The NHL has often regarded itself as a league in which teams win championships, unlike the NBA where star power has a substantial effect on the outcome of a game. The game, however, is drastically changing. Thanks to enforcers being ruled out of the game, stars have more power and space than ever.
And while scoring league wide has dipped, stars’ contracts and stats keep inflating. The Chicago Blackhawks are ushering in the new era of the NHL, where teams may still win championships, but stars build dynasties.
Bryan Bickell is beginning the first year of his new four-year, $16 million contract. With his new contract comes a new role cemented on the wing of the first line. The stability has to be refreshing for Bickell, who for a majority of the beginning of his career was not relegated to a single line. Bickell’s physicality is a refreshing addition to a first line which needed it, while his improved game can speak for itself. Look for Bickell to prove he belongs in his new role as soon as possible.
On the other side of the ice, the antithesis of Bickell arrives in the form of Patrick Kane. Another championship can only help Kane’s confidence, and Kane is now forever cemented as a winger, not a center. Kane should have more space than ever with Bickell consistently on the ice, and if last year’s playoffs are any indication, the combination on either end of the ice can prove to be statistically lethal.
Centering the line will once again be Jonathan Toews. The captain proved his leadership in the face of adversity during last season’s playoffs, but Toews’ stat sheet will not stay as scarce as it was then. Although both Bickell and Kane should see a majority of the goals go their way, Toews’ ability to set them up will be pivotal. Despite limited play in the preseason, if everything clicks immediately, this could be one of the more lethal lines in hockey.
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