Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell is set to be honored in Rockford Sunday, where he played part of three seasons, at the Ice Hogs "Blackhawks Night," where fans get to meet and greet with current NHL players.
It looks like Bickell will still be a member of the Blackhawks by that afternoon. How long will that be the case?
A season that has to be considered nightmarish by Bickell came to a low point Sunday night at the United Center, where the big wing saw his ice time drop to a season low of 6:35 against San Jose. Bickell has seen double-digit minutes in just one of his last eight starts.
Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw, two skaters who suited up in Rockford when the season began, are on the ice more frequently than Bickell these days. Shaw, who has seemingly taken Bickell's place on the third line, more than doubled Bickell's time on ice in Chicago's 4-3 win over the Sharks.
Shaw scored his fourth goal of his short career in his seventh NHL game. Bickell has four goals in 40 games this season. Just one of those has come since October 31st. After returning to action following five games as a healthy scratch, Bickell has a goal and three assists in 16 games.
Hayes has three goals and two assists in his last eight. The writing on the wall can't get much clearer.
Last year's rookie sensation may be playing for his spot on the roster.
It's hard to believe that this is the same player who stunned us with a 17-goal, 37-point season just a year ago. The player who was so effective in the playoffs this past spring is a distant memory.
To be honest, I expected a drop-off in goals for Bickell this season. I thought he'd have trouble hitting the back of the net with wrist shots from the outside with the regularity he did in the 2010-11 campaign.
Just like Bickell wasn't the prolific scorer he was at times last season, he isn't as flat-out bad as he's shown recently. The bad part for Bickell is that time to pull himself out of his funk may be running out.
Daniel Carcillo is going on the IR today. Ben Smith would be a logical choice to replace him on the roster. Regardless, room may need to be created when Patrick Sharp is set to return to the lineup. Who is that going to be?
The prospect of Bickell being claimed on waivers seems to be in his favor right now. A player with his size and salary (he's inexpensive and signed through next season) would likely be claimed by a team who figures a change of scene could net them a quality player on the cheap.
On the other hand, coach Joel Quenneville is clearly losing confidence in Bickell if it isn't already completely gone. If he isn't destined for Rockford, he could be a throw-in for an upcoming trade.
Either way, it appears that Bickell's days in Chicago could be numbered unless he can earn longer stints on the ice.