Should The Sens Pursue Bryan Bickell?

In what has become a rite of passage as writers transition from playoff hockey to the dog days of summer, the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan has penned his annual ‘Senators should go get (INSERT FORMER OTTAWA 67’s PLAYER NAME HERE) this summer.

Some of the names that have been bandied about in recent years include: Zenon Konopka, Brendan Bell, Logan Couture (via a prospective Heatley trade) and now Bryan Bickell.

Currently earning $541, 667 in the last year of his deal before hitting unrestricted free agency, the left winger could potentially address a positional weakness for Ottawa.

In three full seasons (including this year’s abbreviated lockout shortened one), Bickell has put up some mildly impressive totals:

SEASON
GP
G
A
P
+/-
PIM
PPG
SHG
GWG
SH
SH%
2010/11 78 17 20 37 6 40 2 0 2 130 13.1
2011/12
71
9
15
24
-3
48
0
0
0
84
10.7
2012/13 48 9 14 23 12 25 0 0 2 82 11.0

In 48 games this season, he tallied 9 goals and 23 points playing 12:48 per game.

What strikes me the most about Bickell’s obvious jump in point production from last season, is  that his ice-time is only up an average of 40 seconds per game from the 2011/12 season but it still came in under the 13:50 that he averaged during his breakout 2010/11 campaign. (As an aside, while averaging 13:16 of ice-time per game during the postseason, seven other Blackhawks forwards have averaged more. Of note, he has been averaging 37 seconds on the power play — 20 seconds more than he averaged during the regular season — but has yet to see any time on the penalty kill.)

It’s not like his shooting percentage was ridiculously higher than it has been in previous years. It still fell below his career shooting mark of 12.2-percent and his regular season high of 13.1 during the 2010/11 season. Bickell’s shots per game rate was the highest that it has ever been in his career however, but it's still a pretty unremarkable number as far as forwards go:

SEASON
SH/gm
2010/11
1.67
2011/12
1.18
2012/13
1.71

Perhaps part of the allure of Bickell is created in part by his contributions during the Blackhawks’ current postseason run. Presently, he is shooting a ridiculous 21.7-percent – scoring 5 goals on 23 shots – while bringing the physical dimension that gets you noticed on HNIC.

Writes Brennan:

The 27-year-old Blackhawk is a beast at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. He led Chicago in hits this season, with 108, and he battles hard in front of the net. Bickell can skate, shoot and score, which he's proving in these playoffs with the five goals that put him just a pair shy of the league lead.

Oddly enough, if you removed Bickell’s name and his association to the Chicago Blackhawks from Brennan’s paragraphs, it would sound like he’s referring to Colin Greening.

The 6’3, 215 lb Greening can do each of these things and much like Bickell, Greening has regular season highs of 17 goals and 37 points (albeit, he did so while playing an average of 2 minutes more per game).

The similarities don’t end there however. Not only are both players 27 years old, they both share the same birthday – March 9th, 1986.

Although sometimes, you wish that Greening would develop more of a mean streak and take advantage of his combination of size, speed and strength, he did manage finish second amongst Senators forwards in hits behind Chris Neil this season with 122. In 2011/12, he finished third behind Chris Neil and Nick Foligno with 189 hits. For those of you who put any stock into the hits totals, Bickell’s career high in hits is 178.

Looking at the underlying numbers, neither winger has been much of a possession player throughout their respective careers despite playing easier minutes than many of their teammates.

Although Bickell might not be a bad buy per se, thanks to what’s widely considered a relatively weak free agent class, overpaying for Colin Greening-like production from a 27 year old player who is unlikely to get much better than already he is at this stage of his career, may not make too much sense for Ottawa; especially when the team already has Colin Greening.

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