According to reports, the Chicago Blackhawks will roll out new-look lines on Tuesday night in an effort to get the team out of a funk. Part of that new look will be Bryan Bickell watching from the press box.
Why is Bickell potentially getting the night off?
Looking back to the end of the season’s first couple weeks, the Blackhawks third line of Bickell, Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik was being praised by people everywhere in the league. And yet, according to Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times, here is what the lines might look like on Tuesday:
First: Patrick Sharp — Jonathan Toews — Michael Frolik
Second: Daniel Carcillo — Patrick Kane — Marian Hossa
Third: Andrew Brunette — Dave Bolland — Rostislav Olesz
Fourth: Viktor Stalberg — Marcus Kruger — Jamal Mayers
So what happened? Honestly, not much.
Bickell, 25, is in the middle of a Byfuglien-esque stretch of hockey right now. And we’re not talking about the good, “make Luongo cry” Byfuglien. Since Oct. 18, Bickell has zero points, is minus-seven, and has six penalty minutes.
What’s worse, he has been credited with as many shots on net as he has hits – only 13 – in those nine games. His ice time has been fairly consistent over that stretch, but his play hasn’t been.
Frolik’s offensive game has actually improved over the same stretch. While his plus-minus is still grossly on the wrong side of the ledger (minus-four over the stretch), Frolik has three goals and two assists in his last nine contests. That is why the Blackhawks have bumped him up onto the first line with Jonathan Toews in hopes of sparking the offense.
What Blackhawks fans will see tonight is two things.
First, if Rostislav Olesz still exists and actually does play, the Hawks will get a third chance to see if he’s worth anything. If he isn’t then the organization knows enough that it should be time to begin considering alternatives with Olesz for the rest of the season (as we discussed yesterday).
Secondly, the Hawks will get a look at what Frolik can do with Toews. He has two 20-goal seasons in his young career, and has been looking for his shot a lot more recently. If he can succeed on the top line, that gives coach Joel Quenneville another option up front.
The third part of the equation won’t be seen until Thursday… assuming Bickell only sits for one night. How the young power forward responds to this not-so-subtle motivational move by Quenneville will play a big part in his role with the Hawks the rest of the season.