As we’ve done in the past, let’s take a look at a couple of players for the sake of comparison:
|PLAYER A||PLAYER B|
|SALARY||$ 3,000,000||$ 541,667|
Player A was an important part of last year’s team, and spent time skating on all four lines.
Player B has played a secondary role this year, but has also spent time skating with each of the four lines.
The sizes of the two players is similar, and the ages are almost identical. Player A got more ice time last year, and made nearly six-times as much money.
Who are these two bruising forwards?
Player A is Dustin Byfuglien.
Player B is Bryan Bickell.
In the past few weeks, Bickell is playing a much better two-way game since Christmas, and has been rewarded with ice time on the second line with Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa.
You’ll notice a few numbers that stick out on Bickell’s line (even while playing only 65 games so far).
His plus-minus is much better than Byfuglien’s last year; while it’s hard to subscribe to that statistic as an indicator of individual play, placed in the context of the quality of players on last year’s roster it’s hard to overlook a 16-point difference.
His assists are higher. Some of Bickell’s apples have come from teammates putting back rebounds, but his passing has evolved nicely in his first full NHL season.
He could have more hits. If he averages four hits per game over the next 15 contests, Bickell would end up with 218; he has been credited with at least five hits in many of his recent games (including six against Tampa on Wednesday night).
Finally, we have to come back to the salary. Bickell is signed for two more years at the bargain-basement price of $541,667, which is just above the league-minimum. As Bickell gets more experience and continues to become more comfortable in the NHL, his production (and ice time) should continue to improve.
Among all of the deals GM Stan Bowman handed out last summer, this may prove to be his best.