Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn (14) celebrates scoring a goal in front of Anaheim Ducks' Saku Koivu of Finland

Big Benn: Victoria boy driving Dallas in 2014, against Anaheim

B.C. kid Jamie Benn has captained his Dallas Stars to a turn-around year in Texas, and is taking on Perry and Getzlaf in Round 1.

He didn’t lead the league in scoring. That title belongs to Sidney Crosby, which ain’t a shocker. He didn’t even lead his own team in scoring, with that job falling to import Tyler Seguin.

But 2014 might just be Jamie Benn’s year.

An Olympic orientation camp snub nearly a year ago, Benn turned the Canada upset into motivation. “It gives you a little fire,” he said last August. “I just want to kind of shove it in their face.”

In September, the Victoria, B.C. boy was named captain of the Dallas Stars, a team he had been leading in Big D – without the C – already. He responded to the Canada snub on the ice with a throttling start to the year and he got that national job, playing in Sochi alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on what was easily Canada’s most dominant line, shift-to-shift. And then he led the Stars to the playoffs, their first since 2008, back when Mike Modano and Marty Turco were the faces of the franchise.

And now he’s leading his scorchingly green Dallas club against his two-week teammates Getzlaf and Perry and their Anaheim Ducks, picking up game-winners and thumping his way towards the net, proving whatever doubters he had wrong, even if we all already know he’s pretty darn good.

He’ll have a chip on his shoulder until he’s lifting the Cup. When you’re snubbed once, you tend to earn everything after that.

Last night, the Stars hung on for a 3-0 win and filed the series down to 2-1 Anaheim, buoyed by goalie Kari Lehtonen’s 37 saves.

And the goalie’s heroics weren’t lost on his captain…

“It was unbelievable. That’s Kari at his best,” Benn said after the game. “He made some big saves at key times and kept us in the game and pretty much won that game for us.”

But it was Benn who opened the scoring, slapping what would eventually be the winner past an outstretched Frederik Andersen in the first period.

And it was his linemate – 19-year-old rookie Valeri Nichushkin, who Dallas selected at 10th overall in last year’s draft, one pick after the Vancouver Canucks took London’s Bo Horvat – who added the insurance.

A lot of guys have been responsible for Dallas’s return to relevance – head coach Lindy Ruff, for one, who was brought in last summer to replace Glen Gulutzan, who’s now the assistant bench boss in Vancouver. Seguin is of course another, as is Nichushkin and the other rookie, Alex Chiasson. Vets like Ray Whitney and Erik Cole have been solid and dependable. Same goes for Rich Peverley.

But if you watch one second of action from the Lonestar State, you’ll notice something’s changed, and something’s also pretty familiar.

Because the crowd loves it, like they did in the late 90’s when not even Dominik Hasek could stop their attack. The players are playing… together. And Jamie Benn is the motor that makes the speedboat churn.

It’s hard to think of another guy in the NHL who’s meant as much to his team this year. Benn has gone from a guy everyone knew was good, but who still needed to have his supporters remind Easterners he existed, to a guy feared by any goalie, any crowd he’s coming down on. His Olympic performance in February was a slice of vindication, but it’s like he never stops, like he’s always going to have something to prove. Anaheim is the best team in the West, and it’s Round 1, so you know what that makes the Stars: underdogs. But watch this speech below, and you’ll see there’s nothing wrong with being the little guy, not when he doesn’t know he’s the little guy.

It’s funny, that when a team rediscovers its identity and its fanbase, it’s still a Lone Star that’s driving Dallas.

*Files from Associated Press, author Stephen Hawkins.

VIDEO: CBC-like HNIC 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Opening Montage

Just Posted

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

Sun on its way after Greater Victoria sees wettest July in six years

Environment Canada meteorologists say the drizzle is likely to end soon

Mayor’s charity tournament sells out both Bear Mountain courses

23rd annual event raises funds to make ‘a positive difference in Langford’

After Victoria dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

VIDEO: 1,400 classic cars roll into Victoria for Deuce Days

The four-day festival highlights classic hot rods, with a special emphasis on cars built in 1932

POLL: Do you carry reusable shopping bags?

While a court ruling determined the City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of July 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read