Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 27, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Blackhwaks 2-1 in the shootout.
(March 26, 2012 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Bickell wants to re-sign in Chicago

One of the Blackhawks’ biggest forwards wants to stay in the Windy City.

That’s what Bryan Bickell told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend, saying he’d love to stick with the Blackhawks for the long haul.

“I’d be more than happy to be back here,” Bickell, a UFA this summer, explained. “It’s where I started when I got drafted in 2004. I don’t want to be shipped around the league. I want to be with one team. The core guys here I’ve been with for a long time.

“Hopefully, I can have my career here.”

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Bickell’s a physically imposing presence that’s turned into one of Chicago’s most versatile forwards, skating on the third line with Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw.

After a frustrating 2011-12 campaign — his goal production dipped from 17 in 2010-11 to just nine — Bickell’s rebounded nicely this season, scoring 6G-10A-16PTS in 28 games while averaging 12:30 per game.

He also leads the team in hits (61) and, according to Chris Kuc of the Tribune, possesses “arguably the best wrist shot on the ‘Hawks.”

The big question will be if Bickell plays the market this summer.

Though his allegiances clearly lie with Chicago, he only recently turned 27 and is coming off a fairly modest contract (three years, $1.625 million) where he made $541,667 annually.

Given he seems to be on the verge of “putting it all together,” a team could be prepared to offer him a sizable raise.

That said, Chicago could also up the ante, as GM Stan Bowman clearly recognizes what he’s got in Bickell.

“He’s played great this year,” Bowman told the Tribune. “He’s kind of coming into his own. Originally, it was learning what it was like to be just to be in the lineup every night and now it’s more than that. He wants to be a difference-maker. He’s got a role and he’s playing that role.

“As a result, it’s noticeable how that line in particular seems to be quite effective. Some nights they’re our best line and he’s a big part of it.”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”