Bryan Bickell (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Throughout the month of July, Madhouse Enforcer will take a look at various members of the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon next season? We’ll answer all those questions and more in the lead-up to Blackhawks Convention, which starts July 26th.
Our first subject will be newly re-signed forward Bryan Bickell.
Obviously, Bickell’s postseason performance played heavily into GM Stan Bowman’s decision to re-sign the 27-year old winger. He ended up with nine goals and eight assists during the playoffs and scored the game-tying goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final while playing on a badly sprained MCL.
That performance was simply a handy microcosm of what made Bickell effective this season. He finally began to exhibit his physical game on a more consistent basis, and especially when he was paired up on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Bickell showed off some deft hands and scoring touch too.
His successes in multiple roles, from first line protector for the big-name guys, to a gritty addition to a third line with Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw, is reflective of the versatility that finally expressed itself in Bickell’s game, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
There were stretches during the season that Bickell reverted back to his pre-2013 playing style, drifting aimlessly through games and not asserting himself either physically or scoring wise. He had two separate streaks of six games without a point during the season, and if he is going to be on one of the top two lines for the Hawks next season (almost a given with his new contract), then he can’t go through those kind of skids.
There are also questions about Bickell’s compete level, and while that largely wasn’t an issue in 2013, it has been before, and head coach Joel Quenneville has made no secret of his irritation with Bickell when that’s the case.
Best Game of the Year:
Many will point to one of his big playoff performances, but Bickell’s big coming out party came in a game against the Minnesota Wild on March 5. He had two goals and attempted five shots total offensively, and he also had three hits in nearly 16 minutes of ice time.
Outlook for 2013-14:
Many a player has had a good year in a contract year and not come back with the same edge to their game, and Bickell has to be careful to avoid that potential pitfall. Quenneville won’t hesitate to bury Bickell on the third or fourth line if that’s the case, but in a season where a $4 million cap hit looms larger because of the lower overall cap, that would be extra difficult to swallow.
Bickell also needs to continue showing the adaptability he displayed during the 2013 season. When he was on the top two lines, he placed extra emphasis on generating offense, and when he found himself on the third line, he threw his weight around more.
In scoring terms, anything less than 45 points would have to be considered a disappointment for Bickell. He has never reached the 40 point plateau in his career, but he was on pace to hit that number in 2013. He’ll need to step up slightly to get to a better than a half-point per game average, but with his playoff performance, it is a reasonable expectation.