Jason Dickinson during warmups before a game against the San Antonio Rampage. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The mailbag is back from a two-week hiatus and better than ever, I hope.
And what better way to re-boot the mailbag than with a film study on Jason Dickinson?
When I posed the call for questions last night I received two immediate tweets about the rookie forward and his progress this season.
The answer to the first question is yes, Dickinson is inching closer to NHL material. Especially on the defensive end of the ice. If the AHL gave out a Selke Trophy for best defensive forward Dickinson would be one of the top candidates.
Dickinson’s defensive résumé includes a plus-9 rating (if you want to include power play time, Dickinson has been on the ice for 12 more goals than he’s allowed), he plays big minutes on the penalty kill, and has a league-leading three shorthanded goals. Dickinson has also been highly efficient on defensive zone face-offs since he moved back to center.
(I would present more evidence if the AHL provided any official resemblance of #FancyStats, but those don’t officially exist).
Also, look at this chart courtesy of Sean Tierney, from one week ago — before Dickinson’s recent offensive outburst against Manitoba.
So, what are you looking at?
This chart shows even strength goals relative to a player’s teammates. For the Texas Stars, it means Mattias Backman and Radek Faksa are on the ice for positive outcomes (AKA goals) significantly more than the average player.
Dickinson is also above the team average and creates more chances (and goals) than he allows. That’s even more impressive since he gets roughly two-thirds of his starts in the defensive zone (I hand track this during home games).
If that was confusing, please bear with me. We’re about to get into the more visual part of the presentation.
I went through and watched Dickinson’s shifts in the last two games against the Manitoba Moose. During that time he was one of the Stars best players and scored a trio of goals, including this game-winner on Tuesday:
But, the understated part of Dickinson’s game has been his ability to control the puck and make plays in tight spaces and against physical opponents.
It’s an element of his game that’s grown throughout the season, and it stood out in the two-game set with Manitoba.
This is near the end of a Texas power play and eventually led to Derek Hulak’s goal in the first period. A shot has rebounded to the corner where Dickinson has chased down the puck after being stationed on the half wall.
Dickinson is pressured by a Manitoba defender, but he draws attention and shuffles the puck to a wide-open Brendan Ranford who worked the puck to the point for a shot.
Ten seconds later it’s a similar play. Dickinson digs the puck off the half wall after a shot while a pair of Manitoba defenders close in.
Dickinson waits long enough to draw in the defender and sends a pass along the boards to Ranford behind the net, who then passed to Hulak for an easy goal.
Fast forward to the third period, where Dickinson helped create another chance. There was a loose puck to the right of the Manitoba net, where Dickinson beat three defenders to the puck and shook off a hit to cycle the puck around.
This is later in the same shift. Dickinson (next to the TSN logo) went shoulder-to-shoulder with a defender for a loose puck and won the battle. Brett Ritchie (about to handle the puck) then put the puck into the crease where Curtis McKenzie scored the sixth goal of the game.
Thanks to video feeds in Manitoba, we also got a nice overhead angle of Dickinson’s goal on Wednesday. It’s a nice example of what he’s been able to do physically and how he has used his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to the best of his abilities.
As you can see in this play, the puck is loose in the crease next to the goalie and a pair of Manitoba defenders. There isn’t a Texas player in the frame.
Dickinson enters the frame and pokes at the loose puck, while his stick is being checked by another Manitoba player off the screen.
Dickinson stays strong on his stick and doesn’t get rattled by the defender, and pushes the puck over the goal line before taking a hit at the end of the play.
With all this being said, and circling back to the second question, I think Dickinson is a candidate for a call-up this season. However, he’s not the first option at this moment.
If Dallas needed a player to step into the lineup tomorrow Curtis McKenzie would probably get the call.
Ok, enough about Dickinson. Let’s dive into the rest of the mailbag:
I don’t see it happening this season. Dallas has eight defensemen in the NHL and they’ve been playing better lately — even Patrik Nemeth, who was discarded as a healthy scratch for most of the season.
However, here are the circumstances that would clear the way for Johns to make his NHL debut this season:
-Dallas has an injury on defense and has an extra roster spot available.
-Dallas general manager Jim Nill wants to see what Johns can do at the NHL level, so he calls up the defenseman while the injured player is on injured reserve.
-Johns would then return to the AHL when the injured player returned, similar to the move Dallas pulled with Esa Lindell before the All-Star break.
If I’ve learned anything about the Stars goaltending situation it’s this — nothing is set in stone.
For now, Maxime Lagace is the No. 1 goaltender in Texas. He’s had the most consistent performances amongst the group and the team seems to rally around him.
Now, the bigger question is can Lagace stay healthy to keep that No. 1 role? He’s been battling a lower-body injury for almost three weeks now, and in each of his past three starts there have been moments I thought he would get pulled after talking with the trainer.
For Philippe Desrosiers, he just has to make the most of his opportunities. Come playoff time Texas will go with the goalie that’s playing the best at that moment.
If things continue the way they have, Jack Campbell isn’t going to play another game with the Texas Stars this season — in fact, he may have already played his last game in victory green.
However, the Stars could get creative and assign him to another AHL team before the AHL’s movement deadline (which is one week after the NHL trade deadline).
This could be part of an AHL trade, where another NHL team assigns a player to Texas instead of their current club. Texas has done this a couple times, including two seasons ago when Kevin Henderson and Francis Wathier where swapped/re-assigned before the AHL movement deadline.
The more likely scenario would be Campbell getting assigned to another AHL club without a return to Texas. I’d imagine Texas wouldn’t want to face him, so it would likely be to an Eastern Conference AHL team that needed help in goal because of an injury or as test drive for their NHL club.
While that’s possible, I don’t think it’s likely. I think Campbell will spend the rest of the season with the Idaho Steelheads and make a deep run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Texas won. Maybe you should miss games more often?
(I’m just kidding).
Texas will likely finish as the second seed in the Pacific Division, meaning they’ll probably face the San Jose Barracuda, Bakersfield Condors, or San Diego Gulls in the first round.
I think Texas would match up well with all three of those teams in a playoff series. The Stars are faster team, and the speed would be the difference.
The bigger issue would be facing the Ontario Reign in the second round. Ontario is a big, physical team — just like it’s parent club the Los Angeles Kings — and it’s had it’s way with Texas this season.
It’s a long shot for Brendan Ranford to make the Dallas roster next season.
He’s playing well this season and represented Texas in the AHL All-Star Classic, but there are other players ahead of him on the NHL depth chart.
Ranford also needs to play in a top-six role to succeed, Dallas simply doesn’t have the space to give him that type of role. Ranford doesn’t play much of a defensive role in Texas and isn’t used on the penalty kill, in fact on key defensive zone face-offs the coaches often switch up wingers to get a better defensive player on the ice.
It’s not an obsession, it’s simply an appreciation for a word that is underserved in society.
That’s essentially what it is, the AHL tapping into the video feed for the video board and overlaying the audio from the broadcasters.
In some cases it’s good — the Manitoba feed was very good the other night — while others are very bad. In general, I’ve seen a couple issues with California-based feeds this season, including a Texas-San Diego game that was simply never aired because of technical issues.
Why did that happen? I don’t know.
My biggest complaint with AHL Live is the lack of scoreboards in some of the feeds. If you don’t have a scoreboard or time on the feeds, it’s very hard to go through and find highlights or watch tape at a later time.
Nothing new to report on Justin Dowling. He’s still dealing with a lower-body injury and hasn’t been skating.
When he was initially injured the worry was that he would be out a much longer period of time. But, the initial MRI results came back better than expected.