Dallas Stars 2015-16 Player Grades: Jordie Benn
The bearded Benn slid into a more prototypical role player spot this season. Did he do enough to earn more time with the Stars?
In a way, it was a tough year to be Jordie Benn.
The Dallas Stars played the defenseman less than in any of his full seasons with the team so far. His minutes and production were down as well. He became a regular scratch after the acquisition of Kris Russell (as well as the return to health of Jason Demers and addition of Stephen Johns from the minors), and that continued into the playoffs. And in the eyes of some fans, he struggled to play well even when he was in the lineup. His possession numbers, for one, took a large hit from last season when he found chemistry with Demers.
But in a bigger picture, the elder, bearded Benn gave the Stars exactly what they needed - an affordable, steady, known presence to use on the third pairing when neither Jamie Oleksiak nor Patrik Nemeth were able to take the sixth defenseman's spot and run with it. Their numbers in all categories were the same or worse than Benn's, and what the Stars plan to do with them next season is very much up in the air.
Benn did play 64 games - more than 75 percent of the season - and was fifth among the defensemen in scoring. He contributed on the penalty kill as the Stars tried to save John Klingberg for more advantageous minutes. And he did it all for a very cap-friendly contract in a league that loves to overpay defensemen.
When playing the very long game, Benn's career is nothing less than a marvelous success story. He never played above the BCHL during his junior career and entered professional hockey at the ECHL (for his hometown team), then the CHL level with the Allen Americans. He was signed to a contract by the Texas Stars and eventually made it clear that he would be a serviceable player at the NHL level.
From where he started, 244 career NHL games is amazing, and he has the sort of resume that will make him a popular known commodity on the fairly thin defenseman free agent market. There are always teams looking for a steady defenseman who can play either the sixth or seventh role with the option of playing more if and when injuries strike.
The question in Dallas is are the Stars one of those teams looking for such a player? Assuming they try to bring back one of Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Kris Russell, there are four spots locked down on the defense next year (returning FA, Johns, Oduya and Klingberg). They may try to bring in another player in trade or via free agency, and they will likely leave a spot for Nemeth, Esa Lindell, Julius Honka and Mattias Backman to fight over.
That leaves one spot to rotate between the ice and the press box. Perhaps the plan is to leave Nemeth in that role, but he may have more value with his potential. Perhaps the plan is to try and rotate other young players in those roles. But the more conventional route, and the one Jim Nill may model from the Detroit Red Wings system, is having a more veteran option in that role, just in case, like this season, the first young options don't settle in well immediately.
If the Stars do go that route, Benn may be the best option available if the cap hits work out. He knows the system and players already, and he's a strong enough option that his presence can push any younger player to continue to perform at a high level. In other words, he's no Dallas-era Aaron Rome.
It's impossible to know exactly what direction the Stars are going just yet - to some extent, it may very well be determined by the decisions made at the draft. But with tidbits like this from Elliotte Friedman, it sure sounds like the Stars might have him on their free agent radar.
So how would you rate Jordie Benn's season, and what are your thoughts on bringing him back as a free agent this offseason?
How would you grade Jordie Benn's 2015-16 season?