The Big Mac Blog

Jamie Benn’s pain is not the Stars’ problem

AP

The Dallas Stars continue their stench fest, which means their best players must be having bad years. On Thursday night in Dallas, the Stars lost a game against the team they had to beat.

The Stars lost at home 5-2 against the San Jose Sharks, the team they are trailing for the last spot in the NHL’s Western Conference playoffs. The Stars are a pathetic 12-12-6 at home, and are now six points behind the Sharks for that precious playoff spot. Bad defense. Bad goalie. Not bad Benn.

Jamie Benn is having a good year, only we don’t know it because his team is average and his season last year was exceptional. And it’s clear for a while he was hurt.

I asked Stars’ coach Lindy Ruff if his All-Star winger is, or has been, hurt.

“Yeah ... I think like a lot of players dealt with, you know, I’m not going to say injury but significant pain for a good period of time inside this season,” Ruff said.

Only in hockey can one be in pain but not injured or hurt.

By most measure, Benn is having another good season. Benn is tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring with 56 points, and he has 22 goals. He is also logging heavy minutes on the penalty kill.

The only thing missing is the types of goals he was scoring last season. He doesn’t seem to be, to use a hockey term, “around it” quite as much as he was last year. If he was hurt - or in pain - that would explain why. If a guy is hurting, he is not going to go to the hard places on the ice - near the crease, the low slot or the corners - as frequently.

“I don’t want to guess why. That would give him an excuse. I think that’s part of it,” Ruff said. “Part of it was not a lot of inside chances for a period of time whereas last season he created a lot of those chances on his own. I think this last stretch of hockey has been his best by far. We know we are going to need him to get in (in the playoffs).”

Last season, Benn was the best left winger in hockey when he earned a Gold Medal for Team Canada in the Olympics, and was the first Dallas Star to be named first team All-NHL. He scored 79 points last season with 34 goals in 81 games.

This season, he has been good but his team has been average. The defensemen are subpar and the goalie has been wildly erratic, at best.

“I find it hard pressed to say the year is a big difference. You can try to raise expectaions but I felt like last year was a pretty darn good year,” Ruff said. “We are asking a lot in the leadership category and we are asking him to kill a lot of penalties. He did, for a good period of time, play with some discomfort. But he is the type of player that can play with it and get through it.”

Add it all up and you have the perception that somehow Jamie Benn is not having a good year when he clearly is not the problem.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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