May 12, 2014 by Joe Baugnet
The Chicago Blackhawks have a tendency to select players that are crafted just for playoff hockey. When they won the cup in 2010 they had Dustin Byfuglien and in 2013 Brian Bickell stepped up to the plate. Both of these players contributed just enough to touch the ice during the regular season, but neither played well enough to make it memorable.
So what is it about playoff players? Jeremy Roenick said it best, “82 games is a long season to be playing their type of hockey.” If you’ve ever watched Bickell and Byfuglien play, their best game is gritty, get-to-the-net hockey. Of course, Byfuglien currently plays defense for the Winnepeg Jets, so this article is narrowing in on his offensive play for the Blackhawks.
This type of hockey is not conducive for long periods of hockey. The body is worn down by continuous physical play as well as the small things such as getting cross-checked in front of the net 5-10 times a game. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that both of these players had a rough time during the regular season.
Then the next logical question would be: “How much should you pay player who only plays well in the playoffs?” Obviously, $16 million over four years is a little steep, but I don’t think the Blackhawks made a mistake on Bickell’s contract. They knew what they were doing.
The answer to the question is that it depends on the type of team that has already been established. In the case of the Chicago Blackhawks, the team knew that they had a tremendous shot of making the playoffs this season. With a farm system as solid as the Hawks, they could afford to sit Bickell several games during the regular season. Now that they playoffs have come full circle, Bickell has six goals in the post season so far. Considering that the Blackhawks look like a Stanley-Cup bound team, I’d say that $16 million contract is going a long way.
Dustin Byfuglien was thrown into the exact same situation, only the Hawks knew that Bickell was already in the system. Had there not been a replacement to fill the shoes of Byfuglien, I’d place a good bet that he would be looking at a similar salary.
As a hockey fan, watching a playoff player is an extremely frustrating situation. If Bickell would’ve played like he is now during most of the season, the Hawks could’ve been the first seed. Then again, most hockey fans would say that the Hawks got lucky playing a battered St. Louis in the first round.
Even though the Bickell/Byfuglien style of play doesn’t make a majority of fans happy, there is a need for their type of player. Look for the Chicago Blackhawks to continue to have a great post-season and for Bryan Bickell’s name to continuously be heard throughout the series.
Speaking on terms of Dustin Byfuglien, just wait until the Jets make the playoffs. This could mean that you’ll never see Dustin Byfuglien’s playoff success again :).
Chief Editor, Cups & Pucks