Leadership is a hard quality to quantify. For some players blessed with talent, social poise and maturity at an early age, teammates seem to naturally follow. At 21 years of age, Steve Yzerman was named Captain of the Detroit Red Wings and served as team leader for more than 1300 games. Jim Nill saw the affect stable leadership had in Detroit and sought the same when he became General Manager of the Dallas Stars in 2013. Before the Stars had even played a game in the Nill Era, the leader was ordained as 24-year-old Jamie Benn became the 6th captain in Dallas Stars history. With the nickname Chubbs, (earned by some questionable training habits) and not much of a history in public speaking, Benn became the leader in the room and a face of the franchise. Unlike Yzerman who seemed born for the role of captain, some wondered if the quiet kid from British Columbia would be up to the task. Last night, Jamie Benn stepped on home ice to begin his tenth season as Captain of the Dallas Stars. His command of the room has never been stronger.
“When I first started, I wasn’t the most vocal cat in the room. I had a lot of other players who had been around the league for a while and I tried to lead more by example on the ice,” said Benn. “Being more vocal comes with the years and being more comfortable with who you are. We have a great group, and everybody has a voice. We've built a good bond and that makes it pretty easy.”
Over the years, Benn has learned being the captain is not confined to just the rink. When Ben Bishop’s house was decimated by a tornado in 2019, it was Benn who picked up the Bishop family and gave them a temporary place to live. In hockey, teammates are extended family.
“I’ve made a lot of good relationships along the way, starting with management, ownership and teammates. When you give respect to your teammates, they give it back. When you care about every individual in this room, what you give, you get back,” said Benn.
The way Benn goes about his business as captain does not go unnoticed by newcomers to the organization. Head Coach Pete DeBoer has seen how the captain operates from afar, but seeing Benn work the room adds an extra layer of appreciation.
“He’s really excellent in a lot of ways. Every captain has a different demeanor. Jamie leads by example but has tremendous respect of the room that he’s earned over time. He’s inclusive of the young guys. You can see his appreciation for the best players on the team but also the depth players on the team. He treats everyone the same,” said DeBoer.
It is fair to notice the decline in Benn’s point production over the years. When you play the game as hard and physical as Benn does, wear on the tires begins to mount as the years roll by. His Art Ross Trophy days are in the rear-view mirror, but the longest-serving captain in franchise history relishes in the responsibility that comes with the call to leadership.
“It’s still pretty cool. It is still a great honor to wear the “C” for this group, this organization and to represent this city. I’m just trying to pass along what I’ve learned to these young players what I was taught as a young buck.”
While Benn will not lead the team in points, goals or minutes played this season, he still has the vital role of being leader of a team striving for a championship. For all NHL teams, players come and go. Different cultures crave different types of leadership. Entering captaincy year ten, Benn has held the course and grown. From 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston to grizzled veterans Joe Pavelski and Ryan Suter, respect for Benn’s leadership remains strong. In the world of hockey, a decade of wearing the “C” is worthy of praise and admiration.
Some Quick Random Thoughts:
- Mason Marchment has made quite the first impression. All the attributes advertised: puck possession, speed and scoring ability have shined. Could get used to having this guy around for the next four years.
- Marchment’s nickname is “Mush” which is actually a family affair. “My grandfather was called Mush. My dad was Mush so I’m now a Mush,” Marchment told me after practice in Frisco. If you want to be socially correct, Mason’s royal name would be “Mush the Third.”
- Logan Stankoven returned to the WHL after competing until the last cuts of Stars Training Camp. Upon arrival in Kamloops, Stankoven was named team captain and put up five points (3-2-5) in his two games for the Blazers. Not too shabby.
- Is the glass half full or half empty for Denis Gurianov? The new system suits Gurianov’s speed and has led to numerous scoring chances (Glass Half Full). Unfortunately, the Stars are still waiting for a conversion of those Grade A attempts (Glass Half Empty). Maybe it’s a confidence thing where one goal will open the dam. Until then, worries about the 2015 first-round selection will continue.
- Miro Heiskanen is such an effortless skater. Never looks like he’s working hard even at full speed. I see a lot of that in Nils Lundkvist.
- For the record, the combination of Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski will only be known as the Avengers Line in this space. Any attempt to call the trio by any other name will be subject to scorn and mockery.