Team Canada may be the early favorite to win the World Cup of Hockey, but the Canadian squad may be facing a massive loss before the puck even drops to start the tournament.
The Dallas Stars announced Friday that Jamie Benn, 26, has been forced to go under the knife to repair a “core muscle injury.” The surgery, which took place Thursday in Philadelphia, comes with a six-week recovery period. That’s good news for the Stars, as they will almost assuredly have their captain and all-star left winger back in the lineup to start the campaign, but it might mean Benn isn’t ready to go in time for the World Cup.
"Jamie will be re-evaluated after the six-week rehabilitation process,” the Stars said in a release. “At which time, his availability for the World Cup of Hockey will be determined.”
There’s no word from the Stars on when Benn suffered the injury, be it during the post-season or the result of off-season training.
The six-week timeframe for Benn’s return doesn’t automatically put his participation in the World Cup out of question — he should be back on the ice by September — but the timeline does put Benn back on the ice only days before the Canadian training camp is set to begin in Ottawa. If the Stars are at all worried about Benn’s ability to heal properly and fully, or concerned that his return to game action will be too swift, it could mean Benn is held out of the tournament in favor of being completely healed for the 2016-17 season.
From a Stars standpoint, you can understand the desire to ensure Benn is healthy before sending him off to the World Cup. While the tournament may not be on par with the Olympics, there’s no doubt it will take only a few games for the competition to ramp up and the Stars likely won’t want to risk losing their captain for any length of time to start the regular season.
If Benn can’t suit up, that’s an incredibly big blow to the Canadian roster. Since the 2013-14 season, Benn has scored 110 goals — tied with Corey Perry for the most among Canadian players — and his 255 points are second-most among all players, behind only Sidney Crosby. Benn is also a physical presence and effective two-way player. Suffice it to say that finding a suitable replacement for Benn is nearly impossible, not only in terms of offensive abilities.
Should Benn be ruled out, it will be up to Canadian GM Doug Armstrong to find someone to take the Stars winger’s place.
One potential option would be the aforementioned Perry, who would offer Canada some of the offensive punch lost with Benn. Other top scorers who could fill the spot include Ryan Johansen, Jason Spezza and Taylor Hall.
It’d be wise for Armstrong to start considering his options over these next six weeks, because if Benn can’t suit up at the World Cup, Team Canada is going to have a massive hole to fill.
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