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Benning on What’s Gone Wrong With Sharks, Why Quinn Will Right Ship

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

CALGARY — While there are certainly worse lifestyles to have than those who are lucky enough to play in the NHL, there are still difficulties many players face. Often times, players are forced to move around from city to city, which can make life stressful, especially for those with families.

That is something Matt Benning has been forced to endure. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Edmonton Oilers, he chose to sign a two-year deal with the Nashville Predators. Once those two years were up, he hit free agency once again. With him and his wife, Janelle, having two young sons in Miles and Colton, he was hopeful to find a bit more security this time around, and he was able to get just that, as the San Jose Sharks signed him to a four-year, $5 million contract this summer.

“I’m at the stage of my career, 28 turning 29, it’s more of just that security of having a job, and I think I’ve earned it through my seven years,” Benning told San Jose Hockey Now in Calgary. “I was really happy to get it done and happy that I ended up in San Jose.”

Coming from two very different climates in Edmonton and Nashville, Benning admits that being able to call San Jose home has been a very enjoyable process for him: “For sure, it’s been a change of scenery coming from Edmonton and Nashville. Although the weather in San Jose hasn’t been great to their standards I’ve enjoyed it so far. Good place to raise a family, great group of guys in the locker room.”

While the security is great, however, Benning is no different from any other NHL player in that he wants to win. That has been difficult to come by this season, as the Sharks are 30th in the NHL and have just 20 wins. Improvements are needed, and there are a few ways in which he believes his team needs to work on in order for that to happen.

“It’s not just one thing. Closing out games, we’ve given up a lot of leads in the third period and haven’t even been able to get a point out of it,” Benning explained. “Just having the confidence, the swagger, the leadership to lock that down and win in regulation, not give up those leads. I think as the year goes on, we’ve been in those situations, not on the good side, but hopefully going into next year there’s some familiarizing of what we need to do to get that done.

“I think we can be more connected as a team as well. Since the Trade Deadline, there’s been lots of new guys, guys up and down and guys hurt. We haven’t really been able to get our mojo and get some chemistry there. I think there will be some big summers for everybody.”

While the players are the main pieces to turn things around at the end of the day, the coaching staff will also have a big part in this San Jose Sharks team getting back to the top of the league once again. Luckily for the Sharks, they have a coach in David Quinn who Benning is confident will help them get there.

“Mainly, he’s just a good person. He’s a guy that comes up to you in the locker room, asks you how your family is doing, asks how your kids are doing. I think as a player that shows a lot that he cares personally about you,” Benning shared. “He’s also personally given me the opportunity to play a whole lot, which I appreciate. I’ve played six or seven years now to try and earn something like that, so it’s definitely been a long time but I’m happy with that.”

As Benning mentioned, he has been given a much larger opportunity than past seasons in the NHL. His average of 19:42 minutes in ice time per game is the highest of his career, and he is making the most of it, having already set a new career high in points with 24. That opportunity hasn’t just been handed to him, either. He is playing some very good hockey for this San Jose Sharks team, and has made a very positive impression on Quinn in his first season playing under him.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we played much better defensively with him back in the lineup,” Quinn said post-game against the Calgary Flames after a hard-fought 5-3 loss. Benning had missed the previous game, a 7-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. “We had a bit more snarl to our game, and we were just better overall. He gives us an element we don’t have a lot of, and he’s just a true professional.”

San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture concurred: “He’s a calming factor. He’s an easygoing guy that really gets along with everyone. He’s just added a steady presence on our backend.”

While the Sharks are still in the early stages of a rebuild, having a player like Benning who has been a part of some successful Oilers and Predators teams in past seasons will only help younger players in this locker room learn what it takes to play night in and night out at the NHL level. There are still three years that remain on his deal, but to this point his signing has been nothing but a success for this Sharks squad

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