Yet another player who generates rabid debate among Hawks fans. Is Bryan Bickell a disappointing would-be power forward who simply will just flatter to deceive his whole career? Or is he a solid defensive forward with size who does fine work on the checking line?
Yes. To both.
Every fan of every team wants a fire-breathing, skull-crushing power forward on their team. It's one of if not the hardest thing to unearth for an organization. Scott Hartnell's simply don't grow on trees (and what a weird tree that would be). So any player who even bares the size of one and simply hints at a scoring touch, fans dream and beg for him to be that players. And they so rarely are. That doesn't mean what they actually are isn't valuable in some way, but the disappointment of what they aren't seems to override that. So it is with Bryan Bickell.Bryan Bickell's Stats: 71G 9G 15P 24P -3 48PIM -0.56 Behind The Net, .051 Quality of Comp, 0.58 CORSI/60
The Good: As it was with last year, the playoff performance stands out. Though he only had the two goals in Game 2, Bickell was a forechecking and physical nightmare for the Coyotes. He also forced the Phoenix top line to hardly be a factor, though it's debatable how hard that actually is. Bicks was a steady presence on the 3rd line for most of the season, even if he wasn't spectacular in any way. Provided some of the limited net presence that the Hawks had. There was also that brief stretch, which we wanted to see more of, where Stalberg was dropped to the third line and he combined with Bickell to simply horse some opposing defensemen. Bicks definitely has some forechecking strength. And most of all, Bickell is one of the more defensively aware wingers the Hawks have, almost always in the right position.
The Bad: Whatever the complaints about Bickell are this year will come with caveats, or at least some of them will. A drop from 17 goals to 9 is obviously not what you want. But Bicks never got a chance on the top two lines, as seemingly every other forward did, and he did the previous season. Secondly, other than Dave Bolland no other Hawks started more shifts in the defensive zone. So Bickell's offense had to be generated from 180 feet away, and considering the troubles the Hawks had getting out of their zone at times, that seems a tall order (Bolland's 19 goals seem more and more miraculous when you consider that). Bickell also had a stretch of being a healthy scratch when he wasn't up to Q's standards, i.e. being a ghost and hardly providing anything out there. While that may have been a tad harsh, it certainly wasn't ridiculous. Of course, Bickell had many, many games where he did nothing with that size and was just kind of out there. After seeing him in the playoffs, you wonder why that keeps happening other than issues between the ears.
Contract: One year left at a hit of 541K.
Stick Around Or Hit The Bricks: In some ways, the Hawks are in a similar position with Bickell that they are Viktor Stalberg. What he gives you for what he's paid makes him pretty valuable, but it might make him valuable to other teams as well. If we ignore what Bickell isn't, what we'll see is a useful checking winger who can chip in some goals and maybe could do more on the power play. He's a unique checking winger in that he doesn't kill penalties, but I don't know that's a deal-breaker. And while 11 games in his career don't make him a genuine playoff performer, the signs are there that he's a playoff weapon. And while it's frustrating to watch him float through a great deal of the first 82, the fact that he can really be a force in the games that matter can't be ignored. If the Hawks get a great offer that includes him, of course they should listen. But if they don't, they shouldn't feel bad about installing Bicks on Bolland's wing once again.