Declaring your team's most important player is not a simple thing. It's not always the most valuable guy or the highest points producer. It is the player who makes your team go; the one you can't afford to lose, even if all he contributes can't be measured by fancy stats.
Most Important Player: Jamie Benn, Forward
The ESPN hockey crew surveyed a bevy of star players last September, asking which of their contemporaries they would choose to build a franchise around. Not surprisingly, names like Sidney Crosby and Shea Weber were frequent picks, but one other name in particular also came up time and time again: Jamie Benn.
Fast-forward nearly a year, and the players who named Benn look prescient, as the marquee forward is coming off the best season of his career. Benn, 26, had 35 goals and 87 points, the latter allowing him to snag the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s scoring champ (remember, he recorded a four-point performance in his final game of the season to secure the hardware). He enters the prime of his career as perhaps the most overlooked and underrated top-tier talent in the league.
He is lucky enough to play primarily with Tyler Seguin, with whom Benn has forged fantastic chemistry, and the tandem has flourished to become one of the most dangerous duos in the NHL. The addition of Seguin also allowed Benn to shift to the wing, a move that has paid dividends for him and the Stars. In their first season playing together in 2013-14, Benn neared point-per-game production with 34 goals and 79 points in 81 games.
Benn's size and skill make him the team's most dynamic offensive weapon, and the Stars have come to count on his leadership as captain. Dallas was plagued by inconsistency last season, but keep in mind that they received lackluster goaltending and lost Seguin to a knee injury at a critical juncture, while Benn wasn’t entirely healthy.
The native of Victoria, British Columbia actually underwent surgery on both hips this offseason, though he is expected to be at full strength by the time training camp rolls around. So, working on the premise that he managed to capture the scoring trophy with two bum hips, imagine what he might do if he’s fully healthy?
Seguin’s injury last season was a tough loss -- the team was 4-5-2 while he was sidelined -- but losing Benn for any significant time would be absolutely debilitating. If he can recapture his scoring touch this season, and stay healthy, the Stars figure to be one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NHL.