Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bag of Pucks - Feb 26

There is nothing more enjoyable as a fan than to see a player grow up before your very eyes.  And in the last 4 years we have had the chance in Dallas to witness the growth of Jamie Benn at a rapid pace and seemingly on the elevator to greatness.

This week was clearly no exception as he had a very memorable stretch of games, including one of those nights - on Saturday against San Jose - that might help define his career.

I am not sure when the Stars will be looking for a new captain - 3 months from now or 3 years? - but, when they do have to replace Brenden Morrow as the man who wears the "C" for this franchise, it seems that #14 is growing into the role.

Captain is sometimes a difficult term to define, especially in these days where it seems organizations have changed their focus on who is given the responsibility.  In the past, it seems that captain was a spot that was earned by years of showing the character and determination of a player who was the heart and soul of the squad.  The player who would demand more from his mates and would never take a night off because he didn't quite feel it.  Now days, as salaries have escalated and produced more divides in the dressing room, it seems teams try to put the captaincy on their highest paid player as a challenge to him to not be about personal achievement, but team goals first.

A few months ago, I wasn't sure Jamie is up for the spot.  That might be more of my fault than anything he has done in the last several games, but he doesn't seem comfortable in front of a microphone and part of being captain should be speaking for the team when everyone else hides from the camera.  That is one of Morrow's finest traits as captain.  No matter how badly the night goes, he never hides from the questions that need to be answered.  Benn can figure that part out.

But, one of the issues about having a special player with special talents is whether he can handle being a leader of men.  And part of that is the ability to drag the team into a game that they might not always be up for.  The other is to fight valiantly for the puck when he is being challenged physically.  And that is the thread of his DNA I really enjoy.

Benn doesn't back down to a challenge.  In fact, he has a fuse that can be lit very easily and it makes him extremely competitive.  He doesn't shy from a challenge from the opponents, but rather feeds off it.  He wants contact and wants to give it back.  He is not as nuts as some at this (young Jeremy Roenick in Chicago is one of the best examples) where he seeks a big hit, fight, or scrum if the game needs it, just as much as he might go looking for a goal or an assist.

He is a large man who wants to mix it up.  Someday, we might all regret that if he suffers some of the injuries young Roenick did because of his fuse, but for now, Benn looks like a guy who can be counted upon to lead his team into battle on a lot of nights.  And that, is what we call a captain.

As much as we all love Mike Modano, that is why I always found it curious to make him the captain.  Sure, he was the man with the most authority in the room and he was also as tough as nails, but he was not the type of guy to finish whatever has been started physically out there on the ice.  Said another way, if he was challenged to a scrap, he would skate away and let someone else step in.  And by the way, there is nothing wrong with that at all.  Almost every elite offensive player does the same thing.  I just never fully understood making those guys captains because they generally step aside when a game turns into a war.

But, that is what might make Benn an amazing specimen.  Is he the type that can lead the team in scoring and still have a message sent around the league that if you mess with him, you might prepare to deal with him personally.  And don't think for a second that every guy on the bench doesn't watch that and admire it.  They see the best player on the ice ready to mix it up and that is a personal challenge to every man wearing the same jersey.

Which leads us to Saturday's game of greatness.  Jumbo Joe Thornton and Benn had something going that appeared to involve sticks into various sensitive areas on each-other's mid-sections, and neither seemed willing to back down.  When 6'4, 230 and 6'2, 210 meet in a battle, with fists and hair flying everywhere, the arena goes nuts.  Because those are the two most talented men on the ice and they are ready to make a statement at the other's expense.  The game jumped several levels of intensity at that moment in time, and when the penalties expired and each man returned to his bench, every player saluted the statement with banging sticks and respect.

Then, the game kept escalating.  Benn continued to play his style of being a bull in a china shop who the opponents cannot knock off the puck very often.  Together with Jaromir Jagr and Morrow on his line, he played a determined game all night and added a perfect assist on Jagr's goal and then slammed the door shut on a desperate Sharks' team with a goal moments after big Douglas Murray tried to send him to the ice.  Benn bounced off him and stayed on his feet, received the puck, and scored the dagger through traffic.  And there it was, the Gordie Howe hat-trick.

The Gordie Howe hat trick is a stat that has not been kept too long in the NHL.  It goes back officially to 1996, although it is still not really official.  Brenden Shanahan is the career GHHT leader with 17 all-time and Howe himself only had 2.

It could be called over-rated or even something that doesn't matter as much as some would argue, but I would counter by saying Benn controlled Saturday's victory because he was able to perform all 3 of those check-marks with great ease.  Every single phase mattered in that win, and although they are not always that significant, it does seem to argue that the player involved - if even for one night - is capable of contributing to the offense of the team and able to mix it up with the opponent.  Sergei Zubov or Brett Hull are not going to get one of these, because they aren't dropping their mitts.

And they are fine with that.

Here is the all-time Dallas Stars Gordie Howe Hat-Trick Registry:

Dave Barrat Edmonton11/19/93
Dave Gagnervs NYR2/26/94
Grant MarshallAt St Louis11/21/98
Brenden MorrowAt Phoenix2/3/00
Brenden Morrowvs Minnesota2/21/01
Bill Guerinvs Anaheim10/11/02
Brenden Morrowvs Los Angeles1/7/03
Brenden Morrowvs Nashville11/2/03
Shayne Corsonvs San Jose3/7/04
Brenden Morrowvs Phoenix1/23/06
Brenden Dillonvs Phoenix2/1/13
Jamie Bennvs San Jose2/23/13

Perhaps, that list makes you appreciate what a force of nature Brenden Morrow has been around here for so long.  It is easy to live in the present tense and to evaluate what a player looks like right now.  Admittedly, Morrow doesn't look like he once did, but let's not forget how great he has been in so many regards for the Stars for so long.

Morrow is 4th in games, 3rd in goals (about to be 2nd when he passes Jere Lehtinen with 3 more), 3rd in assists, 3rd in points (Zubov is in range in 2nd), 2nd in power play goals, 1st in penalty minutes, and 2nd in game winning goals.  There is no question that he is slowing down, but what a career for Morrow.

It will be interesting to see how the Stars figure out his future this summer when he is a free agent, but perhaps we have not heard the end of the the captain.  Father Time waits for no man, but when Morrow's time is up, they appear to know who their next captain will be.


We already did the fight of the week, and keeping with the goal of the week, I have no problem keeping it in the Dallas Stars' family.  This one is also going to Mr. Benn, as his opening shift against Vancouver on Thursday night was pretty silly, too.

Take a look:

Good gracious.

Plenty of more talking points from the Monday night in Nashville, including my curiosity about Stephane Robidas' rib cage after his unfortunate run-in with the door on the Predators' bench, but everything else will have to wait until our next version.

1 comment:

David Brown said...

You may want to *correct* the video. It's not the Benn goal, it's from your previous Learning the Draft post.