He cashed in last summer after a standout playoff performance for the Chicago Blackhawks.
This time around, Bryan Bickell appears more focused on getting into better shape, with the goal of being a more consistent offensive threat not just in the post-season, but the regular season as well.
“I think this is a big summer for me to get in shape and to be more of a regular-season guy, not just a playoff guy,” Bickell said earlier this week, as per ESPN Chicago.
After nine goals and 17 points in 23 games during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, which ultimately ended with a championship for Chicago, Bickell re-signed with the Blackhawks for four years at $16 million and an annual cap hit of $4 million. His breakout playoffs combined with a huge raise in salary left Bickell as one of the players under pressure heading into this past regular season.
But his numbers during 59 games this past regular season didn’t even match up to what he the previous spring. Just 11 goals and only 15 points. His decline led head coach Joel Quenneville to call him out, saying the Blackhawks needed more out of the big and now 28-year-old power forward. He was eventually made a healthy scratch.
A knee injury midway through the season certainly could’ve played a substantial part in his low contributions, although when the playoffs began in April, he once again seemed to thrive, with seven goals and 10 points in 19 games.
Said Quenneville to ESPN Chicago: “We’d like to see more consistency out of him.”
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:
Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?
While lineups are obviously subject to change, CSNPhilly.com notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.
Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.
That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”
The CSNPhilly.com quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.
Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.
It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.