Jason Dickinson Keeps Learning, Improving and Impressing

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Jason Dickinson Keeps Learning, Improving and Impressing

Chicago Blackhawks

When the Blackhawks acquired Jason Dickinson from the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 7, the headline on the deal for most fans was the addition of a second-round pick in exchange for cap space. Dickinson had underwhelmed the cap-crunched Canucks and they needed to make room to keep some of their young players, so he got squeezed out.

When I broke down what my perception of Dickinson was after watching him for a few years in Dallas and then in Vancouver, from afar I saw a former first-round pick who hadn’t put up much offense in his career but played a strong defensive game. I immediately noted that he could be a nice fit with Sam Lafferty and Colin Blackwell in a third-line role that could make the Blackhawks tougher to play against.

Watching Dickinson on the ice this season has proved that assessment to be on point. Indeed, before the Blackhawks played in Vancouver before the All-Star Break I noted that Dickinson was returning to his former home a resounding trade victory for Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson. From our seats in the stands and at home, Dickinson has worked hard and been a solid contributor.

But having the chance to interact with him throughout this season, I’ve found Dickinson to be a smart player who’s always working to improve. He’s a student — not just of the game of hockey, but in life in general. And that’s paying dividends for the Blackhawks.

I’ve asked a few guys what they did on their week-long break from the game to cleanse their minds and get their bodies right. Max Domi told me found some sand to get away. Dickinson? He was on a mission to learn something new.

“I like to do things. I like to learn,” Dickinson said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “I like to go experience places. We went to Puerto Rico. We tried to learn a little about the island and what life is like there instead of just sitting on the beach (that’s not really my vibe). We went to Dorado Beach, which was awesome. Honestly I had no idea what was going on on that island before. I didn’t know anything. I’m sad to say I was ignorant about the culture there but it was great to learn.”

Spending time learning about another culture while away from the rink for a week feels kind of ambitious, but that didn’t really surprise me based on other conversations I’ve had with him this season.

Back at the end of October, I wrote about the Blackhawks surprising pretty much everyone when they had become the NHL’s leading team in the faceoff circle. Here’s what Dickinson said back then, which impressed me at the time:

“Even when [Toews] beats me up at the dot, I can appreciate what he’s doing and learn from it,” Dickinson said. “Losing to him isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I can see what I did wrong and what he did right. And he’s been easy to talk to him about that stuff and learn what he was seeing and how was he able to take advantage of my positioning even when I’m on my strong side and he’s on his ‘weak side’ he still wins them fairly clean and I can learn a lot from that.”

That grind mindset hasn’t changed, even as the long season has continued. And the season hasn’t been an easy one for Dickinson.

After having a nice start to his time with the Blackhawks in October — he had six points in seven games — the production slowed down. In fact, it almost disappeared. After scoring his fourth goal of the season against the Kings on Nov. 3, he didn’t put another puck in the net until Jan. 21. He had four points in 24 games in November and December.

That didn’t change his approach. And the results started to come back in the new year.

Going back to that game against the Blues on Jan. 21, Dickinson has seven points in his last six games and has now scored goals in three straight games since jumping onto a line with Patrick Kane. He was asked after the game if he’s needed to change his game at all playing with Kane versus what he was asked to do on the third line, but he said his game has stayed pretty consistent. Skating with a future Hall of Famer is just giving him more opportunities to contribute offensively, and he’s taking advantage.

“Playing with Kaner creates a lot of offense, so when you’re creating opportunities you start to feel really good and you get more touches and it’s a snowball effect,” he said. “If you get more chances in the O-zone you start to feel good and you want the puck more and want to do more with it. It’s been nice getting those opportunities.”

With Jonathan Toews out of the lineup, the focus on the other centers handling their business in the circle is more noticeable. The guy that impressed me with his analytical approach at the dot back in late-October? He’s still there, still learning and working on his craft.

I absolutely loved what Dickinson said on Tuesday morning about feeding off the grind that starts in the faceoffs circle. He lives for the battle.

“With Tazer out it means a lot more faceoffs for Domer and I so it’s something to focus on and pay more attention to,” he said. “For me that’s a really easy way for me to get really into it mentally. For me, faceoffs is a good indicator of battle level. You might not win all of them, as long as you’re in the battle – that’s where I like to be. Fighting for the puck on faceoffs, not losing them 100 percent clean, to me I’m mentally ready to get into it.”

Dickinson also said he likes to talk with the other centers about anything they know about tendencies of opponents from previous matchups or, during games, what they’re noticing about little things the opposition do. That communication continues during the game, as does his work on improving himself.

Against the Ducks, the Blackhawks had a good night as a team but Dickinson struggled in his top-line role. He won just eight of 18 draws in the game (44.4 percent) but the team won 60 percent. For his part, Dickinson was happy about the team’s performance but critical of himself.

“We were really good on the draw,” he said. “I thought I was a little bit bad to be honest. I was getting frustrated with myself not winning them clean enough. I thought I should have had a lot more. So I was watching a lot of clips on the bench between timeouts to try to get a read on what guys were doing, their timing and how much they were jumping.”

But the Blackhawks’ goal that he didn’t score was a direct result of his effort, and winning one of those battles in the dot. Dickinson won a contested faceoff, got the puck back, and led the rush that ended with Seth Jones scoring the Blackhawks’ second and final goal of the night.

Luke Richardson talked after the game about what he sees from Dickinson taking advantage of his opportunity this season. As the season has progressed and different circumstance have presented themselves, Dickinson has stepped up his game consistently. Richardson said he thought about rolling Dickinson with Kane to start overtime, but opted to have him with Lafferty to have a fast, physical forward duo come out second.

“Dickie’s got a good chance to move up in the lineup and he’s making the most of it,” Richardson said after the game.

As he continues to learn and grow his game in this new opportunity, Dickinson continues to be a terrific addition to the Blackhawks’ room and culture. To think he was “just a salary dump” back in October that came with a nice draft pick…

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab