Coming into the season as the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks as a team are a club under pressure. There’s pressure to avoid the same Stanley Cup hangover that plagued this team in the 2010-11 season. There are also multiple individual players that are under contract, having just signed new deals or trying to earn them.
One of the players who fits into the former category is that of Bryan Bickell. The Blackhawks managed to retain Bickell before he hit the free agent market, signing him to a four-year, $16 million deal. For a guy that caught fire in the postseason, it was a nice contract. For the Hawks, it was a slight overpayment, but necessary in order to retain him.
However, that left Bickell with some pretty lofty expectations, the likes of which he had not seen in his young career. A player often criticized for not using his size to his advantage, the postseason saw Bickell come up in the big moments, not unlike Dustin Byfuglien in 2009-10, and really begin to come into his own. Which led to the big contract.
Early in the 2013-14 season, though, it’s been a quiet run for Bickell. You knew that a quiet year from him could result in some criticism for Stan Bowman, as impressive as his track record has been. That type of nonsense in unavoidable. Nonetheless, Bickell is going to catch some flak for his slow start to the season.
In six games this year, the Hawks haven’t looked great, but have managed to grab nine out of a possible dozen points. Bickell has been extremely quiet, though, posting just a single point (an assist) in those six games. He’s been quiet in the physical game as well, registering only nine hits total.
Regardless of whether or not he should catch criticism this early in the season for a slow start, there’s little doubt that Bickell needs to pick his game up. He’s now considered a piece of this core, and will be required to produce as such. It may be a matter of simply finding his footing in the young season, and he has plenty of time to get it in gear. The Blackhawks would prefer that comes sooner, rather than later, though.