CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.
Coming off his first full season in which he scored 17 goals with 20 assists in 78 games, Bryan Bickell's numbers dropped considerably. In 71 games during the 2011-12 season, Bickell managed just nine goals and 15 assists and finished minus-3 with 128 hits (down from 178 the prior season). Bickell scored two goals in the playoff series vs. Phoenix, with both coming in Game 2 -- including the game-winning goal in overtime.
Boden's take: The 6-foot-4 winger had an encouraging start from where hed left off in his 17-goal season of a year ago: two goals and two assists in the first five games.Then, Bickells game completely disappeared. And not only was he unproductive, he wasnt using his size and he was taking bad penalties. But in the middle of that nine-game nightmare in February, his game started coming back again and was very effective with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw on that third line down the stretch and into the Phoenix series.But he cant deliver another nine-goal campaign as he did this year when you examine his full body of work.It almost seemed like Stan Bowman chose between Bickell and Troy Brouwer (18 goals, 15 assists, 247 hits with the Capitals in 2011-12) a year ago after the latter underachieved.He chose Bickell on what he saw, and the two players made it look like a mistake.
Myers' take: Let's look at the end of the regular-season and playoffs when it comes to Bickell, shall we? Hey, we're just saving you time. Because there wasn't much to talk about with Bickell through the start and middle of last season. Bickell had the chance to be that big body up front, that physical presence that the Blackhawks have lost so much of the past two offseasons. And he was -- late in the season.
For most of it, however, Bickell was invisible; and the several healthy scratches he got didn't seem to stoke the fire much. If Bickell had been playing at the beginning as he did at the end, he would've been a much more noticeable presence.
Boden: Bickells 541,000 salary played into that Bowman decision, too.This coming season, Bickell has money at stake becoming an unrestricted free agent a year from now.He knows what hes counted on for, and admitted during his three-month absence he wasnt doing his job. Hes a real nice guy, but one wonders if hes capable of finding that nasty switch to turn on when he hits the ice.He has to carry over his finish and keep it consistent.And by the way, the Hawks need net-front presence and youd think Bickell is tailor-made for that.On top of that, there should be other big bodies pushing him for ice time in Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Saad.His finish may have worked him back into Joel Quennevilles good graces, but based on this past season, figure his leash to be a lot shorter.
Myers: Bickell's entering the final year of his current contract, and if there's anyone who could use the ol' contract-year type of season, it's Bickell. He needs to come out of the gate physical and strong. He and Bolland have formed good chemistry on the checking line the past two seasons and Bickell needs to build off that. When he wants to be good, Bickell can be just that. But he can't spend the first four months of the season playing mediocre hockey.
How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Bickell above.
Up next: Ray Emery