The Blackhawks have been riding high on a wave of great feelings. The Blackhawks are defending Stanley Cup Champs, they are first in the Central Division and they just had ten players selected to their respective countries Olympic Teams. Additionally Patrick Kane has been named NHL first start two months in a row and Duncan Keith is a serious Norris Trophy Candidate.
Handzus play concerns are different than Bickell’s. The expectation of Handzus coming into the season was for him to be a part time player and fourth liner. Due to the kids (Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad) not locking down the second line center spot, Coach Quennville felt he needed to play Handzus there. Well Handzus at second center has been a disaster! Kane despite playing with Handzus has racked up impressive numbers (23 goals and 31 assists). Kane’s game is based on speed. Handzus has three speeds: slow, stop, and reverse. In order to illustrate how bad Handzus is with Kane, we must turn to the numbers. With Handzus as his center according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com Kane has scored ZERO goals and notched only SIX assists. The facts are simple Handzus hurts Kane’s production. Everyone know Handzus is a concern for the Blackhawks but is he is the biggest?
The other player that is a concern for the Blackhawks is Bryan Bickell. Coming into this season, there was some excitement around Bickell. Bickell had a great postseason last year. Bickell had moved from the fourth line to the first line with Kane and Jonathan Toews. With the top line, Bickell notched nine goals and eight assists with a plus eleven rating. Based on his play in the postseason and his pending free agent status, Bickell received a four year extension worth 16 million dollars. This season there were some lofty expectations placed on Bickell. Thus far Bickell has not met expectations. Bickell played so poorly on the first line that he was moved back to third line. On the third line, Bickell sustained a lower body injury that knocked him out for weeks. In 32 games Bickell has SIX goals and TWO assists. This was not the type of production that Blackhawks thought they would be getting from a four million dollars per year player. Coach Quennville said about Bickell’s areas improvement “ His all-around game.” I think there’s more there, whether it’s puck protection or recognition or being involved, more direct.” Quote courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.
So after assessing both players, Bickell is my choice for the biggest concern. Bickell is a younger player with more untapped potential. By Bickell not living up to his potential, it could hurt the Blackhawks in the short term and long term. Every knows Handzus will be gone next season and might be HOPEFULLY bannished to bench at some point this season. With Bickell unless he starts playing better the Blackhawks will be stuck with an average four million dollar third line player.
So I pose the question to you:
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Thank you and LETS GO HAWKS!