to figure out what the 2019-2020 Dallas Stars will look like, Jamie Benn will turn 30. Not old by my standards, but it’s a milestone, and perhaps a more daunting milestone for an NHL power forward.
Next year, Benn is heading into season three of his eight year deal. That’s six more years at a cap hit of $9.5 million. If you’re looking at recent Stars comparables, Brendan Morrow had one of his most productive seasons when he was 29. Injuries took their toll, and Morrow still had a few solid years left, but he never got back to the level of play that he had during that last year in his twenties. In general, power forwards in their 30s don’t age well.
One thing that Benn has going for him is his injury history. Even with double hip surgery during the summer of 2015, Benn hasn’t missed more than five games in a year since the pre-strike days when he was in his early twenties. Given the contact level that comes with the way that he plays, that is somewhat remarkable.
Another thing that Benn has on his side is a minimal playoff history. Stars fans have suffered through this, but the one bright point is that the captain hasn’t been through that meat grinder too often, and he’ll likely age better as a result.
Right now, though, it’s playoff time and Beast Mode Benn is a major part of what makes this team successful. The captain already put his mark on the series win against the Predators. Given his history with the Blues, it will likely ramp up a bit more.
Just remember next year, and in years to follow, to cut Jamie Benn a little slack. The playoffs are the team needs Benn the most, and going Beast Mode every night during the regular season is not sustainable. And you’d rather he have the ability to find that gear in the quest for the Cup as long as the Stars’ window remains open.