Looking to make the leap: Jason Dickinson


This post is part of Stars Day on PHT…

A first-round draft pick in 2013, it has not been a fast road to the NHL for forward Jason Dickinson. Now 22 years old, he still has some miles to travel before he gets there on a full-time basis.

Dickinson was drafted 29th overall with the pick the Stars got from Boston in the Jaromir Jagr trade. He then spent two more years in junior with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, before graduating to the AHL where he’s played most of the past two years.

Last season was a tough one for Dickinson, thanks in large part to the offseason hip surgery that preceded it. He finished with just 30 points (9G,21A) in 58 games for Texas. He also played a bit in the NHL, scoring twice in 10 games.

“It could have been better,” Dickinson said in April, per NHL.com. “I could have been a little more productive. But it was a good learning experience as far as what my body needs and how to take care of myself.”

He added, “Obviously, last summer I had to miss a lot of training, so this summer is going to be huge for me. I am just worried about getting myself back to where I need to be.”

Dickinson’s best attribute may be his skating, and that’s a good thing to have in today’s game.

He’s also versatile, with the ability to play center or the wing. Another nice thing to have if you’re trying to crack a lineup.

Dickinson’s AHL coach, Derek Laxdal, spoke to Wrong Side of the Red Line about that versatility.

“One thing I really like about him is that when he’s not playing well in one facet, he finds a way to make an impact in another way,” Laxdal said. “Whether that means playing more physical or mixing it up, he always finds a way to be in the game.”

Under Pressure: Ben Bishop


This post is part of Stars Day on PHT…

For a contract year, things could’ve gone better for Ben Bishop.

It started in Tampa Bay, where he felt he was playing okay, but “goofy goals on tips and bounces, goals off your own players” kept beating him.

It ended in Los Angeles after being traded at the deadline. In seven games with the Kings, he went 2-3-2 with a .900 save percentage. Not great.

Still, despite finishing with an overall save percentage of just .910, Bishop was a hot commodity heading into free agency. The Stars, desperate to upgrade their goaltending, traded for his rights then signed him to a six-year, $29.5 million deal.

After getting his guy, Stars GM Jim Nill called Bishop “an elite goaltender in this league.” Which was a fair comment to make, given we’re talking about a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.

But of all the offseason acquisitions the Stars have made, nobody will be under more pressure to perform than the 30-year-old netminder.

“I think it’s a great team. It has a lot of potential,” Bishop said, per NHL.com. “With [Ken Hitchcock] coming in [as coach] the sky is the limit and I am excited to be a part of it.”

We all know how things have gone in Dallas the past three years. In 2014-15, the Stars had the second-worst team save percentage (.895) in the league. In 2015-16, the year they won the Central Division, it still wasn’t very good (.904). Last season, it was the NHL’s worst (.893).

And so the Stars bought out Antti Niemi and got Bishop. Kari Lehtonen is still around, but his contract expires next summer.

There’s an old saying that goes: “Goaltending is 50 percent of hockey. Unless you don’t have it, then it’s 100 percent.”

No team has encapsulated that saying better than the Dallas Stars the past few years. And that must change if the Stars are to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Bishop absolutely, positively cannot flop.

Wild news: Parise says he ‘stunk’; Kaprizov signs 3-year KHL deal


At 33 years old, it may just be that Father Time is catching up with Zach Parise.

But after a frustrating season in which Parise finished with a mere 42 points in 69 games, the Minnesota Wild forward has set his sights on a bounce-back.

“For me, last year stunk,” said Parise, per the Wild’s website. “I didn’t play that well. I’ve been working on my game, hoping to put myself in a spot to not let that happen again.”

Parise refused to use a previous back injury as an excuse, even though it kept him from training the way he would’ve liked last summer.

“Last year, I just didn’t play well,” he said.

With eight years still remaining on his massive contract, it’s imperative that Parise finds his game again.

In the five years Parise has been in Minnesota, the Wild have yet to miss the playoffs. However, they’re also just 2-5 in the postseason, failing to advance past the second round.

In other Wild news, highly touted forward prospect Kirill Kaprizov has apparently signed a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow.

The KHL club made the announcement today, noting that Kaprizov’s new contract will run through 2020.

The Wild had hoped to bring Kaprizov, 20, to North America for the 2018-19 season.

Related: Fletcher went all-in at the deadline, and now… this

Hossa was a ‘special player,’ and the ‘Hawks are going to miss him


This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

Marian Hossa is one of the greatest two-way wingers of his generation.

A strong statement, no doubt. But absolutely true, all the same.

The Chicago Blackhawks are going to miss this guy.

It was announced in June that Hossa would skip the 2017-18 season due to a “progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat the disorder.”

At 38, it’s likely he’s played his last game in the NHL.

And while many have noted the convenience of the announcement’s timing, what with Hossa’s front-loaded contract diving to a salary of just $1 million for next season and the three after that, there’s still the matter of replacing all the things he brought, even as he got older.

Last season, Hossa finished with 26 goals, the third most on the ‘Hawks behind Patrick Kane (34) and Artemi Panarin (31), the latter of whom is a Blue Jacket now.

During his younger years, Hossa helped the ‘Hawks to three Stanley Cup titles. The last one came in 2015, when he finished with 17 points (4G,13A) in 23 playoff games.

Though he’s often been overshadowed by the likes of Jonathan Toews, Kane, and Duncan Keith, it’s fair to wonder how many Cups the ‘Hawks would’ve won if Hossa hadn’t signed with them in the summer of 2009.

Recall that less than a year after he put pen to paper, there was a pretty massive parade in Chicago.

Of course, Hossa isn’t the only three-time Cup winner that will need to be replaced next season. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is gone, too, traded to Arizona.

But at least in Connor Murphy the ‘Hawks received a candidate to fill Hjalmarsson’s spot. Even if the ‘Hawks are granted cap relief for Hossa, it’s not like Bowman can just snap his fingers and make magic happen.

“It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player,” Bowman said, per CSN Chicago. “It’s way more involved than that.”

Great players are tough to replace. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, whose dynasty began to crumble the moment Nicklas Lidstrom retired.

That’s not to say the Blackhawks are doomed. But make no mistake, Hossa’s loss will be felt in a big way. He was a “special player,” in the words of head coach Joel Quenneville, and players of that ilk don’t come around very often.

“You lose 17 minutes of playing the right way,” Quenneville said, per the Daily Herald. “You lose young kids watching how he plays.

You lose a heck of a lot.

Looking to make the leap: Alex DeBrincat


This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

There’s an opening on Patrick Kane‘s left wing that Alex DeBrincat would love to fill.

In reality, though, it’s probably going to take some time before the talented teenager makes his mark in the NHL.

DeBrincat, who doesn’t turn 20 until December, is coming off another spectacular scoring season in the OHL, where he put up 127 points in 63 games for the Erie Otters.

Naturally, those eye-popping statistics led some to wonder if he might be able to replace Artemi Panarin on Kane’s line.

But that’s a tall order for an undersized kid, listed at just 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, who hasn’t even played a single professional game. More likely, the first opportunity to replace Panarin will go to Patrick Sharp or Nick Schmaltz.

And that’s fine with DeBrincat, who’s well-aware he could start the season in the AHL.

“I’ll go into camp trying to make the Hawks and, if not, Rockford is a great place for me to develop too,” he said, per the Chicago Tribune.

Regardless of where DeBrincat begins his pro career, his development will be fun and fascinating to watch. And you never know, maybe he will find chemistry with Kane right off the hop. After all, he’s already had success with some pretty dynamic players in Erie, where Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome played their junior hockey.

“Connor would do everything at top speed and it helped me to play with someone that fast. Dylan, while not as fast, was just as smart and helped me find areas that were open,” DeBrincat said. “Those guys helped me evolve and mature. I picked up anything I could.”

Again, though, ‘Hawks fans would be wise to temper their expectations for next season. Second-round draft picks don’t typically make the NHL as teenagers, and on top of that, Chicago may not have room on its roster anyways.

“I’m confident in my abilities,” DeBrincat said, per CSN Chicago. “But they have a plan for me and I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I’ll stick with their plan.”