Bryan Bickell’s eyes were cast down, staring at the floor as he violently tugged at the tape on his wrists. His words were clipped and laced with more than a hint of anger — at himself, at his situation, maybe even at his coach. There were none of the usual jokes, the smiles, the self-deprecation.
But Bickell’s frustration level isn’t rising. It can’t go any higher at this point.
“I think it’s always been there, since the start of the year,” Bickell said before Sunday’s game against Colorado, in which he’s poised to be a healthy scratch. “Getting sent down and coming back, feeling good about my game, and then I basically came back to where I started. I just need to chip away and do what they tell me.”
Nobody’s happy about Bickell’s situation. He’s one of the most well-liked guys in the dressing room, and he’s always been one of Joel Quenneville’s favorites. He also carries a cap hit of $4 million per season, with another year left on his contract. And he has no goals and two assists in 24 games, averaging a career-low 9:45 of ice time per game.
Quenneville isn’t happy about benching Bickell. Bickell isn’t happy about being benched. Quenneville can’t give Bickell more minutes until he does something to earn them. But Bickell can’t do much to earn them when he’s playing barely five minutes a night on a fourth line, as he did in the Blackhawks’ last three games.
“It is frustrating to be in that position, knowing that it’s probably tough to do what you want to do in those type of minutes,” Quenneville said. “But at the same time, the opportunity to get more, playing those type of minutes, is in place. You’ve got to try to regain or get some more opportunity based on performance.”
Nothing has worked so far. Bickell’s been shopped around. He’s been scratched. He’s been waived. He’s been demoted. He’s been recalled. And yet he’s right back where he started — frustrated, disappointed, angry.
“It’s tough to get in a rhythm when you don’t get that many minutes,” he said. “But you’ve got to make those minutes count, if its 10 minutes, five minutes, whatever minutes I get. I’ve got to play every shift like it’s my last. It’s tough, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
NOTE: Richard Panik will not play in tonights game, but could possibly finally arrive in Chicago tonight as he awaits his visa. Corey Crawford gets the start in goal for the Hawks, and Brandon Mashinter will take Bickell’s spot on the fourth line.