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The Case For Giving Jason Dickinson More Ice Time

The Stars’ former 1st rounder has been one of the Stars’ better forwards lately. Now the coaching staff needs to reward him for it.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn’t hear, Jason Dickinson had a very good game against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.

When asked about Dickinson’s performance in his post-game interview, Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said he thought Dickinson played his best game of the season. It all seemed to start when he wrapped around the Kings’ net and sent a beautiful pass to Blake Comeau, who capitalized on the opportunity to open the scoring:

Later, Dickinson gave Comeau another chance on more or less the same play, only this time Jonathan Quick held strong. Another time, Dickinson nearly potted one himself, with his puck ringing off the top left goal post. The scoring chances seemed to die down a bit later in the game as the Stars seemed to let the foot off the gas a bit, but Dickinson’s play remained exceptional, albeit with a turnover here or there.

This isn’t the first time the sophomore forward has caught eyes, either. He had another solid performance the game before against Minnesota. In fact, I would argue that since the Stars’ season opener, he’s been playing well in almost every game he’s been in.

Which is why I’m bothered by this:

Despite a solid game, Dickinson still had the fourth lowest ice time among forwards. It’s true that, as Montgomery said, Dickinson had his most time on ice all season – his only other game with more than ten minutes was against Anaheim when he logged 12:01 – but that seems to me more due to the fact that the Stars were running with eleven forwards, not as a “reward” for good play as Montgomery mentioned.

For instance, the gap between Dickinson and the least played forward, Brett Ritchie with 11:23, is just nine seconds more than the gap between him and the forward right above him, Devin Shore with 14:16. The player he set up for the first goal, Blake Comeau, got a little less than five and a half more minutes, even though I’d argue that, while both were good, Dickinson looked better on the ice, especially towards the end.

In fact, Dickinson spent most of his time playing with Ritchie and Shore rather than players like Jason Spezza or Mattias Janmark, again supporting the argument that his increased ice time was simply because every forward was playing more:

Still, you can’t really blame Jim Montgomery for not mixing up the lines – well, not mixing them up even more – given that the team played well enough to never relinquish their lead. If Dickinson truly is impressing upon the coaching staff, then perhaps he will slot higher in the lineup against going forward.

I asked Sean Shapiro and Owen Newkirk about Dickinson’s chances at specifically top-six ice time for their Carcast Tuesday night. They answer the question at about the 23:10 mark:

Shapiro says that he doesn’t think Dickinson has shown the coaching staff the skills/performance needed to supplant one of the current top six forwards, and both agree he’s a solid 4th liner and could do well on the 3rd line with Radek Faksa. The duo also talks about how Justin Dowling is the more tempting option for the 2nd line given his creativity and playmaking abilities.

With all due respect, I have to disagree with their assessment here.

First of all, not to be a Debbie Downer when it comes to Justin Dowling, but he’s a 28 year old career AHL veteran. If the coaching staff feel he’s the best option in a “top six” role alongside Jason Spezza – Dowling played 4:34 with Spezza, second only to Devin Shore with 6:40 – then they have a big problem on their hands when it comes to their forward talent.

Yes, Dowling is a solid playmaker, but Dickinson has also been very good offensively for the past several games he’s played. I ultimately agree he’d be a great fit with Faksa – though to be fair, Faksa’s the type of forward who can be a good fit with almost any forward – but he also warrants some more playing time with more offensively-minded players like Spezza or Janmark. In fact, Spezza played an important role in the Dickinson assist on the Comeau goal. Can you imagine what Dickinson would look like playing more than just three minutes with the veteran?

In short, Dickinson has been playing well all season, and looked especially good the other night against the Kings. Dallas needed their depth forwards to start scoring, and Dickinson stepped up to the plate. I’m not saying he needs to be one of the Stars’ new leaders in ice time, but Dickinson deserves to start getting more minutes with the team’s better forwards.