How Jamie Benn Is Quietly Becoming the Most Unappreciated Player in the NHL

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2013

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 25:  In his 500th career NHL game Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators watches Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars fire a shot into the offensive zone at the Bridgestone Arena on February 25, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Jamie Benn is not the kind of player who heads the list when the conversation is about the game's most dynamic players.

However, when it comes to the skills and attitude needed to win games, Benn, 23, is clearly one of the most unappreciated players in the game.

That can happen when you toil away for the Dallas Stars. When you play in Big D, you are never going to be first or second on the priority list when it comes to pro sports. The Cowboys are and always will be kings. The Texas Rangers are second.

Since the Dallas Mavericks are more of a postseason regular than the Stars and won a more recent championship (2011 vs. 1999 for the Stars), Mark Cuban's team also has an edge on the popularity front.

So, while Benn might be something of a superstar if he played in Toronto, Chicago or Vancouver, he doesn't get the respect he deserves in Dallas.

But he has the kind of skills that help a team win important games. At 6'2", 205 pounds, Benn is a physical player who will go into the corner and punish an opponent so he can come away with a puck. If he has to eat an elbow to take possession, he is more than willing to pay the price.

Benn has a goal scorer's skills and a playmaker's touch. Through his first 18 games, Benn has 16 points on six goals and 10 assists.

He can fire the puck accurately from the most extreme angles, too. On this play against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 21, Benn weaved his way through the Canucks defense and got past four defenders. He ended up straddling the Vancouver goal line after doing a full turn. From that unlikely spot, Benn fired a forehand shot through a four-inch opening that Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider gave him.

Benn is a fearless competitor who is not opposed to dropping the gloves and taking on a bigger opponent. He proved that just two days after scoring his spectacular goal against the Canucks.

With the San Jose Sharks visiting Dallas, Benn and San Jose star center Joe Thornton went at it. After Thornton sent Benn a message by giving him a smack with his stick, Benn engaged the 6'4", 225-pound Thornton. Both players circled each other and tossed away their helmets so they could go at each other old-school style.

Benn ended up holding his own against his bigger opponent and showed his fearless style of play. The fight with Thornton wasn't his only contribution. He also had a goal and an assist, giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick in a 3-1 Dallas victory.

Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan recognized Benn as giving the Stars the spark they needed to compete at their best.

"He has a passion to win, and it sparked us for sure," Gulutzan told the Dallas Morning News. "There's our young bull there, going out there and getting things going. I thought it gave our team some energy."

Benn can carry the puck and hold onto it under duress, he can shoot and pass accurately, he will make the big hit in the corner and he is a courageous scrapper.

Benn will cross the line on occasion, as he demonstrated with this vicious cross-check on Edmonton's Ryan Jones Feb. 28. Embarrassed by his team's showing in a 5-1 home loss to the Oilers, Benn hammered Jones from behind and was fined $10,000 for his misdeed.

While Benn showed a lack of respect for his opponent and was nasty in his intentions, the act showed Benn's passion for the game—even if the passion was misplaced.

Benn is already in his fourth season with the Stars. He has scored 20 or more goals in each of his three previous seasons. His production has been consistent, and he is only getting better.

Benn's overall skills and feisty attitude make him the most unappreciated player in the league.