“People have their opinions on the outside and all it really is is noise,” Benn said per Mark Stepneski in reaction to Lites’s comments. “When there is a situation within the organization I try to keep it within the organization and deal with it face to face.”
Benn said he hadn’t spoken with Lites during this season and had received messages from teammates and other NHL players in the wake of Friday’s drama.
“I don’t play for him,” Benn told reporters when asked if he can still play for the Stars after Lites’s comments. “I play for every player in this room, the coaching staff. I come to the rink and, like I said, I am proud to be a Dallas Star and I am proud to go out and battle with these guys in games.”
Lites ripped into his two stars on Friday, saying “they are f—ing horse—, I don’t know how else to put it.”
“The team was OK,” Lites continued, referring to a 2-0 win over Nashville. “But (Tyler) Seguin and (Jamie) Benn were terrible.”
Seguin and Benn lead the Stars this season with 32 and 30 points, respectively. Still, those numbers are good enough for just 60th and 71st on the NHL leaderboard heading into Saturday’s play.
“I think everyone looks at the numbers and that’s the easiest thing to look at,” Benn said. “The point production isn’t where it could be or should be or was, so it’s easy to point to that.”
Benn is in the second season of an eight-year deal that carries a $9.5-million cap hit, while Seguin will begin his eight-year, $78.8-million deal ($9.85-million AAV) in 2019-20.
“These guys were signed to big contracts because they were the third- and sixth-leading scorers in the National Hockey League over the past five years,” Lites said. “They get their money, we expect them to not be outplayed every game we play in.
“And if they were as good as they’ve been in the past we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The Stars (19-16-3) have a one-point lead over Vancouver for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, and have won one playoff series since acquiring Seguin in the 2013 off-season.