The Stu Bickel scenario

March 15, 2012, by

I was one of the ones who praised Stu Bickel when he came in to the side and looked pretty comfortable from the outset despite being an undrafted, unheralded kid out of nowhere. I was however, also the one who criticised him a few weeks ago when his positional play was interesting (at best) for a stretch, and I still believe half the fights he gets into are unnecessary and don’t serve any purpose than to keep the box scorers busy.

That said he’s improved a lot recently and at times, has covered for some of Marc Staal’s mistakes who is very much up and down form-wise at the moment. Bickel’s inconsistent positional play seems to have settled down and his decision making on the puck is improving (although very much a work in progress).

Bickel has continued to be a physical presence without being a liability; it all adds up to making the Rangers defense reliable from top to bottom – despite the recent wave of unfortunate goals the Rangers have endured.

Bickel however may be playing for an NHL future elsewhere. So much of Bickel’s future depends on factors he cannot control. If Mike Sauer comes back this (or certainly next) season he’s immediately bumped down the depth chart. If Anton Stralman – for the most part – plays like he has done recently and is sensible with his contract demands it would be surprising if the Rangers didn’t have some interest in bringing him back next year.

Then there’s always the looming presence of Dylan McIlrath and to a lesser extent Pavel Valentenko. Note: are you ruling out Valentenko? You should only do so if you were a fortune teller and saw Bickel making the club the way he has this year.

Bickel has improved and clearly is gaining trust with the coaching staff – as evidenced by the additional third period ice time he’s getting. There’s no denying the value of earning Tortorella’s trust for a player, especially one looking to stick with the club. Bickel getting better is a win-win scenario for all concerned.

If he plays well he has a chance to stick. He plays well he’ll certainly stick in the NHL. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, even if he doesn’t make it with the Rangers, he’s made himself an asset for the franchise over the summer; so everyone wins from an improving Bickel.

It will be interesting to see how the cards that is the Rangers defense fall over the summer. There are a lot of factors in play for the Rangers blue line; none more so than Bickel’s continued development.


  1. Zen says:

    Girardi, McD, Staal, MDZ, Sauer, Erixon, Bickel seems like the Rangers top 7 next year unless there is a trade or Sauer’s issues are career-threatening. Stralman will be too expensive, while Eminger and Jeff W. are gone.

    With the cap expected to rise again, I love the Rangers cap flexibility right now. They are in a good spot to go after UFAs this offseason to put them over the top.

    • Walt says:

      Agree completely! Stu has earned a spot on the roster for next season.

      The less we hear about Mike Sauer, the more I’m worried about his health, and future on the team. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not at least his second concussion? Assuming Mike will be healthy, why not carry 6 D-men, and give them days off as needed, and or when your playing teams like filthadelphia, you need grit, take out Erixon, play Stu.

      I love the look of our D next year, and with Mc Ilrath coming in soon, we are sitting in the cats seat. With some young forwards displacing some of the vets, this is an exciting time to be a Ranger fan!!!!!

      • Walt says:

        I meant to say 7 D-men, my boo boo!

        • Leatherneckinlv says:

          totally agree…as a huge Sauer fan I have to say I am also worried about his future and Bickel fits in nicely as his replacement. Sauer having health issues creates an opportunity for Bickel to replace him when hurt or even permanently should Sauer be done. Bickel is a keeper and his game against Carolina was very impressive. Bickel should earn a roster spot next year. If he works on his skating and his outlet pass in the off season he will have made the steps to improve. As for fighting, I am old school and think fights are a part of the game from intimidation to preventing intimidation. Good fights still can to this day change the momentum of a game. So Bickel must maintain that area of his game

  2. Bobby Tux says:

    For this playoff year, Bickel might also solve the ability to keep Zucarello if he proves to really be an engine for the PP. (As a tangent, I scratch my head as to why Torts does not include Hagelin on the PP with his new line mates – clearly there is chemistry).

    Anyway once Callahan returns, the lineup will be

    Gab Richards Hags
    Anisomov Stefan Callahan
    Dubinsky Boyle Prust
    Feds Rupp Mitchell

    However if Torts wants to sub Zucarello as a situational PP player, the flexibility of sending Bickel on a few rugged checking 4th line shifts allows sitting Rupp against teams with excessive speed.


    • Walt says:

      2nd line
      Callie, Stepan, and Dubi

      3rd line
      Boyle, Prust, and Artie

      Remember that AA skated with these two before, and they had some very good chemistry together. Also AA plays decent defense, and teamed up with these two won’t hurt us defensively at all. Boyle should be on the first PP unit, use him like they did with Phil Esposito for years.

      Zuc should maybe play the point on the PP, and see how that works out!!!! He can skate with Mitchell, and Rupp, or Feds, as a 4th line.

      • Bobby Tux says:

        Dubi is not a 2nd line player. He is only on the roster because he is overpaid and nobody would take him. You will point to last year that was a clear aberration

        • Walt says:

          He is having a bad year, as did Gabby last year, but I won’t give up on him, like the team didn’t give up on Gabby. Let’s face it, he and Callie play very well together, and I believe that will be the case again. They seem to thrive off of each other!

          • The Suit says:

            Statistically speaking, this year is the aberration for Dubi.

            • Bobby Tux says:

              you goes love the stats. He Cannot play consistent hockey. He will never score more than 12 goals

  3. rwa says:

    don’t forget d-men roster moves in offseason. bickel might stick as 6 or 7, as someone, maybe a second will probably go in a trade package. also sauer might go as he has a history of injuries.

  4. Leatherneckinlv says:

    Another important observation in regards to Bickel is that he has become an asset which means we gain more strength and health as an organization. He continues to grow and progress that means we have more assets for a run at the Cup either as is…or in a future trade. All this bodeswell for the Rangers, Bickel himself and us fans. Bickel is entertaining to watch because he does fight, and because we are seeing another youngster maturing into a confident player for our Rangers

  5. Jess Rubenstein says:

    Bickel has already beaten out Valentenko for a roster spot for next season just on cap hit alone. NYR would have to QO Valentenko for 880K while you get Bickel for 200K less.

    It is also clear that the NYR don’t think Valentenko can help them given that he has not even been close to receiving a call up after all this time.

    Sauer, I have a bad feeling may not return as his brother was forced into retirement after he couldn’t recover from a concussion either. Sauer’s medical history with past concussions does not offer hope.

    McIlrath will be spending next season in the AHL unless he matures a whole lot more between now and training camp. He has been way too careless with some of the penalties he has taken this year.

  6. The Suit says:

    I think Bickel has earned his spot for now. The Staal/Bickel combo has been quite good the past few games and has largely out played the Eminger/Stralman combo, who have been pretty bad in their own end of late.

    It will be interesting to see how our defense as a whole handles the stretch run.

  7. paul ronty says:

    Frankly the Valentenko situation baffles me, I think he is potentially a better D than Bickel and he has a howitzer from the point and plays a tough game. He was hurt in training camp last year I believe and we didn’t see his best. Why he doesn’t get a chance is troubling.

    • Jess says:

      Paul one has to earn the chance not expect it handed to him. Valentenko has done nothing to move himself up the depth chart.