Stars fans have plenty to be thankful for
NOV 28, 2013 4:21p ET
The new Dallas captain has taken wearing the "C" and run with it. Benn's incredible progression has continued not only as a player but also from a leadership standpoint and the chemistry he and linemate Tyler Seguin, who he has also become close friends with, can't be discounted as that top line which also features 2013 top draft pick Valeri Nichushkin continues to evolve and get even better and a big reason for that is the continued development of Benn. For a guy who was left off the camp roster for Team Canada, there doesn't seem to be any way he's not skating for them in the Sochi Winter Olympics come February.
Before Dan Ellis got the starting nod in Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Ducks, Lehtonen had started 14 in a row between the pipes for the Stars since returning from a lower-body injury on Oct. 24 against the Calgary Flames. Plainly put, Lehtonen has been the Stars' MVP so far this season, someone who can keep them in games a majority of nights and with his seemingly annual injury now out of the way, hopefully he can remain healthy for the balance of the year because Dallas' playoff aspirations rest largely on his talented shoulders.
Sure, the Stars defense still needs some work, but Nill deserves a lot of credit for the roster he has assembled, bringing in the likes of Seguin and fellow ex-Bruin Rich Peverley while also bringing in guys like Shawn Horcoff and veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who while he has struggled at times has definitely helped ease the transition to the league and a new country for Nichushkin. Nill also has found the right man to lead the club as head coach in Ruff, who also has been a strong unifying force from behind the bench at a time when this organization needed someone like that most.
Ruff has made a number of changes on the ice and in the room. For one, the slogan of "Everybody Ropes, Everybody Rides" that appears on the wall of the locker room speaks volumes about his approach with this team. It's not that the chemistry of this team is so much stronger than it was in the last two seasons under Glen Gulutzan. It's more of a case of Ruff, who has not only coached in the NHL for some time but before that was a longtime player, has a bit more credibility with the players than Gully, which is no fault of his own because of his lack of experience in the League. When guys make mistakes on the ice, there are definitely ramifications whether it means less ice time or being dropped in the lineup and that has helped things considerably. Some credit goes to his staff of Curt Fraser, a holdover from the Gulutzan era, new assistant James Patrick as well as goaltending coach Mike Valley, for their strong work often behind-the-scenes.
A Young Core
There might be some outliers to the Stars being a young team, guys like veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas, Gonchar and veteran winger Ray Whitney, but the young core this team has assembled, a group including the likes of Benn, Nichushkin, Seguin along with the likes of Cody Eakin, Alex Chiasson. And with how strong the Stars are in the minors, there figure to be more on the way before the end of the season. But the fact of the matter is that this is a team with a solid young core of players who will be front and center for the near future and who will be cornerstones of the hockey resurgence that likely occurs on Ruff's watch.
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