Stu Bickel is one of the Rangers who has come into town early to skate informally at the MSG training center.
Bickel had nine assists last season, four in his first six games, and averaged 10:26 per game. In 17 games in March, Bickel averaged 13:41.
He had 12 fighting majors during the season. In the playoffs Bickel averaged 5:09 per game. In 9 games in April he averaged 4:43 and in 9 games in May he averaged 5:35.
Bickel told Blueshirts United that he is looking forward to becoming a better player this season, “I always want to push myself to another level, and I felt like I’ve had a really productive off-season and worked on a lot of different things. I’m excited to get going. “
In March of last season, John Tortorella said of Bickel “Give him credit for his mental toughness, undrafted, no one knows who the hell he is. And he’s not surprised. He feels that good about himself. That’s a good starting point for a player trying to make a hockey club, playing the highest spot in his profession and find his way. A big part of it is mental. So give him some credit.”
Adam Rotter: Bickel is a nice guy to have in the lineup because of his toughness and willingness to defend his teammates, but he needs to be better in his own zone. He has to gain the trust of John Tortorella so he doesn’t see his ice time cut in half and into single digits in the playoffs next year. The Rangers need depth on defense to make a big run and having Bickel be part of that would lessen the need to add another defenseman or make a trade.
Adam Rotter: A nice move for the Rangers and Bickel can battle for one of the last spots on defense, can play a little forward, is tough and a guy that everyone seems to like. It’s a depth move and gives Bickel the chance to keep working with the team and become a better player.
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.