With the NHL regular season pausing for a few days with the latest COVID-19 outbreak, it gives teams the chance to take a step back and evaluate their current standings and players through the first 30-plus games. While the first half of the season has not gone in favour of the Vancouver Canucks, a recent coaching change and six-game winning streak has fans feeling optimistic. The players have definitely embraced the change as well, but there are still some who have more to give. One of those players is forward Jason Dickinson, who the Canucks need to step up in the second half of the season.
Dickinson was acquired in the offseason from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a third-round pick, and was brought in to potentially fill a gap as the third-line centre on the team, who could also contribute to the bottom-six, which was a big problem for Vancouver in years past. However, whether it’s his lacking offensive totals, struggles in the faceoff dot, or his early woes on the penalty kill, there is room for improvement once the Canucks return to play on Dec. 27.
Lack of Point Totals Offensively
Coming into the season, the expectation wasn’t for Dickinson to lead the team in points by any means, given some of the talent, including Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and current team leader in points J.T. Miller, who has 32 points in 31 games. But the lack of point totals he’s produced offensively has definitely been underwhelming to say the least.
Through his first 29 games, Dickinson has put up just two goals and two assists. That puts him on pace for only 11 points over an 82-game pace. That’s a far cry from his career high, which was back in the 2018-19 season, where he had 22 points in 67 games. He’s also seen his average ice time go down from years prior. This year, he’s averaging just 13:14 time on ice (TOI) per game, versus last season, where he was playing nearly three minutes more per game, averaging 16:13 TOI. Whether it’s a change in the role he’s playing, or adjusting to the new team and system, it hasn’t been what he’s been able to produce in the past.
Struggling in the Faceoff Department
It’s one area that all teams constantly look to improve upon. It’s a facet of the game that grows increasingly important the later a team goes into the season. Dickinson has never been outstanding on the draw, but he has been struggling in the faceoff department even more so this campaign.
For his career, Dickinson has been below 50 percent when it comes to his faceoff percentage (FO%), winning 45.4 percent of his draws over the last four seasons. Yet somehow this season has been even worse for the first-year Canuck. Across 29 games, Dickinson is below the 40 percent mark, winning just 39.9 percent of his faceoffs taken. He doesn’t need to jump to the top of the NHL with the likes of Patrice Bergeron or Claude Giroux, who are one and two in the league, winning 63.1 percent and 61.6 percent, or even teammate and captain Bo Horvat, who is top-10 amongst NHL centres at 56.6 percent. However, with the point totals not piling on, Dickinson needs to be better than what he’s shown, and find a way to contribute in other areas of the game to allow Vancouver to continue to climb the standings and get back into the playoff race.
His Penalty-Killing Woes
Now, this isn’t squarely on Dickinson alone, but the penalty-killing (PK) woes as a whole have been horrendous for the Canucks this season. With his faceoff percentage not helping in the matter either, Dickinson has been a big part (or problem) of the PK through the first half of the 2021-22 season. Before the coaching change, Vancouver was on a trajectory to be one of the worst PK teams in league history, killing just 64.6 percent of their opportunities. However, things have turned around over the last week and a half.
Since Boudreau stepped in as head coach, Vancouver is killing off 83.3 percent of their PK opportunities, with Dickinson slotted on the top unit over the last six games alongside Horvat. This current rate would have the team ranked seventh across the league, which is a significant upgrade from their dead-last ranking currently at 67.02 percent. Knowing that Horvat has been a much better faceoff man, that has taken some of the pressure off of Dickinson, and allowed him to worry solely on killing the penalty.
With the the multitude of injuries and inactive players piling up before the break, the lack of depth is forcing Vancouver’s active roster to step up and fill in certain vacant roles, including Dickinson being slotted currently on the first line. Whether it was a product of the old coaching staff and systems, being put in more successful situations under Boudreau could allow for Dickinson and the Canucks to thrive after the Christmas break.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.