Jordie Benn played only a little more than half the games in last season’s lockout-shortened NHL season, but it’s paying big dividends. He looks more confident on the ice this season, and that’s a reflection of how he feels.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, more confident,” said Benn, who admitted there were some ups and downs last season. “Last year, you cough up the puck a few times, you watch yourself on your shifts on TV and you learn from your mistakes. You just move on. I know it is just two games, but I feel a lot more confident.”
And the Stars coaching staff likes what they have seen in the first two games from Benn, who has picked up an assist and is averaging 17:14 of ice time per game.
“Jordie has been solid for us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s been one of the defenders we’ve used in some pretty critical situations, even some killing situations, where he’s done a real nice job for us.”
Benn signed a three-year contract with the Stars in the offseason. He came into training camp expected to make the roster, but how much he would play was in question. With Aaron Rome currently out of the mix due to hip surgery, Benn has seized the opportunity to work his way into the Star’s top six on defense to start the season.
“Jordie has stepped in and we haven’t been worried about using him one bit,” said Stars assistant coach James Patrick, who handles the team’s defenseman. “He skates well, he’s probably got the hardest shot of the D on the team and with his mobility he can play at both ends. We’ve been pretty happy with his game. There’s still a lot of room for growth playing at the defensive end, but he’s competitive and he works at it. We’re happy with the way he is playing.”
It’s been a long road for the 28-year-old Benn to get to the NHL. He never played major junior hockey in Canada and was never drafted. He’s worked his way up to the NHL through the minor leagues, starting off in the ECHL, playing one season in the CHL and then landing with the Texas Stars of the AHL. He signed with Dallas in the summer of 2011. A piece of advice from his dad helped him along the way.
“Just never quit, you never know what can happen. I’ve got it tattooed on myself,” Benn said. “What’s the point in quitting and trying something new, you just keep going and obviously it’s worked out so far.”
Benn made his NHL debut in 2011-12, and played three games that season. He played 26 games with Dallas last season, registering six points (one goal, five assists). He played often with Trevor Daley last season, and the two are paired together this season.
“Playing with Dales it’s really easy out there, lots of talk,” said Benn. “We can skate the puck pretty well.”
“He’s confident in his game,” Daley said of Benn. “I like the chances he takes and his possession of the puck. He’ll hold onto the puck and make a play. He’s got a great shot, he can skate. We’re the same in a lot of ways. We feed off each other and we’re always talking. He’s easy to play with”.
Patrick said Benn can learn a lot and enhance his game playing with the versatile, experienced Daley, who has logged more than 600 NHL games.
“I put Dales at the top of that all-around defenseman that can skate, play really good defense and can play against anyone,” Patrick said. “Jordie can learn a lot from him. They’re both mobile and I don’t have any fear playing them against anybody on the other team.”
Patrick prefers to have the left-handed Daley playing on the left side right now, meaning that Benn, also a left-handed shot, is playing on his offside on the pair. For Benn, that’s added to his comfort level this season.
“There might be a little bit of a difference, but I feel like I can see the ice better,” Benn said. “I know where Dales is, and I can see him all the time and we can make plays. I guess I am more comfortable on that side.”
Patrick said Benn would be willing to play any side or anywhere, as long as he is in the lineup. That’s probably true. But Benn’s making the most of his opportunity, starting to feel more comfortable and looking to build on what he’s been able to do so far.
“I’ve definitely taken a long road, but it’s looking forward for me now,” Benn said. “I look ahead, look to the future. I take it day-by-day and just try to get better.”
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