Making a Case for the Olympics
When Stars forward Jamie Benn was passed over for Canada’s Olympic orientation camp this summer, he said it gave him some motivation coming into this season.
“It gives you a little fire. I think I said that in the interview back home, I just want to kind of shove it in their face,” Benn said back in August when he arrived in Frisco to prepare for Stars training camp. “It is what it is. I definitely want to be there. I’ll just have to prove myself the first half of the year.”
Well, he’s done a pretty good job of proving himself over the first seven weeks of the season. Benn’s tied for fifth in the NHL in scoring with 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists), climbing up the ranks after his 6-point effort (1 goal, 5 assists) in the Stars’ 7-3 victory at Calgary Thursday night. Right there with him at 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) is linemate Tyler Seguin, who was also left off the list of invitees to that summer Olympic camp.
“I actually texted Jamie, probably in August, when the camp list came out,” said Seguin, who had 4 goals and 1 assist Thursday night. “I didn’t know him too well, but I just texted him about it. I think we both want to make a statement.”
Seguin and Benn have done that. The two have clicked playing on Dallas’ top line this season, and Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who will be an associate coach for Canada’s Olympic hockey team at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, was asked if Benn and Seguin could be attracting some attention from Team Canada as a pair.
“You hope so. You hope they are catching some attention. They’ve had a very good start for us and they’ve been leading our team offensively,” Ruff said. “Like most teams, you don’t often find one guy up in the standings in scoring; there are usually two guys that work well together. Those two guys have had chemistry ever since camp.”
Team Canada’s management met earlier this week in Toronto, and several media reports mentioned Benn as a player whose stock is on the rise. St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong, who is part of the management group for Team Canada, confirmed that in an interview with Hockey Night in Canada radio on Thursday.
“Jamie has done all he could do. He wasn’t invited to that summer camp; he took it as a personal challenge, and he’s played extremely well this year,” Armstrong said. “As we pare that group down we’re going to focus in on, he’s in that group. He’s played very well. He obviously has an ally in his head coach, who is on our staff. It’s a big five or six weeks for a lot of players, and Jamie is one of them.”
And that was before Benn’s six-point night in Calgary, which brought even more attention to the issue, and more questions about getting passed over for that summer Olympic camp.
“It is what it is,” said Benn. “There's obviously so many great players in this league that can get picked. There was obviously some pretty high talent at that camp in the summer so it is what it is. I just came into camp this year with a focus of being the best player I can be. I'm just trying to get better each and every day.”
Benn has a history with Team Canada. He played for Canada at the World Junior Championship, winning a gold medal in 2009. He also played at the 2012 World Championship. Seguin’s first taste of playing for Team Canada came during last season’s lockout, when he helped Canada win the Spengler Cup. He jumped into the NHL at the age of 18, so he missed out on the World Juniors, and the World Championship wasn’t an option with Boston making deep playoff runs.
But playing for Canada at the Olympics is the ultimate honor, and both Benn and Seguin have made a strong case through the first quarter of the season. While Benn talked about shoving stuff in people’s face back in August, he said the Olympic thing is on the back burner right now. He said he and Seguin are focused on shoving points in the bank for the Stars and climbing up the standings.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Benn said when asked about Sochi. “It’s going to be an honor if you do get picked for this team, but for me and Tyler right now, our focus is on the Dallas Stars and trying to make this team win hockey games. So far so good, lately.”
And that should help the Olympic cause, too.
*The Stars did not practice Friday.
*They play at Vancouver Sunday evening to wrap-up their current three-game road trip.