May 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wingBryan Bickell
(29) in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s be honest, if there was a Bryan Bickell career tombstone written for his career to date it would be Playoff Performer. Bickell as we all know has been a solid playoff performer with his 2013 playoff performance his best which also helped #29 secure his biggest contract to date collecting $4 million a season.
Bickell is the only Blackhawks not named Jonathan Toews to have scored at least 2 goals in each playoff season since 2011 and this past season didn’t disappoint with Bickell tying for 2nd place in goals scored in the 2013 playoffs for Chicago with 9, but it’s not the playoffs that is the problem with Bickell.
The story everyone wants to talk about is the regular season which Bickell seems to get lost in and becomes incredibly soft. Now I don’t think anyone expects Bickell to be a checking, physical madman hitting everything in sight, but as the Blackhawks biggest power forward some physical play would be appreciated.
When you are looking at the ture root of the problem for Bryan Bickell to me it is Joel Quenneville and his line blender. If you look at Bickell’s most consistent season it was the 2013 lockout year, and it was the one season that Quenneville didn’t tinker with the lines very much during the regular season and kept Bickell with Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg and the third line was fantastic all year long.
Even during the playoffs Bickell was his best with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In the Finals Quenneville broke up the line of Bickell, Toews and Kane and Bickell pretty much disappeared against the Boston Bruins except for the great goal with less than 2 minutes to play in Game #6.
Now let’s take a look at 2014-2015 and the question is will Quenneville stick to the lines or will he continue to juggle them all season long. Bickell didn’t live up to a #1 line player after starting out the season noticeably injured last year, but he makes for a very solid third line player again. Now of course I’m rooting for Bickell to play with Shaw again with Jeremy Morin on the third line, but Q loves Kris Versteeg so they could be paired together on the third line. Morin and Bickell played well together at the end of the 2014 season so teaming them with Shaw seems to make the most sense but Quenneville is a strange one with how he plays his lines.
Either way Bickell needs to play with the same two guys for him to get the most comfortable with his surroundings and in turn start to put points on the stat sheet next to Bickell’s name! Versteeg could come back healthier after a summer of rehabilitation so he could team up with Bickell in a Comeback of the year line, but Morin could help bring out the feistiness in Bickell and get him going physically which if you ask me is when Bickell is at his best. When Bickell is checking he gets in front of the net more and then his game comes around full circle.
Fans complained all season about Bickell yet he did his normal playoff hero routine in April and May, but for me to get a consistent 82 games out of Bickell playing on the same line with the same linemates is key for a consistent 2014-2015 from #29.
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What do you think? Can Bickell put together a solid regular season?
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