Bryan Bickell will do whatever it takes to get his game back: take more shots, work harder in practice, even watch a little video of his memorable and impactful postseason.
“I’m going to YouTube and checking it out once in a while to give myself confidence to carry on in these games,” Bickell said on Tuesday morning. “You want to bring back good memories and good train of thought on and off the ice of what you’re capable of.”
It’s that postseason that earned Bickell his current contract, the four-year one with the $4 million-per-year cap hit. It’s that postseason that showed Bickell could be a pivotal player in a high-pressure situation. But that postseason is in the past, and Bickell hasn’t come close to equaling it this regular season.
The Chicago Blackhawks need Bickell to be like his 2013 playoff self. Instead, he’s looked more like his 2011-12 self: unconfident, unsure of his game and struggling to garner substantial playing time.
“Confidence goes a long way in this game and I’ve been lacking that lately,” said Bickell. “When I have confidence in myself, I know (coach Joel Quenneville) will have confidence in me. He’ll see it and hopefully everything will work from there.”
Bickell’s minutes have been up and down. After playing 11 and 12 minutes against the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, respectively, Bickell logged just 6:34 against Colorado on Tuesday. He’s had shooting frustrations, too, hitting posts against the Rangers and Canadiens.
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“Things haven’t gone very well for him,” Quenneville said following Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Avs. “Trying to find something encouraging is where we’re at, and find a way to improve off these levels.”
Bickell’s struggles are reminiscent of those he experienced in the 2011-12 season. Bickell was a healthy scratch several times this season, including a five-game stretch in December of 2011. Then, Bickell was coming off a strong rookie season and earning $525,000 a year. Now he’s coming off a great 2012-13, earning $3 million this season and carrying all the expectations that come with that salary.
Yes, Bickell is coming off a knee injury and is adjusting to wearing braces on both knees. But Bickell was struggling before that injury. Outside of a four-game stretch in October when he went from the first to the third line and made an immediate impact, and some games here and there, it’s been a tough go. This isn’t about the knee as much as it is a player fighting himself and, admittedly, lacking in confidence.
Should Quenneville sit Bickell for a game, perhaps more? It sounds like a tough move to make on a multi-million dollar player, but it wouldn’t be the first time it’s been done. Last May, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella sat star center Brad Richards for Game 4 of their playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Richards’ lengthy contract carries a cap hit of more than $6.6 million a season.
Bickell needs to do whatever it takes to get his game back, even if he needs to watch that 2013 postseason on YouTube until his eyes bleed. There’s no doubt Bickell can do the job; he proved that during the most pressure-filled moments the Blackhawks had last spring. His hits can resonate. His wrist shot is one of the wickedest in the game. The Blackhawks believe Bickell can get back to that level. But for him to improve, Bickell has to believe it, too.