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With Bryan Bickell back, Coach Q needs another cautionary tale

Bryan Bickell (top) celebrates with Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw (65) after Bickell's overtime goal helped the Blackhawks beat the Wild in Game 1 of a 2013 playoff series. (Tom Cruze~Sun-Times)

Bryan Bickell frustrates the Blackhawks to no end. He’s a big player with talent who doesn’t play up to that size and talent enough. He offends coach Joel Quenneville’s grinder sensibilities.

But when your team is banged up, punishment and exile take a back seat. With Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa out with injuries, the Hawks on Wednesday recalled Bickell from their minor-league affiliate in Rockford. They might even be holding out hope he can find the magic of playoffs past.

But I worry about Quenneville. With Bickell back with the team, whom does Q use as his cautionary tale for players harboring the notion that it’s OK to take a shift off every now and then?

Quenneville always has a weapon handy to punish sluggish play, whether it’s line changes, lineup scratches or a demotion to Rockford. Bickell has been the ultimate example to his troops. Don’t want to play hard every night? Have at it, but you could be the next Bickell, who twice this season has had to deal with the public embarrassment of being sent to the minors.

He has a four-year, $16 million contract, so I know what many of you are thinking: we should all be so embarrassed. But hockey players want to play hockey at the highest level.

Bickell can be maddening. He clearly has some talent, as evidenced by his huge postseason in 2013. It got him a contract that was out of whack with his abilities. But he doesn’t play hard all the time, and he doesn’t use that big body in a way that would suggest to opponents they get out of his way.

Quenneville has tried to light a fire under him, and it hasn’t worked. This figures to be Bickell’s last chance in Chicago. If it doesn’t work out, Coach Q will have to find someone else to use as an example. Desperate times, indeed.