Jamie Benn and the Sophomore Slump

I, and the rest of the Dallas Stars fans, seem to have to have a lot of opinions about the Brothers Benn these days. If we’re not bemoaning the play of Jordie Benn (though that seems to have quieted after Saturday’s win against the Devils), then we’re questioning the commitment of our captain, Jamie Benn.

After all, he’s hardly seemed like the player that was given the C last year. The one who went on to score 34 goals and helped the Stars make it to the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. Where is that guy? Should we be worried? Should we be worried enough to strip him of his captaincy?

To level set my expectations of a new captain, I wanted to look at other captains’ sophomore seasons. Because I had to set a time limit on the data, I only looked at current captains, and because of the particular concern around Jamie’s goal scoring this season, I decided to only use Forwards in the analysis. This gives us fifteen other captains around the league to use as a baseline.

Hoo boy, that’s a colorful chart. All data is from the regular season, taken from all play situations (including PP, PK, 4on4) and all scoring situations.

There are two colors to focus on primarily. The first is Jamie Benn, in victory green. The second is the Captains’ Average, in bright yellow. Both of these are helpfully outlined for you.

So yes, Jamie is down in goals by a larger margin than the average second year captain, but he’s up in assists, bringing him to a -0.3 Points per 60 minutes vs the Captains’ Average of -0.2 P/60. With that context, his season isn’t looking like a crash and burn.

There are two other names on this list you should look at – Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Crosby ended at the same -0.3 P/60, and Toews ended at a 0.0 P/60 delta because his -0.3 G/60 was offset by his +0.3 A/60.

And then they both won Stanley Cups.

I’m not saying this means that the stars have aligned for The Stars to win Lord Stanley this year, but hopefully it should temper some fears.

That said, our expectations of Jamie’s second year were probably set too high.

One of the common ways to make sure your averages are correct is to throw out your top and bottom data points, so that the outliers aren’t having undo influences. From the year prior to captaincy to the first year of captaincy, the top outlier in Goals/60 and Points/60? Jamie Benn.

This graph charts the same deltas but between the year prior to captaincy and their first year. Conveniently, there were three other forwards named as captain in 2013, so to remove some clutter, I’m using them as compares. Two of the three also pushed their teams to the playoffs only to have first round exits, so these guys are probably a better compare than I really would like.

Again, we have Jamie Benn in victory green – and those deltas are significant. All 16 Captains’ Averages for all three stats in this timeframe is -0.1. (Yes, Tavares is the largest A/60 Delta of them all. It’s crazy high).

Now, while I’m still not advocating panic, there are some metrics that Jamie is well below average in for a second year captain, most concerning: Corsi For % and Shots For Rel %.

The Captains’ Average Corsi For % Delta First to Second year is -0.3%, which is fairly negligible. Typically this means that guys are playing the game they’ve always played and there has been some minor fluctuation in possession. Jamie Benn’s Corsi For % Delta is -4.8%, which is second worst of all captains.

While I dislike using Zone Start % as an argument against Corsi For %’s usefulness, I think in this case it has to be said – Jamie Benn’s ZSO% Rel (Offensive Zone Start % relative to the rest of his team) is down 4% year over year, and down 10% over the last two years. This speaks to the Stars recent defensive and penalty woes, and means that he’s being played very differently than the year before his captaincy.

For me, the metric that is most concerning is Shot For % Rel (Shots taken by Dallas when Jamie Benn is on the ice relative to when he’s off-ice). Overall, he’s down 5.9% last season to this season. Again, that metric is being pushed down by the sheer amount of penalty killing he’s done this year, but even at 5v5, he’s down 1.9%. Using his current TOI % delta and G/60, he’s on track for a mere 21 goals by the end of the season. If you switch the methodology to goals/game delta, he’s still hitting a high of 23. If he wants to be anywhere near 30 goals again this year, he is going to have to start taking more shots, period.

Stats aside, Jamie Benn is a good captain. His line has been the key to winning games. Lindy can play him in any scenario and know that Jamie is going to give him the best game he can give. In wins, the media loves his humility, and in losses, they praise his ownership of the issues. This dip in performance isn’t unusual, but as fans, we wanted too much too fast.

In the end, Jamie Benn is still our captain, as it should be.

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