EDMONTON, Alberta — Blackhawks center Jason Dickinson follows an admirable, if clich?, maxim.
“You have to try things and fail before you learn you’re actually good at something,” he said.
That mindset motivated him six years ago to try renovating his bathroom at his home in Georgetown, Ontario, with the help of one plumber friend. That project inspired him to take up carpentry as a permanent hobby.
That attitude also gave him confidence when a last-minute shakeup in the Hawks’ lines Thursday moved him up to first-line center, a role he’d never occupied. He produced two of his best performances in that role against the Flames and Oilers.
First, though, came the bathroom renovations and woodworking.
“I said, ‘I want to try this,’ ” Dickinson said. “That’s really where it all started. I needed tools to try it, and I enjoyed it, so I stuck with it. After I helped with the bathroom, I was able to get the nod from my wife to build a coffee table that she wanted, so she must’ve thought I was at least half-decent.”
After the coffee table and a few “other random things,” he turned his attention outside and constructed a ground-level deck behind his house. Then last year, he began building some chairs, but supply-chain shortages for the types of screws he needed forced him to postpone that project.
The time demands of the hockey season — and the logistical impracticality of transporting his tools to Chicago — limit his carpentry to summertime, and he downplayed his ability as “very minimal.” But if he was a less humble man, he could certainly claim to possess one of the most unique skills of anyone in the Hawks’ locker room.
Occupying a first-line center role is obviously less groundbreaking by comparison. It does represent, however, a high-water mark for Dickinson in his solid first season with the Hawks.
The idea first entered coach Luke Richardson’s mind when Max Domi — who has typically held that role — was tagged with 17 penalty minutes Tuesday against the Canucks.
Dickinson held his own as Domi’s temporary fill-in alongside Patrick Kane, so when Jonathan Toews came down sick in Calgary, Richardson moved Domi into Toews’ second-line spot and put Dickinson next to Kane again.
“It looked like there were a couple of plays [in Vancouver] where there was a bit of life there,” Richardson said Thursday. “I thought, ‘Let’s start with that. We could always maybe flip [Sam] Lafferty in there for some speed.’
”But Dickinson was skating well and making plays. It went well, so I didn’t need to change it.”
It went so well that even when Toews returned to the lineup Saturday against the Oilers, he was merely inserted as the third-line center to keep Dickinson and Domi in the same spots.
Dickinson scored in both games in Alberta, upping his season goal total from five to seven, and both goals were similar. He skated down a middle-lane highway, smoothly gathered well-placed passes from Kane and beat goaltenders one-on-one with good shots.
He also finished with a 50.2% expected-goals ratio at five-on-five in the two games combined. When he wasn’t on the ice, the Hawks’ ratio was 37.2%.
Kane, who has been longing for a net-driving linemate ever since Dylan Strome left last summer, loved it.
“I like playing with him,” Kane said. “He drives the middle of the ice really hard. If he keeps doing that, defenses are going to have to honor that, and it’s just going to give me more space on the outside to make plays. . . . Hopefully we can build on that chemistry we’ve had and be even better when we come back [from the All-Star break].”
It seems the Hawks have found a substantive combination with Kane and Dickinson, who might be learning he’s actually good at being a “1C.”