For all the bleeding hearts in Blackhawk Nation that pine for the days of the curly-haired, soft-spoken Dustin Byfuglien and his on-ice celebrations, fear not.
A new and improved version has been with the team all long. His name is Bryan Bickell, and he is what Byfuglien should have been.
At first glance, Bickell looks like nothing special, as his career point total is a massive six (five goals, one assist). Those stats have mainly been accrued on the fourth line and in garbage minutes when he was a fill-in.
If you look at his minor league stats, he has not lit up the world either. The most points he gathered in Rockford was 39 (Buff had a high of 44 in the AHL).
So what's the big deal with him?
He is not the numbers guy you may expect big guns like Patrick Kane and company to be, but he is a big body who is full of energy and has a "can-do" attitude that a lot of guys with his talents tend to shy away from.
That same "can-do" attitude is what kept Big Buff from reaching his potential with the Hawks.
Bickell is built in the same mold as Byfuglien. The aforementioned big-build, solid skating, and board work got them both to the big show. Where Bickell matches and exceeds Buff is in scoring talent, hockey IQ, and flexibility.
Byfuglien was flexible in that he changed positions when asked, but he brought the same inconsistencies to the left wing that he had on the blue line. Unfortunately, there were numerous accounts of No. 33 dogging it in practice and games. If a player is not playing 100 percent during his shift, you can pick them out a mile away. That was Big Buff.
Bickell, since day one, has been asked to do as little as throw his weight around, and as much as play on the first power play unit. He has exceeded in all facets in limited time, and will now be asked to do more with around 15 minutes of ice time a game.
His role? Crowd the crease and clean up the mess. Or, what Big Buff used to do.
Another nice component to Bickell is that he comes cheap. A new three-year deal was agreed to today.
All 223 lbs. will now be obstructing views for around $1 million for three years, while Byfuglien will be doing the same thing for triple the price.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Expect more consistency from Bickell and similar, if not better results than Byfuglien's 34 points next season. If Bickell surpasses those numbers, anything short of calling him a steal is in order.
Getting paid $3 million and only producing 34 points is what experts call being overpaid.
The Chicago Blackhawks have raised the bar when it comes to evaluating and producing talented players, and Bickell, albeit not a prolific scorer, fills a much-needed, and often sought-after role for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.
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