The Big Mac Blog

Jamie Benn serves up a plate of crow

Dallas Stars’ captain Jamie Benn (right) won the Art Ross Trophy - the award for the NHL’s regular-season leader in points.
Dallas Stars’ captain Jamie Benn (right) won the Art Ross Trophy - the award for the NHL’s regular-season leader in points. AP

It was Plato who once said, “Even the great ones screw up.” Maybe it was Aristotle. Or Nietzsche.

Anyway, it is with great delight and some sadness to admit the following - I really blew it. In this award-winning column (rant) I wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on April 2, I took aim at the Dallas Stars’ continued inability to make the playoffs. In case you missed it - and you probably did - the Stars once again missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years. More than half the teams in the NHL make the postseason, yet the Stars somehow to continue to avoid it.

In this column I wrote: “(Former Stars GM Joe) Nieuwendyk also was smart enough to recognize the value of forward Jamie Benn, who this season has not been himself because he clearly has been playing hurt. How hurt we will never know, but this guy is better than what we have seen this season.”

There is dumb, and then there is this. In the regular-season finale over the weekend, Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s leading scorer. He finished with 87 points, 1 ahead of John Tavares of the New York Islanders.

This is obviously one hell of a bad year for Jamie Benn.

This column eventually found its way to a few Dallas Stars’ websites, namely DefendingBigD.com, where it was promptly cut to shreds. On Twitter, I was called a host of unflattering names, and told I was the scourge of society. Long time Dallas Stars observer Bob Sturm of 1310 The Ticket joined in the fun and took aim at me as well.

Why would I write such a stupid statement? Is it because I am just that dumb? There is that possibility, but in mid February I had asked Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff about Benn, and specifically if he was hurt. A few people around the Stars said they thought he was playing through something, which explained whey he was not on the same pace he was a year ago when he was an All-Star, and led Team Canada to the 2014 Gold Medal in Russia.

Remember - Jamie Benn was not even selected to the 2015 NHL All-Star team. The only Star to go was forward Tyler Seguin. Ruff said Benn had been “playing in pain.” At the time, Benn was tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring.

Since about that time, Benn’s numbers took off, culminating in his fantastic finish and Art Ross award.

It was obviously a dumb thing to write. Candidly - I had not done my homework. That’s on me. I was on a rant about a team that for years I had written, and defended, that was “on the rise” and things are improving when the results remain the same. I keep hearing that they are “about to turn the corner” when they never do.

For the last year I had maintained Jamie Benn is the best pro jock in DFW, only no one knows it because he plays for the one team that must make the postseason for due recognition.

The sad part is the Dallas Stars boast the league’s best individual scorer, and still cannot reach the postseason. That is pathetic, and a total waste.

The whole thing reminds me of one of the silent problems that the Stars, and so many NHL teams in non-traditional markets, face - there is no pressure from the media, or fans, at all. They are insulated in a way MLB, NBA and NFL teams are not.

The fans that do exist are so committed and so loyal they are sensitive to any criticism, and will defend the organization to the extreme. The limited members of the media that follow and cover the team on a daily basis often become so friendly with the players that to criticize them feels like going after a friend that you don’t want alienate because they may not like you. Having been a Stars’ beat writer for three-and-a-half years, I get it - hockey people are good guys, and knocking them is no fun.

The one guy who will quietly bring it is Stars’ color analyst Daryl “Razor” Reaugh, who remains one of the very best in the business. But Razor is in a tough spot - he’s a member of the organization, and he can’t just say anything.

It all helps to create a safe atmosphere that everything is OK, when the results say they are not. If you do not make the playoffs in six out of seven NHL seasons, nothing is OK. The NHL is entirely about the playoffs, and until the Stars return they will sadly remain invisible in DFW.

The Dallas Stars made the playoffs last year, and this season was supposed to be about moving up, winning a round or two, and contending. Instead, they are once again done in early April but at least this time they have an Art Ross Trophy to ease their pain.

That said - suggesting Jamie Benn was having a down year was a dumb thing to write.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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