Before the Rangers loss to Ottawa, as Kenny Albert and John Giannone noted last night, Stu Bickel had only been on the ice for six goals against all season and not in the 16 games preceding it.
After a stretch from January 14th to February 24th where Bickel played under ten minutes in every game, he has played at least 11:35 in six of the last seven games and over 17 in two of the last three.
Earlier this week John Tortorella told Ranger Rants,”He’s a real interesting one to us, because he continues to simplify his game and his game becomes better when he becomes more simple. The minutes he got he deserved. He had some struggles with some other guys along the way. He brings an element of willingness when you need to have it. There are some big-time warts on him sometimes. But he has slowly understood trying to play within himself and his game has improved as a result of that.”
He told the Daily News that he had to adjust to playing fewer minutes when he got called up, “It’s not like I ever really got used to playing five minutes a night, so when I did have those games early on, that was definitely an adjustment for me.”
Bickel told John Giannone last night that he feels good about getting more ice time, “It gives you some confidence, its nice to see the coaches trust me in certain situations. I feel like I have done pretty well so far and I have improved my game since I have been here.
This weekend Stu Bickel played ten shifts of RW on the fourth line for a total of 7:52.
Bickel drew a penalty yesterday in the first period and on Saturday, Bickel had a roughing penalty and a ten minute misconduct.
Yesterday on 1050 ESPN Radio, John Tortorella said that Bickel’s play at RW isn’t a long-term solution:
He had a couple of good shifts and drew a penalty. It’s a guy with versatility and someone that, as we continue to work with him, we can try and give him some shifts there.
It seems like the team wants to keep Bickel up and insert him into games where things may be a little rougher, and that includes tomorrow against Boston. Following that I think the team may call up a forward and keep Bickel up to work as a defenseman and get better as a player.
“We joke around in here a lot that he’s never going to shy away from an opportunity to get five minutes. He’s tough,” Dubinsky said. “He’s a guy that’s come in here and earned a job. He’s been great for us. You can’t ask for anything more from a teammate than a guy that steps up to the plate and puts his body on the line every night.”
At Rangers Report, Carp writes “Kid’s got some onions. Keep him here. He doesn’t have to play every night, he doesn’t have to play in third periods. But he’s an asset. No doubt about it.”
In the last two games, Stu Bickel has played a total of zero minutes and zero seconds in the third period.
Against Montreal on Sunday:
Against Nashville on Tuesday:
Last week, John Tortorella talked about Bickel and what he brings, “He’s a rangy physical guy that is willing to play in the areas and do the things that you need to do to be a home defenseman. Working on his puck skills and outlet passes, along with his reads and how we play defense is going to take some time. He certainly warrants the time of being here and us having more time with him”
Tortorella also talked about how as a big man, Bickel may make mistakes but he can still impede the opposition.
I wonder if Bickel will fall into the same issue that Dale Weise did and they will attempt to send him down and at $600,000 someone will pick him up off of waivers. I think Anton Stralman is a better fit as the seventh defenseman and there is also Jeff Woywitka to deal with when everyone comes back.
Bickel, on reduced ice time last two games, says only thing he can control is his attitude by staying positive.
As Larry Brooks points out in the NY Post, tonight will be Stu Bickel’s tenth game as a Ranger and following that he would need to pass through waivers in the event that the team would send him back to Hartford.
Bickel, who is averaging 11:05 per game told Brooks that he is getting a lot more coaching with his game now than he did when he first came up:
“There’s been a fair amount of teaching about my positional play, so I just have to continue learning and staying with it.”
Marc Staal told Brooks that Bickel is very confident on the ice.
Bickel has four assists and two fights this season.
Bickel is a RFA after the season and has a cap hit of $600,000.
I think that with Bickel and Jeff Woywitka, with the possible recall of Tim Erixon, the Rangers won’t make a move for another defenseman at the deadline. Bickel has been a nice surprise and has provided some of what was lost when Michael Sauer went out. I think Bickel has definitely made a good enough case to stay and an even better one to get a new contract for next season.
Bickel has sort of stolen the thunder that I thought Anton Stralman would bring to the lineup, instead, Stralman is playing over 20 minutes a night and throwing hip checks. Bickel has made some nice plays to get assists, he has also just held the puck, waiting for Brandon Dubinsky to go coast to coast against the Islanders.
Bickel had nine minutes in penalties last night. John Tortorella said on the post game show on MSG that he didn’t mind the double minor that Bickel was awarded because he felt like it could have gone to either player. Torts also said that he didn’t want Bickel to dial back his intensity on the ice.
I like Bickel. He has some nice snarl in his game and defends his teammates. Maybe Bickel can establish himself to be a depth player with the Rangers this season and then be a 6/7 for them next season.