Madhouse Season Review: Bryan Bickell

Hawks Game Four 2011
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I'm a stubborn guy, and you probably know that by now.

When it comes to certain players, no amount of stats will make me disbelieve what I see with my eyes, even though the end result may justify everything. And it's a very easy argument to make that for the league minimum salary, Bickell's 17 goals and 37 points are just about the best bargain in the league.

In a logical debate, I probably couldn't argue that. But my relationship with logical is strained at best.

Why do you think I don't have a real job?

Positives: As stated above, the bang for buck with Bicks is really startling. You'd probably struggle to find a player who scored more goals at this cheap a rate. Bickell mostly did it with a wicked wrist shot that teams either didn't know about or forgot to respect for a good half to three-quarters of the season.

And Bickell generally scored wherever he was in the lineup, which fluctuated on all four lines. Until the end of the season, Bickell rarely went through a horrendous drought of scoring, no more than seven games.

Also, one can't underrate his playing on in the playoffs with a severed tendon in his wrist. He knew he would need surgery, but soldiered on as long as he could before that tendon escaped so far into his elbow it couldn't be fixed.

We knew it was a bad injury, as the cameras caught Duncan Keith letting a couple expletives fly when he got a look at it on the bench.

Negatives: Even with the bargain that Bickell was, this airing of grievances could go on a while. There's nothing more infuriating that watching a player this big play nowhere close to his size.

Bickell was too often content to float around the perimeter of the offensive zone, waiting for a chance to unleash that lethal whip of a wrister from space instead of banging bodies on the boards and getting to the net, which he easily could have done.

He was defensively a wreck unless he played with Dave Bolland. Case in point was Detroit's second goal in the season finale, where Bickell flew the zone and missed the puck, leading to a turnover that Pavel Datsyuk laughably turned in.

A 6-4, 223 pound frame should not be easy to play against, but Bicks made it far too easy far too often. His foot-speed meant he couldn't keep up on the top line or with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. And there was the 15-game desert of goals to end the season.

Contract: Two years left at a cap hit of $542k

Keep Him or Ship Him: Well, this would be a case of selling high if Stan Bowman wanted to upgrade. A lot of teams will see 17 goals and that cap hit and think they have to have that piece that gives them flexibility.

On the other hand, Bowman may look at that burgeoning chemistry that Bickell showed with Bolland and Michael Frolik and think that could be next year's third line.

Moving Bickell would entail making him part of a package with a more expensive departing piece (say Niklas Hjalmarsson), because what would be coming back would be more expensive. Likely, because of the bargain, Bickell is going to be here. And if he's going to be here, someone has to get him to playing to his size and banging bodies in the crease.

And then that 17 goals could become 25.

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