Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a 1st period goal past Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 19, 2011 in Chicago.
Bryan Bickell is kind of one of those false oasis things you always see in Bugs Bunny cartoons when someone is baking in the desert. It looks like everything you want, and may even provide some relief, but in essence you're drinking sand.
There are some who will look at Bickell's size, that toothless grin, his wicked wrist shot, and the 17 goals he potted in his first full season last year and say the Blackhawks have themselves a true power forward at a bargain basement price. But this isn't baseball, and you can't just look at numbers and declare whether a player is what you think he is or not.
And Bickell's not.
With where he spent most of the year, on the top six, the Hawks needed a mauling, drooling forward who spent almost all his time close enough to the other goalie that merely Bickell's scent would drive that netminder into a psychotic frenzy.
What the Hawks got instead was a lumbering forward who was more than content enough to float around the outside of the attacking zone and wait for a chance to unleash that wrist shot from 40 feet or more. It worked for a couple months, but they have these things called "scouting reports," which probably told opponents to close down Bickell's space.
Bicks only had three goals in the Hawks last 22 games, but toward the end and in the playoffs, two things happened. Bickell started to get it, if only just a little, and his role changed to that on a checking line.
We did see some hard drives to the net, and with his 6 foot, 4 inch, 233-pound frame should be unstoppable. And he clicked with Dave Bolland, being responsible in his own end and providing the cow-catcher to open up space in the other.
That's what the Hawks must've been expecting this year, but they're already not getting it, as Bickell was called out by Coach Joel Qunneville Wednesdsay in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bicks had better pay attention, because unlike last year, the Hawks could easily plug a revitalized Rusty Olesz (if he is so) or Viktor Stalberg or Ben Smith in that role and Bickell could find himself bemoaning the coffee in the pressbox.
The Hawks need Bickell to be a poor man's (a really poor man's) Andrew Ladd, if he's going to stick on that third line. A physical force who can accept a defensive role and chip in from the other team's crease. Frolik and Bolland will do the work on the outside, they need someone on the end-boards and the blue paint.
Whether Bickell is that or not, we'll just have to wait and see.