Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'


Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'

Bryan Bickell returned to the Blackhawks with a bang – and a big hit.

His collision with former teammate Dustin Byfuglien just over a week ago was a welcome sight for the Blackhawks, who needed that physical element back in their game. It was also a welcome delivery for Bickell, who, back in the Blackhawks fold, knows he needs to bring his best game every night.

“I think every game is like the last game,” Bickell said. “The reality check was going down there and doing that and coming back up to fight my way in.”

Bickell just about had his first goal of the season on Sunday night, but it ended up being an assist when Dennis Rasmussen pushed over the line in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Still, it looks like he’s finding a good level with Shaw and Rasmussen, who Bickell also played with during his Rockford time.

For Bickell, it’s about playing at the right level every night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Me, Shaw and Ras aren’t giving up much defensively and getting some offensive looks,” he said. “Personally I think I’ve been doing what they’ve asked me: keeping it simple, straight lines and finishing checks.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Bicks has been fine.”

“There’s been a presence there. I think he’s progressed in his game as well but the simpler he keeps it the more efficient and effective he can be,” Quenneville continued. “We notice him in the lineup just being a presence along the boards and in the puck area.”

The Blackhawks missed Bickell during his time in Rockford. They knew their teammate was struggling but also knew what he was capable of, given his part in previous Stanley Cup runs.

“Right from the start he brought some energy. It was just nice having him back in the room, regardless of what he can bring on the ice,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s not fun to have gone through what he’s gone through, especially with what he’s accomplished, what he’s done for our team the last number of years. But he sucked it up, came back and he’s ready to work and to play well, and we’ve seen that so far.”

[MORE: Why Modano has always been a big fan of Kane]

What happens if the worst-case scenario looms again? If Bickell starts struggling again and the Blackhawks choose to give him the ultimate wake-up call again, Bickell would have to go through waivers again. Here’s Article 13.5 for Waiver Expiration:

The rights granted under this Article to Loan a Player(s) who is otherwise required to clear Regular Waivers to a minor league club expire for any Player(s) who, after clearing Regular Waivers:

(i) is not Loaned to a minor league club, or is Recalled from a minor league club (except on emergency Recall) and remains on an NHL roster for thirty (30) days (cumulative) or plays ten (10) NHL Games (cumulative).

Bickell took advantage of his time in Rockford and he’s starting to find his game and line chemistry here. He knows there is no room for off nights.

“I want to fight every game like it’s my last, as long as possible,” Bickell said. “Keeping my physicality every game is crucial for this team and I need to bring it.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”