Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Stu Bickel Worth The Risk?

Photo: Bruce Fedyck-USA Today

During Monday night's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg, all eyes were on Stu Bickell who was making his debut in a Wild jersey. Bickel played 12:17 and had 10 penalty minutes after a pair of fights he was involved in. After the game, Coach Mike Yeo noted Bickel as one of a couple of players who stood out to him.

In that post, Mike Russo mentioned that "the door is wide open for Bickel" because of the Wild's lack of physicality. With openings on the Wild's third defensive pairing, the door is certainly open, but the question needs to be asked if the Wild really wants to open that door to Bickel.

Last season, Bickel was sent to Connecticut (NYR's AHL affiliate) to start the year. He was limited to just 24 games there after suffering various injuries. Bickel had played just 16 games for the Rangers in 2012-13, while being sent back and forth between New York and Connecticut.

In those 16 games for the Rangers, Bickel posted a five on five Corsi For percentage of 39.84% and a Corsi Rel of -12.59%. Those stats came while playing on a Ranger team that finished 9th in the league in Corsi For at 52.0%. So from a possession standpoint, Bickel is nowhere near the top.

For those not in the "well your fancy stats don't cover everything about a player" category, well I've got you covered too. Here are a few clips of Bickel from that 2012-13 season with New York.

Here in this clip, we find the Rangers and Penguins on the tail end of a line change. Simon Despres was able to chip the puck along the boards past the two attacking Ranger forwards to Joe Vitale with Bickel ahead of him (off to the right of the picture). 

Now with the puck, Vitale get a full head of steam and makes his way up the boards. Instead of trying to defend Vitale, Bickel decides to charge the Pens forward but then realizes the error of his logic and decides to slam the breaks before attempting to make a hit.

With Vitale completely by Bickel now, he crashes the net. Vitale puts a shot on net where the rebound kicks right out to Tyler Kennedy coming down the slot behind Michael Del Zotto.

Here at the beginning of the play, Bickel should be getting back to his defensive position down by the net after a Rangers turnover but goes for the hit first on James Wright.

Now as Bickel begins to slide down towards the net, he misses Olli Jokinen behind him slide over to the far side. Meanwhile the puck goes down the boards on the near side to Anthony Peluso waiting in the corner. Bickel stays fixated on the puck with Jets forwards closing in, Jokinen behind him, and Matt Gilroy as the last Rangers defender before Lundqvist.

Peluso gains the inside edge on Bickel, fires a shot on goal that is stopped by Lundqvist but kicks out to Jokinen right on the doorstep wide open. Easy goal off of bad decision making by Bickel (ok, and a turnover at the beginning of the clip).

In the research to bring these clips, other traits by Bickel also stuck out. His footwork was bad, and his acceleration is worse than Clayton Stoner (not a compliment for Stoner). Not exactly someone who cries out to be on a team that possesses a great deal of speed.

If the Wild want to keep Stu Bickel around to be a depth guy in Iowa, that's fine. But if they are serious about giving him time on the blueline in Minnesota over Christian Folin and Matt Dumba, then something has gone horribly wrong. Bickel should not be playing many, if any, games with the Wild during the regular season. He has grit and toughness, but its value is lost with how he plays in the non-tough situations (which is 95% of the time).

So let Christian Folin or Matt Dumba take the spot on the third defensive pair. They might be young, but they have plenty of upside. Bickel does not. Lets not take a risk on him.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

1 comment:

  1. The other Dman should have taken Jokinen. But you are right. His footwork and agility are seriously lacking. Gets walked around like pylon.