Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, Bryan Bickell has been one of the more frustrating players that the team has iced on a consistent basis. With a skill set that is predicated around his size, Bickell hasn't always used that to his advantage, nor has his production been consistent at any point throughout his career.
The hope was obviously that his 2013 postseason, in which he notched 17 points in 23 games, his highest scoring rate at any point in his career, was the springboard to some sort of consistency. Obviously the front office had the same line of thought in mind when they extended him to that four-year, $16 million deal. At this point in time, though, it looks as if he's on his way out the door with that contract and little to show for it.
Bickell appeared in 80 regular season games for the Hawks this season, finishing the year with 28 points. That point total featured an even split between goals and assists, with 14 each. He finished with a CF% a touch up over 54 percent and a plus-5 rating overall. He added 205 hits, which had him tied for 31st in the league in the physical department and tops on the Blackhawks by a pretty wide margin (Brent Seabrook was second on the team with 135).
Obviously that production is completely off base with what is expected out of a $4 million-a-year player. It's a line which only becomes more frustrating when you add in the fact that he has just four points to his name in 10 games during this postseason, all of which have come via the helpers. He's only taken nine shots in those 10 games.
As frustrating as he's been, primarily from a statistical standpoint, should we expect that a Bryan Bickell breakout could be on the horizon somewhere? A guy noted for his postseason performance, could he be set to give us one last playoff triumph on what is likely to be his last hurrah in a Blackhawks uniform?
The assumption is that Bickell will continue to play with Patrick Kane and Brad Richards on that second line. Bickell has, historically, found success with Patrick Kane as a linemate. While the two didn't play together all that much this season (117 minutes total), he still posted a CF% over 52 percent with Kane, as well as a 52.6% figure with Brad Richards across 230 minutes.
However, after posting a CF% of 65 in Game 1 against the Wild, he plummeted in his individual possession figures, with CF% figures of 42, 29, and 32, respectively. He totaled just five shots across the four games in the series overall, with just one between the last two games combined. A team that he had a great deal of playoff success against, with seven goals against the Wild in 11 postseason games prior to this year, Bickell did very little on the stat sheet. That doesn't exactly bode well when we're talking about a player trying to break out of a scoring drought.
He did play the physical game against Minnesota, though, whatever that may count for. Despite just six hits combined in Games 3 & 4, Bickell hit Wild players to the tune of 23 hits across the first two games, with his two highest totals of the entire season in those first two games of the series.
It's also not as if playing the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals is something that could indicate a breakout from the 6'4" forward. He has just a pair of goals in 17 career games against the Ducks. Obviously the physical game has its benefits for the likes of Brad Richards and Patrick Kane, but some production from a secondary offensive player would be an asset to the Blackhawks, which is something that really goes without saying.
As they head into their third round matchup against the Ducks, there's little doubt that the Blackhawks are the deeper team up front. However, that's going to require some of their depth to come up with a bit of offensive on the stat sheet. Bickell can be an asset to the Blackhawks through that physical game and creating a netfront presence, but sooner or later, he's going to have to contribute a bit in the box score. Playing with Richards and Kane should help bring out the best in his offensive skill set, right?
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.